A field trip where I was laughed at

05 Jul 2015

“A vast majority of the people do not have access to justice in Bangladesh”. This sentence in one form or the other is not only part of all the project documents UNDP is currently supporting in the justice sector but many speeches, reports, articles etc open or end with this sentence. This simple sentence evades the complex contexts and situations the country faces. Working in the justice sector for a year now, I thought I understood what this simple sentence meant until a field trip to Rangpur last week opened my eyes, the objective of which was to provide input into the new women’s access to justice programme.  In many senses, justice begins with injustice; knowing ones rights have been violated and an injustice committed. The constitution of Bangladesh enshrines equality before the law which means one has a right to redress no matter one’s social, religious, economic or cultural background; no matter if one is poor, a woman, a child, a hijra, a hindu, an ahmediyan, a Chakma, or without a limb. But injustice begins even before that, it begins with defining injustice in a society which is gnarled with social norms, values, principles and culture, some noble and some … Read more

Impermanent Justice: Legal Reform Workshop debates need for permanent prosecution service

29 Apr 2015

To generate productive policy discussion and articulate the legal issues requiring reform, the workshops drew issues to discuss from all segments of society.
With the growth of Government power and increase in law-making and regulation comes a natural rise in litigation. However despite these trends in Bangladesh, the establishment of a permanent prosecution / government pleading service to represent the State in a consistently high quality manner, across all such cases has not been forthcoming. The second Legal Reform Workshop held on 11 April 2015 at the CIRDAP Auditorium in Chameli House, Dhaka on ‘Law Officers of the State and Permanent Prosecution Service’ sought to examine this pressing and topical issue in Bangladesh. The Legal Reform Workshops are a series of structured Workshops organized by Dr. Shahdeen Malik (Advocate and Constitutional expert as well as Director of the School of Law at BRAC University and Honorary Director of the Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA)) and the Centre for Rights and Governance with support from UNDP, Bangladesh. The Workshops draw from all segments of society, to generate productive policy discussion and articulate the legal issues requiring reform, whilst also providing the impetus and setting the narrative for a comprehensive legal reform agenda. The first Workshop was held on 21 March 2015 on the topic ‘Legal Education: the Case for Reform.’ Esteemed panelists including Mr. Justice Md. … Read more

Raising young voices

27 Apr 2015

 Young participants asked questions to the mayoral candidates of Dhaka North City Corporation and Chittagong City Corporation on April 15th and 20th, 2015.
Samiha is a student at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong. In the eyes of this young woman, gender-based harassment, so called “eve-teasing”, has become a growing concern for not only students, but women of all ages and all backgrounds in Bangladesh. Women find it difficult to go about their daily lives for fear of the comments and touching they elicit when they try to attend class or do their shopping. This issue was raised at the UNDP-hosted dialogue between young people and mayoral hopefuls In Chittagong, Samiha was encouraged to hear candidates take the issue seriously. Leaving the dialogue Samiha said the event was “promising” as it candidates had demonstrated the “potential of the city” and the mayor to take concrete steps to address issues like eve-teasing and waste management. Stats are often thrown about. 47.6 million Bangladeshis are between 10 and 24 years old (UNFPA 2014).  It’s easy to give these statistics a cursory glance since in the end they’re just numbers. They don’t represent individuals. They don’t tell stories.   It’s harder, however, to ignore the 47.6 million when they start to ask you direct questions. At recent dialogues in Dhaka and Chittagong, young people, drawn from … Read more

Boi-Sa-Bi: A Festival of Spirit and Harmony

16 Apr 2015

Villagers float flowers as part of Phul Bizu Boi-Sa-Bi celebrationsVillagers float flowers as part of Phul Bizu Boi-Sa-Bi celebrations. Photo by - Prasenjit Chakma
When I mention the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), the first thing your mind might turn to are the steep hills, thick jungle and wide rivers that characterise this south eastern corner of Bangladesh. The second is probably the region’s rich ethnic diversity.  CHT is home to eleven different indigenous/tribal groups, in addition to the Bengali community. Each group maintains a unique language, culture, dress and even farming method, differing markedly from the rest of Bangladesh’s population. Within the Hill Tracts many communities follow alternate faiths to Islam, with many indigenous/tribal groups identifying as Buddhist, Hindu and Christian. Further the CHT traditional governance system, based on customary laws and lead by three Rajas, operates side-by-side to local government structures. Indeed, the CHT region is a mosaic of diversity and as a proud Chakma woman I view this as a strength to be celebrated. One joyous display of this diversity is the recently concluded Boi-Sa-Bi festival - the largest and most significant indigenous/tribal cultural event on the CHT calendar. For three days, the region becomes an explosion of colour and celebration, commencing on the 12 April and culminating on Pahela Baishakh. It is an opportunity to mark the year past, and to welcome … Read more

Perception is Reality: Public Impressions of the Justice System in Bangladesh

31 Mar 2015

Community education sessions like those organized by the Village Courts Project assist in improving public perception of the justice system.
“Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done." Gordon Hewart, 1st Viscount Hewart, PC In Bangladesh, a country where the backlog of court cases waiting to be heard is estimated to be over two million and a single land case can take a decade to be resolved, there are plenty of objective indicators that the justice system is not meeting the needs of the vast majority of Bangladeshis. While quantitative data like these indicators is helpful in measuring the success of justice sector institutions, it does not provide any clear path towards lessening citizens’ distrust of or dissatisfaction with the justice system. A recent Situational Analysis study conducted by the UNDP’s Access to Justice (A2J) project combined quantitative and qualitative methods to measure the satisfaction level of citizens with the justice system in Bangladesh. By using both subjective and objective indicators, the A2J Analysis assists in identifying the symptoms of subjective dissatisfaction that, when addressed, could contribute to resolving some of the systemic issues currently plaguing the justice sector in Bangladesh. Perception surveys, aimed at discovering opinions rather than facts, are often used in market research to measure customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. The qualitative … Read more