POST TIME: 17 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Rights of the street children
Their basic needs like foods, clothing, secure and safe shelter, education, medical care etc. are to be ensured by all the citizens of the country under the active guidelines and leadership of the state
Sakib Hasan

Rights of the street children

Either in Bangladesh or in any other country across the globe, street children are a glaring example of most disgraced humanity that the world  has ever experienced.  Each and every episode of their  miserable everyday life on the streets is just a fierce battle for survival. Even more, their stories practically gains tragic dimension in the facts that even though they have parents, as we see this in many cases, they are deliberately abandoned by their parents either because of poverty, parental separation, being born out of wedlock or some other abnormal situations. Another overwhelming factor and that is war is pushing a huge number of teenagers of several countries to take refuge on the streets.

Left on the streets alone, unprotected and fending for themselves, it is a common lot of these helpless human children that they are destined to receive the extreme negligence and inhuman treatment from the people  around them. In Bangladesh, there is an estimated 600,000 street children living around the country. Of them, 75% live in the capital city Dhaka. The highest concentrations happen to live around the rail stations and the bus stands. Besides, quite a sizeable figure roams around the city thoroughfares and the streets. They sleep on the railway platforms and the less trodden footpaths and also in the dark corners under the over bridge, flyover or any other unoccupied space in the city.

Although street children are found in almost all areas of countries both the developed and the developing ones across the globe, in Bangladesh they are basically found in the urban areas. According to several surveys and studies, Bangladeshi street children are virtually the abandoned children of single parents. 65% to 70% are born on the streets of those parents who are not legally and ceremonially knotted to one another. In addition, 20% street children of Bangladesh happen to be from those struggling migrated urban families who just out of extreme poverty and acute scarcity of employment have left their village origins and sailed across into cities for better future. Ultimately losing the battle against poverty many parents of these families have lost their hold on their children.

A number of social thinkers like Richardson, Hunter hold the universal process of industrialization and urbanization massively responsible for the creation of the abandoned children. However, the contexts and the backgrounds behind the creation of these squalor children vary widely from country to country and from continent to continent depending on the practical ground realities of the countries in question. For example, the existing socio-economic realities in Australia or the USA go diametrically opposed to those prevailing in the Latin America, Africa and the countries in Asia including Bangladesh. Even among the Asian countries, in spite of having many identical points, each particular country calls for special study given their uniquely separate socio-economic realities.

Once we take the social and economic realities, for example, of Columbia that has long been ravaged by drug business and smuggling and the serious spin-off effects arising out of this severe social malaise, we can see that more than poverty war of taking control over the narcotics business have been rendering young kids homeless whose ultimate addresses are found on the streets. In the like manner, the long-running Peruvian guerilla war especially the operations of the Shining Path Guerilla outfit have made many children to leave their homes.

 Likewise, forceful conscriptions of young children into guerilla groups have long been a rampant practice in a number of war-torn African countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, Sudan, Nigeria etc. It is a bland fact that Innumerable parents from the impoverished backgrounds over the years have been forcefully conscripted into rival drug outfits and cartels leaving their leaving their teenagers unprotected. 2600000 young children live on the streets unprotected and unsupervised by the parents. Similar is the case with Afghanistan and the Philippines which are badly shattered by internal guerilla wars. More than 700,000 teen-aged children are living on the streets directly because of Taliban operations.  

Bangladesh is my special case study here. Extreme poverty as I have already mentioned it earlier is surely among other concomitant factors the most prominent one. Whatever may be the varying ground realities of the mentioned countries and still many unmentioned countries one thing is surely and universally common among them that street children of any country are human children and like all human beings they deserve the right to be treated as human children. Their basic needs like foods, clothing, secure and safe shelter, education, medical care etc. are to be ensured by all the citizens of the country under the active guidelines and leadership of the state. Unfortunately, little has been done so far to address this absolutely humanitarian issue. Two approaches are usually followed in addressing the issue of the street children-correctional approach and the rehabilitation approach.

The first one is commonly followed by the state whereas the second one is pursued by the NGOs and Charities and Missions. Given the fund constraint of the government, it is a sheer impossible task on the part of the government to run the required correctional centres and orphanages across the country. This is why the state along with its own investment has to involve the affluent sections of the society in this great philanthropic mission. If the old people and the autistic children receive special privileges and treatment; the helpless, loveless and absolutely unprotected street children also do have the every right to be rehabilitated and integrated into the mainstream of the society.

The writer, Assistant Professor of English in Bogra Cantonment Public School & College, is a contributor to The Independent. E-mail: shasanbogra1@gmail.com