Save the Children Supports Successful Re-Launch of Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights

Thursday 30 October 2014

Save the Children Supports Successful Re-Launch of Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights

 At the Oath Auditorium of the National Parliament of Bangladesh, a group of MPs, led by Mr Mir Showkat Ali Badsha, joined with Special Guest Advocate Fazle Rabbi Mia, MP and Deputy Speaker, and representatives from civil society, to re-launch the Parliamentary Caucus for Child Rights, which was first formed in 2012.

The Parliamentary Caucus is a non-partisan, cross party, cross-ministerial grouping of current MPs who will work together to advocate for better implementation of constitutional and legislative protections for children. Save the Children welcomes and supports this new Caucus. As Acting Country Director, Sharon Hauser, said, the Caucus “presents new opportunities for children to have their concerns and needs raised before policymakers and lawmakers when they are making decisions that impact on children’s rights and wellbeing.”

At the launch, there was lively open discussion. MPs and civil society representatives mentioned that the Caucus needs research and evidence to fulfill its mandate. It was agreed that a group of technical advisers, drawn from civil society, would support the Caucus with good evidence to engage in parliamentary debates on policy and legislation for children. The Caucus would also be advised by a group of adolescents.

The discussion also included MPs raising key issues that impact children in Bangladesh today, such as child marriage, child labour (particularly the plight of domestic workers), the use of children in political demonstrations, and the poor standards of rehabilitation centres for children who come into contact with the law. Kamrul Naher Chowdhury, MP, also said, “This caucus could play a role in supporting children's access to better recreation facilities. Most schools lack resources to obtain sports equipment and musical instruments. After school, children are in public spaces vulnerable to exploitation and crime. Recreational facilities will keep them out of streets, and from those who want to use children."

Discussants generally agreed that Bangladesh has strong policy and legislation to protect and promote children’s rights. However, there is less strong oversight and monitoring of services to children to help them realize those rights, particularly in slum and remote areas.

Special Guest and Deputy Speaker, Mr Advocate Fazle Rabbe Mia, shared a few thoughts with the attendees. A supporter of parliamentary activism for children, the Deputy Speaker drew attention to the need to strengthen perceptions and laws regarding the definition of the child as anyone under 18 years old.  He said, “Since 18 is considered as an international standard in children’s age, it is important to keep up these standards in Bangladesh as well. This Caucus can play an integral role in advocating for keeping the legal marriage age at 18.“

The Deputy Speaker also suggested that parliamentarians raise children’s issues as points of order during the parliamentary session on 20th November, to mark the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Save the Children welcomes this proposal as a way to raise more awareness of the progress under this Convention, and also the ongoing challenges that children face in this country.

The successful re-launch of the Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights marks the beginning of more potential and opportunities for children in Bangladesh to better realize their rights. However, as Mr Waresat Hossain Belal, MP, said during his vote of thanks in closing the launching ceremony, this event was “well begun but what comes after” is what really matters.