Bangladesh is a developing country, on behind its development both the men and women are participating. They are contributing equally to nation-building. Without allowing women, a man can’t alone do everything for development of a country. There was a time when women were looked in the home without any self-respect. They were mere instruments to serve the family affairs. But with the progress of civilization, the outlook and attitude of the world towards women are being changed and Bangladesh is not an exception. Meanwhile, in some aspects, Bangladesh is more progressive country than other countries to promote women in a respectable position. So that, the discrimination between man and women is declined by the improvement of women’s condition in the society. In past, inequality between man and women were remarkable but in present time the situation is changing with the growth of women empowerment. But still, the man and women are not equal in several aspects of social interactions, from my point of view.
The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh guarantees the equality and non-discrimination towards women in multi-fold ways. Article 27 states that “All citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law”. Article 28(2) mentions that “Women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the State and of public life”. Article 29(2) prohibits the discrimination of women in the following way “No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office in the service of the Republic”. There are also some other provisions of laws, both National & International Law, which direct that man & women have equal rights.
There are numerous national laws to address the equal rights and non-discrimination of women such as Nari-O-Shishu Nirjaton Domon Ain, 2000; The Penal Code,1860; The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908; The Code of Criminal Procedure,1898; Muslim Family Law Ordinance,1961, Acid Throwing Control Act, 2000, Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006: Dowry Prohibition Act,1980 etc. Internationally, Convention on Eliminating Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is one of the most relevant international conventions. In this convention, women rights fall under human rights and it determines equal rights for both male & female. So from the legal point of view, men and women have equal rights before the law. But in reality, they are not equal, because if we look at the application of these laws then we can understand how the legal provisions and the practicality are different.
In terms of property rights, men and women aren’t equally treated. Ours is a Muslim majority country, we follow our personal law in respect of property rights. The minority people like Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and the people of the other religions also follow their respective personal laws. For example, generally, a Muslim male gets the double share of property than a female under Muslim Sharia Law. We can’t change this law to eliminate discrimination between male and female because this is the provision of our Holy Quran and we can’t make any law in violation of its provision. Moreover, Islam comprehensively imposes burdens of maintenance of wife, daughter, and mother on men in lieu of their double share in the property. On the other hand, for Hindu community, their personal law does not allow women to acquire property through inheritance. Only male members have the right to acquire property through inheritance. So, the rights of male and female regarding property are not equally distributed.
Our society is till now a conservative society, although women are constantly overcoming many obstacles and creating their position in the society but male-dominated psychology is still depriving women and reinforcing rendering women to remain discriminated.
I would like to discuss the social attitude towards women from different perspectives. In the education sector, at the stage of the primary sector, girls and boys are almost equally enrolled. In secondary level, the number of female students is being decreased because of poverty and child marriage. Finally, in tertiary level, the number of female students is very few because poor parents either can’t afford the cost of education or do not consider education of girls as an investment so they arrange marriage of their girl child but at the same time if their child is a boy then they anyhow try to manage money to bear the cost of their boy’s education. This is the real picture of our country and this is one of the common and major discriminations between a girl and boy. It seems like a male child is assets for their parents and a female child are a burden. The Article 17 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh guarantees the “free and compulsory education for all” but we can’t enforce this because it is within the Part Fundamental Principles of State Policy” which is not judicially enforceable. So, the discrimination between male and female in the education sector is playing an active role. Thereafter, for lack of education very few women can enter into professional life. Though the number of working women has been on the increase in last few years. But in many professional sectors such as sports, lawyer, pilot, navy, driver etc. men enrolment are much higher than women. In many working places, men get more wages than women for the same work and also enjoy more facilities than women. Though they both have equal rights to work, in social perspective society don’t allow women employment easily. Our customs, culture, and practice are such, which are far from being eradicated totally.
Women are always discriminated by men. Our social phenomenon pushes women to lead a substandard life. Women are tortured by man – either psychologically or physically. They don’t feel secure anywhere. Men also abuse women through rape, sexual harassment, acid throwing, trafficking and so forth. For these reasons, they are more afraid to protect their rights. Furthermore, women think more about their male-dominated-society created standards of dignity rather than their rights. That is why women are in regressive position than man. If the situation would not change, then equality between man and women will never come.
However, through our social view is discriminatory about women and man, but our laws are progressively ensuring equal rights. The whole world is becoming concerned about this discrimination between man and women and Bangladesh is walking hand in hand the international community. Though in the political sector, man members are more in number than women and in Parliament there are very few female members in parliament compared to male members, the encouraging news is that most of the state-heads – executive, legislative and opposition in parliament, are currently occupied by women. To encourage women towards participation in politics, the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh reserves 50 seats for female members. However, women coming to politics are often transformed to male attitude and, therefore, the result remains unchanged.
Finally, I want to say that, we have to stop all kinds of violation against women and make them more concerned about the protection of their rights. We don’t need to make special laws for women, we have to make proper implementations of laws, and then we can ensure equal rights for man and women. I hope, as we are acquiring a frequent progress towards the development of women’s condition then we can also eliminate discrimination between man and women within a very short time, then women and man will enjoy equal rights.
Rubaiyat Noureen is Lecturer in Law at the University of Development Alternative, Bangladesh