In June this year a total of 462 girl children were victims of child marriage in the work area of the non-government organisation Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF). It was possible to prevent 207 child marriages. In May the number of child marriage in the work area had been 170, and 233 were prevented.
While violence against women decreased somewhat as compared to May, child abuse increased alarmingly.
These figures were released at a virtual press conference held on Sunday morning by MJF. Discussants at the conference expressed concern at the situation and called upon the concerned authorities of the government to take due action as the government is committed to end child marriage and forced marriages by 2030.
MJF has been carrying out a telephone survey from April. The organisation’s executive director Shaheen Anam presented the results of the survey at the virtual press conference and compared the data with that of May. A total of 106 associate organisations involved in various donor-funded projects assisted MJF in conducting the survey.
Under the survey, 57,704 women and children were contacted over telephone in 53 districts. Of them, 12,740 women and children were subject to violence. These included 9,844 women and 2,896 children. Among the children, 1,677 were girls, that is, 58 percent, and 1,219 were boys, that is, 42 percent.
In May, 2,171 children were victims of abuse. In June, 48 percent children, that is, 2,171 children, were subject to abuse anew. And 61 percent children were subject to domestic violence.
With the closure of education institutions, girls were stuck at home. Due to dwindling employment, the parents were unwilling to keep them on as extra mouths to feed and so were marrying them off.
According to the foundation, in June 12,740 women and children were subject to violence. Of them, 3,332 had not been subject to violence previously.
Shaheen Anam said, alongside UNFPA and other international agencies, MSJ also found an increase in violence against women and children in its survey. She said that they were concerned about this increase in violence and were giving various recommendations to the women and children affairs ministry and other ministries to prevent this violence. However, work to prevent such violence and abuse at a field level was proceeding at a slow pace. With the lack of justice and various programmes of the government not functioning, the situation has turned alarming.
Shaheen Anam went on to say women were subject to discrimination at home and outside. They were not given due respect. Women’s work was not given due recognition. These matters instigated further abuse of women. The lack of work during the coronavirus situation, and mounting poverty, made matters worse. The longer the pandemic lasted, the more threats were faced by women and children.
Speaking about the increase in child marriage, Shaheen Anam said with the closure of education institutions, girls were stuck at home. Due to dwindling employment, the parents were unwilling to keep them on as extra mouths to feed and so were marrying them off. They were also getting them married so as to avoid them being sexually abused at home or outside.
Shaheen Anam said as the lockdown had been relaxed, the government must revive its mechanism to prevent this violence. She said that other than rape and murder, such cases were not being taken up in virtual court.