B`desh plans to ban below 18 from political activities

Bangladesh plans to ban the engagement of youth below the age of 18 in political activities under a draft policy set to be approved by the government next month, officials said on Thursday.

Updated: Sep 16, 2010, 21:37 PM IST

Dhaka: Bangladesh plans to ban the
engagement of youth below the age of 18 in political
activities under a draft policy set to be approved by the
government next month, officials said on Thursday.

The country has drafted the new policy, expected to be
finalised next month, proposing ban on the involvement of
youth below 18 in politics and employment in hazardous jobs.
The age and definition of a `child` are proposed to be
revised from the present 14 to 18 years, bringing in nearly 45
per cent of the country`s estimated 160 million population.

"The draft Children Policy suggested one to be
considered as a `child` up to 18 years and prohibit their
engagement in politics and hazardous jobs," the spokesperson
for the ministry of Women and Children Affairs said.

The official said the draft was expected to be
finalised next month to be placed before the cabinet for
approval.

He said the draft policy sought to revise a 1994
document defining individuals under the age of 14 as children.

It also aimed at bringing poor children under the government?s
safety net protections with emphasis on girl child, who were
particularly exposed to natural disasters.

Some 45 per cent of the Bangladeshi population was
below 18 years, according to government statistics. The draft
said at least 2.65 crore children in the country live below
the poverty line, with little or no means to meet their basic
needs.

Street children have been widely engaged by political
parties during violent protests in Bangladesh, though politics
is officially banned in schools.

Bangladesh has been widely criticised by human rights
groups and NGOs for not cracking down on widespread use of
child labour in factories and non-formal sectors defying the
existing child laws. The proposed policy suggested ban on
employment of children below 14 as full time worker in any
factory.

Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, State Minister for Women and
Children, earlier said the government would take initiative to
update different laws that would contradict with the draft
policy, particularly regarding the age limit, which currently
varies under different laws.

Chaudhury said the draft laid emphasis on addressing
the issues of minor children and particularly the girl child
during natural calamities.

"We will make programmes to help the disaster-
affected children overcome the trauma they suffer from in post
disaster periods," she said.

Several children organisations and child rights groups
like `Save the Children` earlier said minors, particularly
girls, were exposed to worst social insecurity, losing their
parents in disasters like cyclones that often forced them into
professions like prostitutions at home and abroad.

PTI