Male adolescents in the country faced more violence, both by family members and outsiders, than girls during the Covid-19 pandemic, says a study by the Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD).
Physical abuse by outsiders was much more prevalent for adolescent boys, with the violence perpetrated by peers or older males, the study commissioned by the Rule of Law Programme of GIZ Bangladesh said.
It added that around 26% of all adolescents faced some form of violence, and of them, younger adolescents (12-14 years) suffered more from all types of violence.
The findings were disclosed in a research dissemination program titled, 'Adolescent girls vulnerability and transition in the context of Covid-19' in the capital on Wednesday, where it was also revealed that among the responders 1% of the boys said they were harassed sexually while 2% girls reported sexual harassment.
The study further said during Covid-19 physical abuse at home reduced for adolescent boys, while it rose for girls, although verbal abuse rose for both.
Very few adolescents took any formal recourse against violence.
On top of that, adolescents faced a new and heightened level of risk to cybercrime and cyber-harassment during this period due to increased access to mobile phones and the internet.
Key informants to the study expressed grave concern about the perceived rise in drug use, selling, smuggling and human trafficking among adolescents particularly boys. Further, they highlighted the rise in gang culture.
Speaking at the programme, Md Golam Sarwar, secretary (Law and Justice Division), Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, said, the pandemic had impacted adolescents in both the short and long run.
"To prevent violence against women and children, a stricter law in being formed to prevent rape," he said.
He also urged development organisations and the civil society to join hands with the government and work together to overcome the issues.
In terms of education, Covid-19 did not significantly affect drop-outs rates, although there was around a 3% increase for both boys and girls.
Among the dropouts, 35% acknowledged COVID-19 had led to an unwillingness to study further and another 16% said they could no longer afford it.
Researchers interviewed 3,139 adolescent responders in three districts (Gaibandha, Narail, and Cumilla) for the study.