Child Act the deals with the laws, regulations and practices regarding the issues related to child right protection and promotion. The United Nations Convention of the Rights of Children (UNCRC) limits the age of a child at eighteen. Universally all the immatured human beings are regarded as children. According to the Constitution of Bangladesh, less than sixteen years boys and girls are children but as per the national child policy 2011 below eighteen years old teenagers are to be treated as children. In the factory law of Bangladesh, the age of a child has been fixed at sixteen while in the Shops and Establishments Act, it is only twelve. The Mining Law fixes the age of a child at less than fifteen, the Law of Contract at eighteen, and the Child (Labour Registrar) Law at fifteen. Under the Muslim Law of marriage anybody under eighteen is treated as a child. The Christian Law of divorce considers sixteen years in case of a male and thirteen years in case of a female as the age of a child.
Article 14 of the Bangladesh Constitution says, the fundamental responsibility of the state is to protect its citizens from exploitation. Article 15 stated that the primary responsibilities of the state include ensuring government grants to orphans in the event of insolvency. Article 17 says, the state shall adopt effective measures to impart free and compulsory education to all children. According to Article 18, one of the primary responsibilities of the state is to improve the nutrition level and general interest of its citizens. In the part three of the constitution two more articles have been incorporated emhasising policy on children. Any activity contrary to the fundamental rights is deemed to be illegal. Article 28 specifies that the state will not make any discrimination to its citizens. The state has the right to formulate specific regulations in favor of children. Article 34 states that all kind of coercive labour is prohibited. So, if the children are compelled to do so, it will be regarded as a punishable offence.
The Muslim Family Act, the father is the legal guardian of a child and in his absence, the elder brother or grandfather or anybody can be the guardian. The mother is the custodian of a child until a boy attains seven years and a daughter attains adulthood. The father has the responsibility of maintenance of the child no matter whether he or she is under the custody of the father or the mother. According to Article 5 of Early Marriage Prevention Act of 1929, the penalty of child marriage is imprisonment upto one-month custody or a fine of Tk 1000 or both. People helping to perform marriage of children are also liable to be punished.
Bangladesh Penal Code According to Article 82 of the penal code, crime committed by a child of less than seven years of age can not be treated as a crime. According to Article 83, crime committed by a child of more than seven years but less than twelve years can not be treated as a crime. At this age the child does not attain sufficient maturity to judge the nature and consequence of his or her action. According to Article 261 of the 1860 Penal Code, any act of temptation to take away a boy of less than fourteen years or a girl of less than sixteen years without the consent of the guardian will be treated as abduction. According to Section 364(a) of the Penal Code, anybody abducting a child of less than ten years with a view to killing or injuring or subjecting him or her to slavery or physical torture is liable to be punished by death or life-term imprisonment or fourteen years of rigorous imprisonment or fines. If anybody illegally engages himself in the unlawful trading of children or buys and sells children for trafficking or keeps children under custody, he or she will be awarded death sentence or life-term imprisonment. Anybody abducting a child and detaining him or her with a view to demanding ransom will be liable to be punished by life imprisonment or death penalty. According to Article 372 and 374 of the Penal Code, any act of buying or selling a child for prostitution is liable to punishment of a maximum of ten years of imprisonment or fine. It is necessary to seek help from law enforcing agencies to save children from prostitution. Any act of employing a child as a prostitute or tempting the child to prostitution is, according to section 37, liable to punishment of up to ten years of jail and fines.
Labour Law The Factory Law of 1965 prohibits child employment. No child under fourteen years can be employed in a factory. However, anybody between fourteen and eighteen years can be conditionally employed. The tender-aged labourer cannot be employed for more than five hours a day. They can be employed to work between 7 am and 7 pm only and only for one shift, which cannot be changed more than once a month without the prior permission of the chief Inspector of Factories. They cannot be employed to clean, lubricate, or set a machine at work. No tender-aged labourer can be employed to work around a running machine without intensive training in handling risky machines and knowledge to take safety measures thereof. No tender-aged labourer can be employed in that division of the factory where cotton is squeezed into sacks and threads are cut. A certificate of physical fitness must be obtained from the concerned authority before a tender-aged labourer can be employed.
Vagrants Act of 1943 According to section 3 of the act, the government has constituted an Advisory Board. Under section 8 of the act, the government in entrusted to establish special shelter homes for vagrants where they will be kept under custody and will undergo preliminary medical checkups. According to section 9, punishment for employing a child in begging is a rigorous imprisonment of upto two years or fines or both. Anybody enticing a child to enter into begging while under his care or supervision or compelling the child to do begging will be liable to punishment.
The Juvenile Development Centre conducts three different programmes: (1) Juvenile court, (2) Juvenile custody, and (3) Rectification centre.
Juvenile court consists of a full-time first class magistrate and other officials as per the Bangladesh Childern Act of 1974. This court generally sits in session twice, thrice, or more often in a month.
Juvenile prison is different from traditional form of jail. It is often necessary to keep some teenager under custody during the period of hearing of a case and its decision. During this period, the officer-in-charge of investigation makes observations of the child in question from various perspectives and tries to find out the causes of crime after analysing the character of the child. The probation officer or officer-in-charge of investigation submits necessary reports on the basis of observations and data obtained from the guardians. During their stay in juvenile jail they can play various games but nobody is allowed to study and undertake vocational training. Because of its temporary nature it does not do much harm to their schooling or vocational training.
Reformatory organisation The most important and prime function of this centre is to conduct a rectification programme. A convicted child who needs institutional rectification is handed over to the center, which bears the responsibility of taking care of the child. A review committee consisting of officers, social case officer, and the concerned staffs evaluates the progress of those who are under this organisation on the basis of the records provided by the social case worker and adopts new plan of reformation, if necessary. [Golam Kibria]