Report: Justice still elusive for repressed women
Sheikh Shahariar Zaman

The report pointed out that social norms are tolerant of violence against women, and both individuals and communities feel that it is justified in certain contexts

A government report has said that women continue to face barriers in gaining access to justice when they experience repression.

Tardy legal process and difficulties in ensuring accountability of law enforcers make it difficult for women to get justice after being subjected to violence, the report said. It mentioned uncertainty of getting justice as another reason why violence against women persists.

The government, in its national report on implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action submitted to the United Nations in May, revealed the progress and major challenges to advancement of women, gender equality and discrimination against women.

“We are working on stopping violence against women,” Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs Tariq-ul-Islam told the Dhaka Tribune.

According to the report, violence against women is still a critical challenge and weakness in the enforcement of laws has made it difficult to ensure women’s rights.

“Special courts to try women-related cases have been set up in all districts and many complaints were lodged there,” said Tariq.

The report pointed out that social norms are tolerant of violence against women, and both individuals and communities feel that it is justified in certain contexts.

“These beliefs are reflected among the law enforcement authorities and the judiciary,” the report read.  

The national report is submitted in every five years, with the first, second and third reports submitted in 2000, 2005 and 2009 respectively. The latest is the fourth report. 

Child marriage

The report said the child marriage rate is high in Bangladesh despite the fact that the average age for getting married has gone up over the years.

“We are going to amend the existing act related to child marriage and hopefully the draft will be placed before the cabinet the following month,” Tariq said.

The government wants to increase the penalty for those involved in child marriage, he added.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently attended Girls Summit in London where the issue was discussed.

Right to inherit

The report revealed that many women have been deprived of receiving their proper share of inherited wealth.

“There are ample examples where women are not getting their due share of inherited wealth,” the secretary said, but refused to comment on the subject of equal inheritance. 

The report, on the other hand, said the proposal for equal inheritance rights is being contested by some groups.

Sexual rights

The government, according to the report, includes information on sexual and reproductive health rights in textbook syllabus.

“We consult with girls, mothers and guardians to help them understand the issues,” Tariq said.

The report, however, said decisions on such issues are often taken by families or partners in spite of many steps taken by the state.

Health centres and hospitals do not provide information and counselling on these subjects, the report added.

Women trafficking

Trafficking of women is a big problem and the Women Affairs Ministry has teamed up with the Home Ministry to curb the crime, said Tariq.

The government has already signed an agreement with India and it is also working in accordance with the Saarc convention on trafficking, he added.

Women in CHT

The report said the government is concerned and trying to implement the CHT Peace Accord.

Quoting a report of Kapaeeng Foundation, the national report said in the last seven years, 245 were killed, and repression of women was used as a tool for illegal occupation of lands.

Violence, killing and abduction of women are reported mostly as part of local conflicts over land and forest resources, the report added.

Budget allocation

Budget allocation for women is growing but it is still inadequate, said the report.

“We have raised the allocation this year and we are trying to provide allowance for as many women as possible,” Tariq said. “In this fiscal, more than 0.2 million rural women will get Tk500 in allowance each, which was Tk350 earlier,” said the secretary, adding: “The government will also give Tk500 each to 0.1 million poor and working urban mothers in allowance.” 

According to the report, urban cities are failing to cope with population growth, and the government has not prioritised the poor living in urban areas in the budgetary allocation. 

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