Children going through painful experiences

Child abuse remains a casual occurence in family and society. Researchers don’t see the situation improving.

A major share of the country’s children and adolescents are falling victim to physical and mental abuse. They are subject sexual abuse. They are victims of negligence socially and in the family.

The social media has become dangerous for many adolescents. And, the media is failing to play an constructive role in this regard.

This picture has come up in 26 separate researches conducted on children and adolescents of the country. The studies have been done by the public health and informatics department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).

The abstracts of these studies that took five years to complete were presented in an event held at BSMMU on Thursday.

A study has been conducted on 45 children suffering from autism who were admitted in the tertiary hospitals of Dhaka. Researchers interviewed the mothers of the children.

It was seen that one of the 3 to 9 year-old children has been the victim of physical and mental abuse. 8.9 per cent of these children have fallen victim to sexual abuse at one point or other, said the mothers.

The 26 studies had been divided into five thematic clusters.

These included child rights and protection, child abuse online, negative childhood experiences and health issues later, media’s role in stopping child abuse and non-communicable disease: barriers to child development.

Five researchers presented the results of these five theme-based studies.

Md Atiqul Islam, a professor at the public health and informatics department gave the welcome speech during the event.

He said despite there being many national and international laws and conventions, the situation of violence against children and adolescents isn’t improving.

The internet’s dangerous for them

There have been two different studies on the use of internet. One of the studies involves 460 village children aged between 11 to 17 years.

It has been found that 59 per cent of those children are cybercrime victims. Meanwhile, 38 and 26 per cent of them are victims of two and three cybercrimes respectively.

The crimes included trolling, rumours or insults, communicating anonymously with devious motives, sexually harassing messages or comments, sexually suggestive images or videos.

BSMMU has increased emphasis on research. Now, these research results need to be applied.
Md Sharfuddin Ahmed, vice-chancellor, BSMMU

Another study conducted on 456 ninth and tenth grade students from cities and villages in 2021 found that 56 per cent of boys and 64 per cent of girls had been sexually harassed through Internet.

And, urban teenagers fell victim to violence one and a half times more than the rural ones.

Researchers say adolescents who regularly use Facebook, TikTok, Whatsapp and chat rooms are at a higher risk of being bullied.

It was said during Thursday’s event that parents or guardians who have little knowledge or understanding of the Internet, their children are at greater risk.

Media’s role

It has been found in a study, even after making people aware of the harmful health effects of child abuse, newspapers in Bangladesh report serious cases of sexual abuse on children in a manner which is unethical.

Newspapers tend to publish episodic reports rather than thematic reports. As a result, they miss the chance to inform readers about the social context of child development, protection and well-being.

Newspapers lack their own policy and guidelines on this issue. Prothom Alo is an exception in this case.

Researchers say child abuse is a socially accepted typical and painful experience. There are severe physical and psychological effects from the torture. Young children, girls and poor children remain at a higher risk.

As they hold low positions in family, school and workplace, their opinions aren’t given any importance. Unawareness and lack of law enforcement are key obstacles to eradicating child abuse, they added.

Chief guest of the event, BSMMU vice-chancellor Md Sharfuddin Ahmed said that BSMMU has increased emphasis on research. Now, these research results need to be applied.