26pc adolescents victims of violence during coronavirus outbreak, says research

Speakers at the research dissemination event of a research report titled ‘Adolescent Girls’ Vulnerabilities and Transitions in the context of Covid-19’at capital’s Brac Centre InnProthom Alo

A total of 26 per cent adolescents have become victims of different types of violence during corona outbreak. Of them, boys mostly fell prey to physical abuse while, girls faced sexual violence more. Adolescents couldn’t yet break free of the negative impact of the corona period.

These details presented in the launch of a research report titled ‘Adolescent Girls’ Vulnerabilities and Transitions in the context of Covid-19’ at capital’s Brac Centre Inn on Wednesday.

The study was carried out on 2,758 families from 26 upazilas of Gaibandgha, Narail and Cumilla districts in between 4 October and 17 November of 2021.

Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and GIZ Bangladesh jointly conducted the research. Meanwhile, German government's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) along with UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FSDO) aided.

Speakers emphasised on the need for coordinated initiative from government and private agencies to predetermine way of combatting corona-like situations in future after identifying risk factors for adolescents.

It was stated during the event that the purpose of the study was to analyse how the pandemic changed the lives of adolescents as well as to comprehend what is the status quo of the country’s women and adolescent girls in receiving justice.

A total of 3,139 adolescents participated in the survey. Two-thirds of them were girls. Income, lifestyle and savings of those families were severely impacted by Covid-19. There was scarcity of food as well.

Among them, women of Gaibandha district were affected the most. Around 29 per cent women had to skip one meal a day during the lockdowns.

The research report stated, comparatively younger adolescents were more subjected to violence. And 27 per cent adolescents aged between 12 to 14 years were victims of violence whereas the percentage decreased to 23 per cent in case of adolescents aged over 15.

Imran Matin, executive director of BIGD gave the opening speech at the programme. Meanwhile, BIGD’s senior fellow of practice Maheen Sultan, research fellow Lopita Huq and senior research associate Md Raied Arman presented the research report.

Chief guest of the event, Md Golam Sarwar, secretary of law and justice division, said in his speech, the government, development partners and civil society must work together to rise above the crisis. Right to justice, regardless of gender and socio-economic status, has to be established as a human right, he added.

In her speech as special guest at the event, Ummey Kulsum, joint secretary of the law and justice division said, it is essential to emphasise on gender equity and framework for women empowerment as a solution to the corona crisis.

That framework will play a major role in fighting the problems faced by women and teenage girls pinpointed in this research, she said.

The research stated that Covid-19 has negatively impacted the studies of adolescents. Prior to corona, 35 per cent adolescents used to study three to five hours a day. During corona outbreak, their studies went down by 14 per cent.

Meanwhile, 31 per cent students dropped out of school. Of them, 35 per cent said they no longer wish to study because of the corona outbreak. And 16 per cent said they don’t have the ability to continue their studies.

During the corona period, educational activities continued through television and cell phones. However, parents refrained from giving cell phones to their daughters fearing they might get involved in romantic relationships.

Taking into account a small specimen, the issue of child marriage was considered in the study as well. It was found that the child marriage rate between pre and post corona period differ just slightly.

50 per cent guardians participating in the survey said, they married their daughters off more or less because of the corona outbreak.

Many teenagers are aware of their right to avail legal aid. They know where to go and whom to ask for help, in case the fall into trouble. However, there were limitations in availing the aid.

80 per cent adolescents said the current state of the possibility of receiving legal aid remained the same as that of pre corona period.

They are more prone to go to local elders at first for solutions. At least 16 per cent of them have gone to their elders seeking assistance.

Among others, MM Mahamudullah, additional director of social services department (social security programme), Javed Patel, deputy commissioner of the British High Commission in Dhaka, Caren Blume, deputy head of development cooperation wing of German Embassy, Angelika Fleddermann, country director of GIZ Bangladesh, Shima Moslem, joint general secretary of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Shafiqul Islam, former director (education) Brac and Jiniya Afroze, country coordinator of Clarissa by Terre des hommes foundation spoke at the event.