Laws and Judgements Regarding Women’s Rights in Bangladesh
This article has been written for laymen but for those who are aware of her rights as a citizen of Bangladesh.
Parliament makes a law, the Judiciary ( Department of Justice) interprets laws and says what the law is, and Executive Department enforces the law made by Parliament and Judiciary.
Whenever any law, civil or criminal, is made by Parliament it is applicable to both males and females regarding rights and liabilities without considering the male or female but to give an extra tier of protection to women there are few special criminal laws that are female gender-based laws.
- The Constitution of Bangladesh: Article 28 (2) of The Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees that Women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the State and of public life. And provides equal rights and opportunities for all citizens regardless of gender.
- The Dowry Prohibition Act, 2018: This act prohibits the giving, taking, or demanding of dowry in any form. Violators of the act can face imprisonment, fines, or both.
- The Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000: This act addresses crimes related to violence against women and children, including rape, acid throwing, trafficking, and sexual harassment. It provides for severe punishment for offenders, including the death penalty in some cases.
- The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2010: This act defines domestic violence as any physical, sexual, emotional, or economic abuse committed by a family member against another family member. It provides protection and compensation for victims, as well as punishment for offenders.
- The Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2002: This act provides for severe punishment for offenders of acid attacks, including the death penalty in some cases. It also regulates the sale and distribution of acid.
- The Labor Act, 2006: This act prohibits discrimination against women in the workplace and provides for equal pay for equal work. It also mandates the provision of maternity leave and other benefits for women workers.
Supreme Court’s Landmark judgments on women’s rights:
- On sexual harassment: In 2009, the Court in Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) v Bangladesh identified the issue of sexual harassment at workplace and educational institutions.
Subsequently, in another writ petition by the same petitioner [(BNWLA v Bangladesh (2011)], the Court determined that sexual harassment outside workplaces and educational institutions must also be addressed.
Sexual harassment is when someone does something unwanted or unwelcome to another person, like following them or saying mean things. It is against the law and the government and schools have special rules to help protect people from it.
- On gender-based dress codes: In Advocate Md. Salahuddin Dolon v Government of Bangladesh and Others (2010), The Court held that such behavior was unacceptable and directed the Upazila Education Officer to apologize to the headmistress. It also directed the Upazila Education Officer to refrain from making any such remarks in the future.
- On Fatwa: Tayeeb Case: The Court’s decisions in these two cases set a precedent for the protection of women against fatwa-based punishments. These rulings made it clear that extrajudicial penalties such as those imposed by fatwa are unlawful and invalid, and that any coercion or undue influence used to execute such fatwas renders them null and void. They also established that any fatwa issued must be in accordance with existing laws and must be accepted voluntarily. The decisions of the Court have been instrumental in safeguarding the rights of women and ensuring that they are not subjected to cruel and degrading punishments in the name of religion.
- On the ‘two-finger’ test, BLAST: The High Court Division’s judgment was welcomed by the public and human rights activists, who lauded the court for taking a step towards ensuring justice for rape survivors. The judgment was also seen as a positive step towards eliminating the discrimination and stigma faced by rape survivors, who often do not report the crime due to fear of being subjected to the two-finger test. The judgment is seen as a landmark achievement in the fight against gender-based violence and discrimination in Bangladesh.
- On custodial rape: In State v Moinul Haque (2001), the Court held that in cases where a woman has been raped in police custody, the burden of proof regarding lack of consent shall shift to the accused. the Court ruled that the police officer in charge of the station shall be held responsible for custodial rape.
- On right to livelihood of sex workers: Bangladesh Society for Enforcement of Human Rights (BSEHR) v Bangladesh (2000), the Court held that the inmates of Nimtali brothels could not be arbitrarily evicted and subjected to degrading treatment in violation of their constitutional rights. The Court also determined that illegal trespassing into the brothels is also violative of the right to privacy of the inmates.
These laws reflect the government’s commitment to promoting and protecting women’s rights in Bangladesh. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that these laws are fully implemented and enforced and that women in Bangladesh can enjoy their full rights and freedoms.
Nayem Hasan Ovi, Lawyer
Nayem Hasan & Associates