Murders put focus on child labour violence in Bangladesh

Protesters carry a picture of murdered Samiul

The murders of several children have turned the spotlight on the continuing and widespread practice of child labour across Bangladesh.

Public protests and condemnation from the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF and other international organisations followed the deaths and a growing number of other violent attacks on children.

UNICEF Bangladesh Representative Edouard Beigbeder said his organisation “observes with alarm” the murders and violence against children. He added: “This is a serious violation of child rights and UNICEF expresses its grave concern over such issues which have shaken the entire country”.

The killings have shocked the South Asian nation where more than 4.7 million children under 14 have jobs. Child labourers are often denied an education and are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse from adults.

In July, 13-year-old Samiul Alam Rajan was tied to a post and beaten to death in Sylhet before a video of the attack was posted on Facebook. He was accused by one of his attackers of stealing a rickshaw.

The demonstration over Samiul’s death drew a large crowd

Last week Rakib Hawladar, 12, was allegedly killed by the owner of a garage after leaving his job there. Then 10-year-old Robiul Awal was beaten to death after he was suspected of stealing fish.

Protesters took to the streets in Khulna over the killing of Rakib and the Child Rights Advocacy Coalition in Bangladesh said it was “concerned and aggrieved by the recurrence of such incidents and the nature of the brutalities”.

There are 57 million under-18s in Bangladesh and progress has been made on education – but there are still 1.5 million primary-age children out of school and targeted efforts are needed to reach the most marginalised children.

The country also has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. UNICEF said 66% of women aged 20 to 24 had been married before their 18th birthday.

Mr Beigbeder praise Bangladeshi media for its coverage of violence against children. He said: “It is important to note that due to the pervasive and proactive media coverage on child rights issues, incidences of child abuse, beating and even killing are now coming under sharp focus.”

Michael McGrath, Bangladesh director for Save The Children, said: “We do not adequately value children. Instead of treating them as the most cherished, vulnerable, precious people in our society, they are seen as the most exploitable, easily manipulated and cheap labour.”

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