The country has no specific child protection laws. Activists and Church leaders met to develop a policy that could serve as a model for Christian organisations as well as wider society. NGO World Vision reports that 82 per cent of all children in the country are abused. For a nun, the lack of proper food and leisure time are “a form of violence".
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Catholic bishops, Catholic believers and lay activists met in Dhaka on Saturday to discuss ways to work together in order to guarantee children a healthy environment in which to live and grow, in the family and in society, with the proper medical care, the necessary leisure and adequate food.
For the participants, defining a child protection policy is an urgent need as a guideline first of all for Christian organisations, and then in society in general.
Child protection is something dear to Pope Francis, who was behind a conference held at the Vatican precisely to discuss ways to prevent abuses within the Church.
The Dhaka meeting was organised by the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace (EC-JP) and World Vision, an NGO that works for child welfare around the world.
In total some 75 Catholics were present, including Card Patrick D’Rozario, archbishop of Dhaka, four bishops, as well as priests and nuns.
“In Bangladesh large number of children are deprived of their basic human rights due to unacceptable health, nutritional, educational and social conditions,” said Mgr Gervas Rozario, who is EC-JP chairman.
Sadly, “they are also exposed to severe forms of physical and mental violence at home, in the workplace and in other public places.”
For this reason, he said that “Catholic Church is committed to create a safe and secure environment for children,” and is “going to work with World Vision Bangladesh, which has experience in this field.”
Chandan Gomes, director of programme development at World Vision Bangladesh, welcomes Church associations and suggests some areas of cooperation.
"We noticed that the media report numerous cases of child rape,” he said. as a result of this, some children “do not want to go to school because they are afraid” of the distance they must walk from home to school. “Others fear being persecuted in school. In light of this, the government should approve a code of conduct in classrooms."
"Our research shows that 82 per cent of children are victims of violence and 65 per cent of girls are sexually abused by relatives,” the activist noted. “Children are like flowers: if they are hurt in childhood, they cannot forget it for the rest of their lives."
EC-JP secretary Fr Liton Gomes said that Bangladesh has no child protection legislation. What is more, he acknowledges that "in many Catholic schools too teachers beat students. We need a strategy to stop the violence."
The problem transcends socio-economic status. "Many girls from wealthy families tell us they are beaten by their fathers if they do not get high marks in exams. Violence takes place in the family,” said Sr Asha Virginia Gomes, principal at the SFX Green herald International School (run by Xaverian missionaries).
“At the same time, in many Church-run hostels students do not eat adequately, they do not have enough leisure. This too is also a form of violence."