Robbing our children of their childhood
Jharna (not her real name), a 14-year-old girl living in Rayerbazar slum in Dhaka, fears that all her dreams may be dashed because of early marriage as she is from a community that expects girls to be married off and bear children even before they reach adulthood. Jharna, who is a child, doesn't want that. “I want to complete my studies first and enjoy my childhood like other children living in rich areas,” she opines.
As a nation we have done little to protect children like Jharna. A recent report titled “Stolen Childhood” released by the international child rights organisation, Save the Children, on June 1, 2017, coinciding with International Children's Day, gives a rather grim picture of the state of child rights in Bangladesh. The report includes End of Childhood index, where Bangladesh is ranked 134th out of 172 countries, and the major reasons for this are child marriage, early pregnancy, poor health, violence against children, malnutrition, exclusion from education and child labour.
The report says, in Bangladesh 44 percent of girls aged 15-19 are married, which is one of the highest in the world. Marriage before age 18 is a violation of children's rights. It ends a girl's childhood by forcing her into adulthood and motherhood before she is physically and mentally ready. Globally, a girl under 15 gets married every seven seconds and every two seconds a girl gives birth, according to the report. Half of all adolescent births occur in just seven countries, and Bangladesh is one of them along with Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and the United States. Babies born to adolescent mothers face a substantially higher risk of dying and mothers aged 15-18 are less likely to be in school and more likely to struggle economically. This puts them and their children at risk of exploitation, ill health and perpetuating cycles of poverty, eventually robbing them of their childhood.
Find out the details in The Daily Star