Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) works at a national level in Bangladesh to assist deprived sections of society, especially women, child labour and labourers. ASK aims to help establish a society based on impartiality and justice, and free from gender discrimination. ASK urges to ensure accountability and clarity of authoritative institutions. ASK’s endeavour is supported by 17 constituents and one of them is working specifically on raising awareness, and providing assistance in legal and societal aid.
ASK contributes to a number of sectors focusing on protecting legal rights. It provides guidance to the district level advocates so that people can receive necessary legal advice. As well as this, AKS also works on enactment and credibility of the existing law to ensure authoritative responsibility towards its citizen.
Collaborating with 10 NGOs and CBOs, ASK provided necessary assistance to observe the condition of civic rights across 40 unions in 10 upazillas. Currently ASK is in joint venture with 8 local and 10 international groups.
Law on “National Commission for the Rights of Children (NCRC)”: Requesting for feedback on the Draft Law
Bangladesh is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and it has promised to establish a strong monitoring system for the protection and promotion of child rights. The CRC committee in October 2015 has reiterated the importance of establishing a children Ombudsperson in its concluding observations as well as recommendations towards Bangladesh. The similar recommendation came from the ‘Universal Periodic Review 2013’ and the Government of Bangladesh accepted that. The government also had the commitment for establishment of Ombudsperson in its children policy developed in 2011.
Considering the above mentioned commitment of the government, a study titled as “An Assessment to the Prospects of Children’s Ombudsman in Bangladesh” has been carried out by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) with the technical support from ‘Save the Children Bangladesh’.
The study assessed the prospects of Children’s Ombudsman in the country and how this mechanism can harmoniously operate with the other mechanism set forth by the Children Act, 2013.
Based on this study, ASK has drafted a law which includes the establishment of children’s Ombudsperson, process of appointment, general as well as special functions of the ombudsman to promote and protect child rights. Several consultations with the people from different levels took place to ensure that- it addresses all the expected areas and also to rectify the gap in the draft version, if any. Later, this draft Law was submitted to the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA) for their consideration.
Though ASK has been continuously advocating to establish such a structure for the children, but after having several consultations with relevant stakeholders, ASK realised that- a strong opinion exists in favour of the ‘Children Commission’ too. The logics behind this opinion are –
- Previous experiences of the establishment of an independent body could not successfully work due to lack of the government’s support; such as Tax Ombudsperson. The expert opinion is that- the current nature of parliamentary democracy may not allow giving power to an autonomous body that might accountable to them for their task.
- There is a tendency of the government to appoint a person who might work in favour of the government- is huge drawbacks of establishment of Ombudsperson.
- Establishment of the Ombudsperson may create an autocratic structure. On the other hand, there will be more than one person in the Commission, who will come from different background or discipline. This will create a balance in taking decisions and sharing knowledge too.
- The Ombudsman can work only for the protection of child rights but a commission can work for the promotion as well as protection. There are some constitutional limitations to the work of the ombudsman. Considering the recent situation in the country, a Commission is more relevant for the children. The country needs an institutional body rather than a political body.
In this context, ASK brought changes in its advocacy initiatives and activities. Considering the opinion of experts and stakeholders on this, ASK has drafted a law on the “National Commission for the Rights of Children (NCRC)” with technical support from ‘Save the Children Bangladesh’.
ASK believes that the establishment of an independent structure is significant whatever the title of the structure is. Recent spate of incidents of violence against children has also proved the urgency on the matter.
ASK has joined with the National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh (NHRC) as the Commission also supports the establishment of a commission for the children and shared the draft law in regular meetings of the Committee for Child Rights, Child labor and Anti -Trafficking, NHRC in presence of relevant experts, government officials, representatives of national and international child rights organisations to get feedback from them. The draft law was also shared in a public meeting on 23 December 2015 with relevant stakeholders to incorporate their inputs.
We have incorporated those feedback in this version of the law (attached in the media file). Now, the latest draft is available in our website for more inputs, comments and suggestions.
We are requesting to the visitors (in the website) to have a look on the draft law and provide their valuable inputs or comments. After incorporating relevant inputs, the draft law will be submitted to the concerned ministry.
Rohingya Refugee Crisis: ASK’s Observation
The Rohingya, from the state of Rakhine of Myanmar have long been subjected to continuous persecution and extreme violence. In the recent massacre, their houses are being torched, and women’s sanctity are frequently violated. They have been denied of free movement and access to basic food, shelter and health care. Moreover, the Myanmar authority has barred international relief agencies and communities to enter the Rakhine conflict areas. As being persecuted and under constant life threatening attempts in Rakhine state, they had fled their homeland to save their lives and seek refuge in Bangladesh. Innocent people mostly the women and children are dying by gunshot, land mine blast and boat wreckage while crossing the Naaf River and sea bordering between Bangladesh and Myanmar. The number of refugee has already crossed 4lac since 24 August 2017.
This atrocity by Myanmar government against Rohingya Community is the worst example of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”. Myanmar Government is disrespecting every principle of International law. Bangladesh has become the worst sufferer of this barbaric ethnic cleansing. It has created serious humanitarian crisis in the region. The role of Bangladesh government played upholding its’ ethical responsibility in allowing shelter and humanitarian assistance to Rohingya Refugee is praiseworthy. The local people of Cox’s Bazar have come forward with their humanitarian assistance since very first day towards these helpless people which is also commendable.
Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) is observing various dimensions of this barbaric attack against Rohingya community in Myanmar from the beginning. ASK is deeply concerned that, a large number of refugee have taken shelter wherever they could outside the refugee camps due to scarcity of space. These refugee are mainly women, children and elderly person who are living a miserable life under the open sky. Already most of them have fallen sick, and a part of the refugee children are affected to polio, measles, diarrhea, pneumonia and other fatal diseases. It is frightening that these diseases may spread in the district. Moreover, overall health care services for the refugee are not adequate. Furthermore, enough psychosocial counseling initiatives have not been taken especially for the tortured women and children. Most of the refugee women are pregnant who are deprived of proper diet and health care. A number of women have given birth on their way to Bangladesh, who are shelter less, accompanied with infants and kids and facing different post pregnancy difficulties. Although infants and kids constitute a larger portion of Rohingya Refugee, yet there is no arrangement for baby food. On the other hand, both public and private arrangement of pure drinking water and sanitation are not adequate enough to fulfill the demand. As a result the whole health and environmental condition is degrading. Besides, scattered stance of Refugee in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban may leave negative impact on both socio-economic and psychological condition of the local community.
It appears from the ASK’s observation that the refugee are scattered, as a result of that the management procedure has become more complicated and thus resulting disorder in the relief distribution. A number of refugee have started to spread out throughout the country beyond Ukhiya-Teknaf. Since they cannot be identified separately from their appearance, it is difficult for the duty officers of LEAs to identify them. To solve this complexities biometric registration of Rohingya refugee have been started, which is worthy and important. According to the duty officers of BGB, the data collection of only 3000 Rohingya refugee for bio-metric registration was done by 16 September. According to ASK, the non-involvement of UNHCR in bio-metric data collection of Rohingyas may create further complexities for them while returning to their own country. Moreover, most of them are children, but the Rohingya children are not being brought under the biometric registration process. ASK expressed its concern that the parents of most of the refugee children are either killed in recent massacre in Myanmar or lost they fled to Bangladesh with folks or with kith and kin’s. Therefore if they are not brought under due registration process their safety and security might turn up as major concern particularly, women and children living outside the refugee camps are in most vulnerable position. On the other side, the part of Rohingya community in “no man’s land” are also living their day under deep concern. They are also facing lack of adequate food and basic needs. International organizations should come forward in this matter.
According to ASK’s overall assessment, though the Government has taken humanitarian stand and expressed willingness about assisting the refugee but there are still some gaps in the coordination of these initiatives. We hope that the Government with the assistance of national and international organizations will overcome these challenges very soon.
Based on ASK’s observation, ASK places the following recommendations to Government of Bangladesh (GoB) and international community on the ongoing humanitarian crisis –
At National Level:
- Ensure adequate booths and human resources for doing bio-metric registration of Rohingya refugee and involve UNHCR in this process immediately;
- Include children’s photo and other vital information with their parents or guardian in the registration process;
- Establish adequate number of refugee camps and provide shelter to the fleeing Rohingyas in a systematic way;
- Ensure proper and adequate humanitarian assistance i.e. food, medical facilities, counseling and sanitation in refugee camps;
- Create an inter-governmental coordination team including representatives of UNHCR to manage and monitor the services for Rohingyas;
- Ensure security of the Rohingya women and girls both in the shelter and outside the shelter;
At International Level:
- Enter into a multi-lateral dialogue on this issue to ensure immediate cessation of the ongoing violence against Rohingys;
- Take proper initiatives to protect and promote human rights of Rohingya community in Myanmar and implementing the recommendations of “Kofi Annan Commission”;
- Stop ongoing persecution against Rohingyas and take back all the Rohingya refugee to their own country with the due recognition of the status of Myanmar citizenship;
- Take initiatives to reunite the displaced family members who have been detained and held captive in military, non-military, jail and detention centres through proper investigation by United Nations; and
- Create pressure to Government of Myanmar to provide access for an independent investigation by human rights activists and media personalities