IRB – Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (Author)
The following information was provided by a Dhaka-based human rights lawyer who specializes in women's and children's rights (22 July 2000). The lawyer is a member of Naripokkho, a Dhaka-based women's human rights and development organization, and coordinates the group's "Monitoring Intervention to Coordinate Violence Against Women" project. Additional information on Naripokkho can be found in BGD23835.E of 6 May 1996. She is also a member of several national and regional human rights organizations and networks.
The Women and Children Repression Prevention Bill 2000, which strengthens the Women and Children (Special Provision) Act 1995, applies in cases involving an attack with acid or other corrosive substance, rape and rape-related deaths, murder for dowry, kidnapping and trafficking of women and children, demanding of ransom after kidnapping, sexual molestation, maiming of children for purposes of begging, and exposing a victim or survivor's identity in the media. The law applies to all Bangladeshis and persons residing in Bangladesh, and it is being enforced by the authorities. Sentences given to persons convicted depend on the form and degree of the offence, but range from two years rigorous imprisonment up to the death penalty.
The offences covered by the new Act are now called Special Reported cases (SR cases), and the authorities are required to investigate them. Ten Special Courts have been established in the district headquarters of 10 of the country's 64 districts. In the remaining districts judges try SR cases along with their regular duties. Two Women's Investigation Cells have also been established; one is in Dhaka.
The lawyer was not aware of any special training to assist law enforcement agencies and personnel in the implementation and enforcement of the new law. To her knowledge there is no difference between urban and rural areas in enforcement of the law by the police (ibid.).
While some media reports indicate that the law is being enforced (DPA 5 Mar. 2000; The Daily Star 8 May 2000), other reports suggest that enforcement can be uneven (IPS 19 June 2000; The Daily Star 27 July 2000). On 19 June 2000 IPS reported the results of a survey, carried out by a local Bangladeshi human rights group, in which 27 women reported they were victims of acid attacks in May 2000. The group stated that the number of reported incidents still accounts for only a fraction of the acid attacks actually taking place (ibid.). According to the IPS report:
[The law] has not deterred attackers because the law has rarely been enforced, say rights groups. They allege that the police do not pursue the complaints properly because most victims are from poor village or urban households.
"What is needed is strict and prompt application of the law so that the offenders cannot escape punishment. Police officials found hobnobbing with the criminals should also be dealt with severely," says Salma Ali, Executive Director, Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association.
According to Ali, the law should also make attackers pay the full cost of medical treatment for their victims. Male lawyer, Abu Ahmed of the Dhaka Bar Association strongly advocates summary trial for the crime.
[One] ... women's rights activist, who did not want to be named, accused national politicians of indifference to the issue, which, she said, is the real reason why acid attackers are not afraid of the law.
On 27 July 2000, six months after the law came into force, the Dhaka-based Daily Star published the following editorial after an incident of fatwa-related violence against a village woman in Narayanganj District:
According to a report in Prothom Alo, [housewife Rashida Begum] had allowed a young man, a resident of the adjacent village, to wait for her husband inside her room. That was enough for the zealots of the village to pounce on her. In public, she was whipped 20 times for 'her offence.' ...according to the self-proclaimed religious leaders of the village, [this was] done in line with Islamic law. What's more, they deemed it 'unnecessary' to seek intervention of the police for such a trivial matter and decided to let the matter be settled in saalish.
The incident has multi-dimensional implications. First, it proves that special act or no act, unless the existing law is effectively enforced, repression of women on one pretext or another will go on. What good did the Prevention of Repression on Women and Children Act, 2000 do for Rashida? Second, it shows that despite growing concern and resistance within society against them, the fatwabaz elements rule the roost in places. [The] third and the most crucial message ... concerns society's refusal to empower women. With her husband psychologically unstable, Rashida used to run the family affairs, a proposition people like Khoka Matabbar, the mastermind of the heinous design, found very difficult to accept. Rashida had no way of saving herself from the wrath of these bigoted and chauvinistic minds.
Reports say, Rashida left her village, disgraced and distraught. ... Neither Rashida's silent but eloquent protest nor her husband's plea stands a chance against Khoka Matbar or his fellow fatwabaz. Unless the hands of law intervene and mete out exemplary punishment to the perpetrators, our effort to ensure empowerment and economic emancipation of women will continue to be undermined by dogmatists and chauvinists.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
The Daily Star [Dhaka]. 27 July
2000. "Repression by Saalish." http://dailystarnews.com/ [Accessed
28 July 2000]
_____. 8 May 2000. "4 Girls Forced into
Prostitution in City Rescued; Three Arrested." http://dailystarnews.com/ [Accessed
8 May 2000]
Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 5 March
2000. BC Cycle. "Former Dictator's Son Faces Trial for Kidnapping
Girl in Bangladesh." (NEXIS)
Human Rights Lawyer, Dhaka. 22 July
Inter Press Service (IPS). 19 June 2000.
Tabibul Islam. "Women-Bangladesh: Disfigured by Acid Attacks
Despite Tough Law." (NEXIS)
Additional Sources Consulted
World News Connection (WNC).
Internet sites including:
Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Human Rights Without Frontiers
UK Home Office country assessments.
The Women and Children Repression Prevention Bill, passed by the Jatiya Sangsad on 30 January 2000; whether it has been enforced by the authorities, and if so, how frequently, in what areas, the punishments given to offenders [BGD35071.E] (Response, French)