of women in Bangladesh
- Dr. A.S.M. Badruddoza
Bangladesh Human Rights Commission is a voluntary Organisation. It was
established in the year 1987. It is an affiliated member of OMCT, International
Commission of Jurists, and International Association of American Minorities.
It also has accredited status with the UNO. BHRC is the largest Human
Rights Organization in Bangladesh. It deals with various activities to
up keep Human Rights situation.
Followings are some of many: Legal Aid Programme for victims of Torture;
Medical Aid Programme for victims of Torture; Legal Literary and Publication
Programme; Investigation & fact finding Programme; Protecting minorities
and Tribal Rights Programme; Research Programme; Urgent Action Programme;
Legal Training Programme; Election Monitoring Programme; Disaster Management
I shall restrict myself to the violation of Human Rights against women,
the type of torture they suffer, the legal framework in the country &
the activities of BHRC to help them in the relevant fields.
Bangladesh is a Country with a population of about 140 million. The per
capita income is about 363 Dollars. But more than 50% people live below
The women are considered 2nd class citizens. Though various laws and Acts
have been made to protect them, they are easy prey to persecution, torture
The injustice is imposed socially and by religion.
Type of torture:
- Women fall prey
to Acid Burn, inflicted upon them by male perpetrators. Usually the
criminals do this after being refused to have sexual relations or proposal
of marriage. Sometimes the cause is for acquiring her property or dowry
from her parents.
- Women are sometimes
burnt to death by the husband or his family for the sake of dowry. Usually
dowry is taken during the marriage. But the greedy family puts pressure
on the family of the girl for further dowry and in case of failure,
resort to such barbaric activities. Sometimes, in order to get rid of
torture, the women commit suicide.
The birth of a female child is rarely considered a happy incident. If
a woman cannot have a male child, usually the husband remarries.
The female child is also given less priority. They are given less love
and affection by the family and the relatives.
Female child is usually offered less nutritious food, less money is spent
on their education. They are more abused and rebuked. They have to do
large part of the household work.
Discrimination by Religion:
- The Hindu women
cannot inherit father's property.
- The Daughter inherits
½ that of the brother by Muslim Family Law. If a person dies
without leaving a male child, ½ his / her property goes to his
/ her brother and the daughter only inherits ½ of his / her property
but incase only a male child is heir he inherits all of the property.
- In the eyes of
"Shariat Law" a woman is considered ½ that of a man.
In "Shariat Law" 4 witnesses are always necessary. But in
case women are witnesses double number is necessary. Again if only women
are witnesses, the case is disregarded.
Thus we see
that the women are victims of social & religious injustice. They are
brought up in an environment of unfriendliness. Then again, the women
fall prey to kidnapping. They are kidnapped and sold to different brothels.
They are also trafficked illegally to other country like India, Pakistan
and Middle East. Several type of such trafficking is there.
- Through marriage.
Sometimes some male perpetrator get married to woman and take them out
of the village, (Parents' home) and bring her to the town. There he
engages her and forces her to do immoral activities. Sometimes she is
sold to brothels or other countries.
- Through kidnapping
Female children are kidnapped and are forced to do immoral act or are
- Sometimes the
female village teenaged girls or middle-aged women are lured to get
jobs in the cities. They believe and come to the cities only
to find that they have been brought to work as prostitutes or sold to
- Sometimes they
are sent to the foreign country as Garments labour or other office-worker.
But after reaching .the country they find that they have to work as
housemaids or prostitutes.
Mr. Chairman, Bangladesh
has a well-developed set of National laws. In addition to its Penal code,
Bangladesh has passed some other laws to address specific needs of women
in the country. So far the willingness of the Government and also the
opinion of the members of the legislature is concerned, the women are
well cared for and actions are " Meant " to be taken to reduce
cruelty to women.
But in reality everything is meaningless. The following is a narration
of the reason. The legal procedure in Bangladesh is very lengthy. At first
a crime is to be reported to the local police station. About 95% police
officers are thoroughly corrupt. The women usually cannot pay any bribe.
And actually they are the victims so question of paying bribe does not
arise at all.
But they have to make the local police officers " HAPPY " in
order to file the complain and get a well documented " Charge Sheet
" written. Usually the offender is more powerful. They make the police
officer " HAPPY " and gets a " Charge Sheet " which
is so inaccurate, vague and under rated that it does not stand when put
up in the court.
Again after a sentence is passed in the lower court it goes to the session.
Judge court and then to the high court and ultimately to the Supreme Court.
The process takes in excess of 2 to 3 years at the least. 90% women or
their families can not bear the cost of the lengthy legal procedure.
The perpetrators usually remain at large on bail & persecute the victims
and their family to withdraw the case. Sometimes they burn their houses
or even kill or injure other members of the family. Till now we have more
than 1000 acid victims cases and only in 13 cases sentences have been
passed. These too are in the lower courts only. So where comes the justice
? How can we prevent cruelty to the women? Should we wait for the perpetrators
to throw acids on women and we shall treat them only? No!! The perpetrators
must be brought to justice so that the crime in itself is lowered and
we have less case to deal with.
As if all these are not enough. It is a shameful thing to say that even
many judicial members are corrupt and sometimes the judgement can be bought.
So in order to prevent the women from suffering and falling prey to the
Acid Burn, the legal procedure must be effective.
BHRC proposed to the Government to set up Special Tribunals which may
be headed by a judge of the High Court and the Judgement passed may only
be appealed to the Supreme Court. If such Tribunals are made the criminals
can be brought to justice.
BHRC appeals to the International Community to put all its power to persuade
the Government of Bangladesh to take up effective measures to give justice
to the suffering thousands. Hundreds of young women in Bangladesh are
being attacked with Acids. At least 20 cases of Acid Burn occur every
month & the victims are almost always women & children.
Sulfuric acid is the commonest acid used. It melts away skin & muscle;
often to the bone. Steps are being taken to restrict the selling of acid
but it is virtually impossible, as it is a common requirement in the Battery
repair shop and Tannery industries.
Acid throwing increased about 7 years ago and coincided with a new thrust
by women in Bangladesh to assert their rights. With the help of the "Micro-Credit"
programme started by various NGO's there have been uplifts in the condition
of the women. They have grown self honour and independence and refuse
to be a commodity in the hand of the father or the husband. It may be
reasoned that Acid throwing is a tragic by product of a gender revolution.
Again, 80% of the female if arrested by the police for various reasons,
fall prey to the carnal desire of the Police officers. Last year 16 such
cases were reported.
Bangladesh Human Rights Commission has taken up the matter of Acid Burn
very seriously. In case of Acid Burn victims, as soon as a case is reported,
the local members of the organisation goes to the family of the victim.
They give them psychological support, take up the matter to the police,
provide initial medical treatment by the local doctors & ultimately
bring the victim to Dhaka. The Organisation has a hospital there in Dhaka
where the victim is treated by Surgeons, Plastic Surgeons, Ophthalmologist
& other relevant specialists.
BHRC does the necessary follow up with the local police station. The police
officers are deterred to the recourse of corruption. Presently BHRC is
giving legal assistance to about 200 Acid Burn cases and is giving medical
aid to about 60 victims.
BHRC has involved itself in giving legal assistance to all the atrocities
caused against women while in police custody. BHRC also gives legal assistance
to the women who became victims if torture by their husband.
BHRC has given legal aid to some women who were trafficked out of the
country. About 123 women were found in India who were brought back to
About 6000 women were trafficked out of border every year. The task of
recovering them, bringing them home and rehabilitate them is a mammoth
All conscious people of the world must work side by side to help out these
As per article 28 of our constitution, it is obligatory for the state
to make provisions for betterment of the women and children and the neglected
section of the society. Under Article 25 (6), Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, every child is entitled to special care, treatment, social
security whether born of wed lock or not. Again under UN convection on
the Rights of children, the state is responsible for sound upbringing
of children. The convention enjoins principally the ways that adults and
governments must adopt to protect the children, support their health,
education and development. It also includes the right to have home, food
and also right to protection from abuse and neglect.
But in our country the girl child remains neglected, undesired in the
family and unwanted in the society. Once upon a time the girl child was
buried alive. The lives of many female children are shattered by extreme
poverty and discrimination in terms of facilities and social protection.
We have no birth registration system. as a result a large number of female
children, teen-aged girls, women are trafficked within the territory and
out of border. The same reason complicate their rescue, release and repatriation.
And even after their rescue and repatriation, their reintegration in the
society and family is for more difficult due to social taboos and brutal
Prostitution is an immoral act. It is very degrading. The extent of suffering
can only be understood by the victim. More than 25% girls working in different
brothels are under the age of 18 years. 95% of those girls are trafficked
under the age of 18 and about 25% are under the age of 12. In the World
Summit for children in 1990, governments pledged to give every child a
better life and promising future. They signed the World Declaration on
the survival, protection and development of children and a plan of Action
for implementing the World Declaration.
As BHRC is a powerful organisation with powerful men in it, the perpetrators
of crimes against women are more aware and careful than before. They know
that there will be BHRC against any victim and thus the victims are now-a-days
not an easy prey. As I told you before, this sort of crime is usually
committed against the poor as they have limited resources to fight back,
with the help of BHRC, now-a-days the victims are no more women of the
poor sect. BHRC never let go a crime unchallenged. If the legal proceedings
would have been shortened and the criminals were duly punished, the incidence
of this and other barbarian crimes committed against women, would be greatly
People form all walks of life must come forward to help fulfill the World
Declaration. Only observance of World Children Day etc. will not solve
the problem but the all out effort of the Government and people and the
help of the Developed Countries will ensure the well-being of the destitute
children of LDCs.
I, on behalf of Bangladesh Human Rights Commission like to implore upon
the International Community to come forward & strengthen the hands
of BHRC with the help of other Human Rights Activities, in home and aboard,
we are positive that good result will definitely be obtained.
Ladies and gentlemen, I take the pleasure to thank Mr. Saiful Islam Dildar,
Secretary General, BHRC to give me a chance to present the woeful condition
of the women in my country. And thank you all present here for giving
a patient hearing.
Please excuse me if I have become emotional or rhetorical.