Online violence, cyberbullying, and harassment in digital spaces have been on the rise in Bangladesh. Human Rights and Justice Programme (HRJP) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), along with its partner organisations is working to make the digital space safe for everyone. Besides programme activities, a study was commissioned by Ain o Shalish Kendra (ASK), the partner organisation to identify the possible risks and magnitude of the problem, trends in violence, as well as the scopes and challenges in prevention and elimination of sexual harassment, violence, abuse and exploitation of children online.
Face-to-face interviews with schoolchildren and youths from Dhaka and Satkhira revealed that over 30% of victims demand exemplary punishment for perpetrators.
Approximately 38.26% of respondents have recommended that initiatives should be taken to raise awareness among children, parents, teachers, and other duty bearers regarding this issue. Meanwhile, 11.87% said that existing laws should be strictly enforced. Around 16.36% of respondents have recommended that appropriate laws and policies should be in place, as the existing laws do not cover all aspects regarding the issue.
Major recommendations included strong advocacy efforts with the government to enact or amend laws focusing on online sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse of children.
A large number of respondents emphasised on large-scale awareness-raising campaigns involving mass media. Recommendations also included school-based awareness-raising campaigns using existing youth clubs, as promoted by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA) and other entities such as NGOs.
With support from UNDP, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) organised training, workshop ,national level consultation and dialogue etc, for school children, strategic partners, policy makers and other stakeholders.
Building on the experience of these awareness events and the study, ASK presented their recommendations for creating safe cyberspace for children at a press conference at Jatiya Press Club in Dhaka on February 28, 2021.
ASK recommended several measures to prevent online harassment of children, which include: incorporating issues related to online harassment into the school curriculum, awareness-raising activities involving parents, developing parental control applications, trying online child harassment cases under cybercrime tribunal and reforming the relevant laws such as The Children Act, 2013 (amended 2018); ICT Act, 2006 (amended 2013); Digital Security Act, 2018 and The Pornography Control Act, 2012 to prevent online violence against children.