Khadiza, 17, fled her sister’s home in Dhaka’s Khilgaon area after a dispute and refused to go back to her family when found after remaining missing for two days.
Khadiza is not the only case in point, but according to the police a large number of teen-aged girls have fled their homes for various reasons with many suffering sexual abuses.The major reasons are peer pressure at home, dispute with family on issues close to their hearts and to find a world they fantasised by watching dramas and cinemas.
Police rescued 3,238 girls under 18 from various parts of the capital in the last 11 years between 2009 and 2011. They were handed over to the Women Support and Investigation Division (WSID) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
Hamida Parvin, chief of the WSID, said, “A large number of these teen-aged girls left their homes due to dispute with their families or searching fanciful lives of pomp and grandeur influenced by cinemas and dramas.”
Talking about Khadiza (not her real name), the police officer said she hailed from Jafrabad in Pabna district came to her sister’s house at Khilgaon, but fled after having a quarrel with her sibling.
“Two days later, local people found her crying in Shahjahanpur Kitchen Market and telephoned the emergency service 999,” the officer said.
“Strangely Khadiza refused to go back with her family who came to take her home, saying she did not like the poverty they lived in … she had studied up to Class IX, but was ambitious,” Hamida Parvin said to the daily sun with a note of surprise.Finally, after several days she was convinced about the benefits of going back home, she left with her mother.
The WSID officer said that there were many such examples where these young girls refused to go home after being a search on complaints from their guardians.
“Police and NGOs had to counsel them to change their minds,” she said.
In response to question whether the rescued girls were abused, she said they were not aware about such incidents. But police sources confirmed many of them were victims of sexual abuse.
College-goer Humayra, 17, (not her real name) left their residence in Dhaka’s Badda area about five months ago after a quarrel with her family, who found her working at a shop in Uttara area after a week.
Police said families of Humayra and Khadiza were lucky as the found their daughters, but many remained missing.
The 3,238 of girls received by the Women Support and Investigation Division stood at 172 girls in 2009, 246 in 2010, 265 in 2011, 281 in 2012, 346 in 2013, 508 in 2014, 370 in 2015, 282 in 2016, 202 in 2017, 257 in 2018 and 309 in 2019.
In all such cases police handed over most of the girls to their families, while many were being looked after by different NGOs.
Dr Ayesha Banu, professor at Department of Women and Gender Studies of Dhaka University (DU), has told the daily sun that the teen is a vulnerable age and the teenagers tend to be influenced as well as fantasised issues without understanding the pros and cons.
She blamed excessive pressure of studies, negligence by family members, lack of proper entertainment, loneliness and family feuds for fleeing homes taking great risks.
“The government should introduce teen-friendly entertainment spots in the cities, towns and villages to help overcome such incidents,” pointed out Dr. Banu.
On the impact of films and dramas, Dr Fazrin Huda, associate professor at the Department of World Religion and Culture of the Dhaka University, told this correspondent that culture had an impact, especially on teenagers.
“Earlier the cinemas and dramas carried good message for all ages, but at present there was nothing good to learn from these popular kind of entertainment,” she said.
Dr. Huda, apparently upset by such a situation, added “It seems there is nothing to learn from these present films and dramas except ‘love relation’ and ‘fowl words.’
She too stressed on taking steps to change the situation and save these teen-aged girls.