Researchers have found that the reservations of Bangladesh’s ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is impeding their rights
Their findings were presented at an event organised by the Human Rights Programme of the United Nations Development Programme in the capital on June 24, 2019.
The researchers pointed out that although Bangladesh in 1984 had ratified the international treaty adopted by the UN in 1979, it had retained reservations up until now on two articles of the convention.
“Hindu women are not allowed to get divorced, and outdated inheritance laws remain in place which deprive women from their right to property,” pointed out Professor Dr. Shahnaz Huda of Dhaka University’s law department.
She and her colleague Professor Rumana Islam conducted the research through extensive surveys, focused group discussions, and secondary sources published the findings through the title “Social and legal implications of withdrawing the CEDAW reservations on Bangladesh legal system and social norms”.
Their study also focused on how other Muslim countries have adopted CEDAW especially considering their existing Sharia-based legal framework. Among their recommendations, a major point was the adoption of a universal family law which will not discriminate between genders.
“Such a law will definitely be a drastic measure both legally and socially, but it could at least be put in place optionally,” said Dr Huda.
Professor Md Nazrul Islam presented his findings on “Lapses in the legal framework in informal employment sector with specific focus on women.” The research was co-authored by Dr Md Nazmuzzaman Bhuian. 86.2 percent of the country’s total employed persons are working in sectors such as agriculture, domestic work, waste cleaning, construction, stone crushing etc.
“The condition of domestic workers is the most vulnerable, and almost the entire sector is comprised of women. For people who work in fields, there are no sheds, toilets, or safety measures. There is no scope for maternity leave in the entire informal sector, and sexual harassment is commonplace. There is also no practice of standard wages,” he said.
Among other points, Dr Nazrul recommended formulating a concrete law for domestic workers, creating special provisions for those involved in risky jobs, and keeping accurate records. “A powerful body or committee must be created to lead and monitor this sector,” he added.
Speaking as special guest, Md Anwar Ullah, additional director general of the labour department, said, “The government, institutions, and academics must work together to solve problems, and today’s presentations will surely help us in the future to ensure labour rights.”
Kazi Reazul Haque, chairperson of National Human Rights Commission, said, “Despite our best efforts, many problems concerning human rights are still plaguing the country. Studies like these help us solve such issues.”
He also said the government is not yet ready to withdraw their reservations concerning CEDAW. “But to us, it is high time the government ratifies the articles as the society is preparing to change, and the country is on track to reach the targets of Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” he added.
Members of different rights organisations such as Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Ain o Shalish Kendra, and NGOs were present among others at the event.