Human rights in Bangladesh

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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Bangladesh

Human rights in Bangladesh are enshrined as fundamental rights in Part III of the Constitution of Bangladesh. However, constitutional and legal experts believe many of the country's laws require reform to enforce fundamental rights and reflect democratic values of the 21st century. Proposed reforms include strengthening parliamentary supremacy, judicial independence, the separation of powers, repealing laws which restrain freedom of the press and disbanding security agencies which violate civil liberties.[1][2][3][4]

Even though Bangladesh has Islam as its state religion and has constitutional references to Hindus, Christians and Buddhists; the political system is modeled as a secular democracy. Governments have generally respected freedom of religion,[5] a cornerstone of the Bangladeshi constitution. However, police have been slow in responding to and investigating attacks against minorities and secularists. In southeastern Bangladesh, the Chittagong Hill Tracts remains a militarized region due to a historical insurgency. Tribal people in Bangladesh have demanded constitutional recognition.[6]

According to Mizanur Rahman, the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission in 2015, 70% of allegations of human rights violations are against law enforcement agencies.[7] Torture and enforced disappearances are rampantly employed by Bangladeshi security forces. In recent years, free speech and media freedom have been repressed by the government through laws regulating newspapers, TV channels and the internet. Elected MPs in parliament lack voting freedoms. The future of elections is a concern among the population, with opposition parties alleging free and fair elections are not possible under the incumbent government. Local government elections in 2015 were marred by widespread allegations of vote rigging.[8]

Capital punishment remains legal in Bangladesh. Worker's rights are effected by a ban on trade unions in special economic zones. The government has often targeted trade union leaders with persecution.[9]

Article 6: Citizenship[edit]

Indigenous people in different parts of Bangladesh have demanded constitutional adivasi status

Article 6 of the constitution proclaims "the people of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangalees as a nation".[10] The article discriminates against the country's significant non-Bengali population, notably the Chakma, Biharis, Garo, Santhal, Marma, Manipuri, Tripuri, Tanchangya, Bawm and Rohingya. The issue was addressed by Chakma politician Manabendra Narayan Larma during proceedings of the constituent assembly of Bangladesh in 1972. Larma famously proclaimed that "Under no definition or logic can a Chakma be a Bengali or a Bengali be a Chakma....As citizens of Bangladesh, we are all Bangladeshis, but we also have a separate ethnic identity, which unfortunately the Awami League leaders do not want to understand".[11][12][13] The substantial Bihari population also complain of discrimination.

Article 23A goes on to describe minorities as "tribes" and "minor races".[14]

Preamble and Article 10: Socialism[edit]

The constitution's proclamation of a People's Republic and socialism in its preamble[15] and Article 10[16] are at odds with Bangladesh's free market economy, entrepreneurial class, diverse corporate sector and owners of private property. Six general elections were won by pro-market political parties, while four elections were won by left-wing parties.

Bangladesh ranked 128th out of 178 countries in the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom.[17]

Article 11: Democracy and human rights[edit]

Members of the Rapid Action Battalion

Article 11 proclaims that "the Republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person shall be guaranteed".[18] The government enacted the anti-torture law, called Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, in 2013. However, torture is widely used by Bangladeshi security forces, including the police, paramilitary and military.[19] In 2017, the police asked the prime minister to scrap the anti-torture law.[20]

Article 32: Right to life and personal liberty[edit]

Article 32 proclaims "no person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with law".[21] In reality, Bangladesh has a large number of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances each year. The Rapid Action Battalion is accused of being the leading perpetrator of such human rights abuses, followed by the Bangladesh Police, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence and the Bangladesh Army.

Article 34: Prohibition of forced labour[edit]

Forced labor is prohibited under Article 34,[22] but Bangladesh has significant challenges of human trafficking and modern slavery.[23]

Article 37: Freedom of assembly[edit]

Although there is general freedom of assembly[24] in Bangladesh, the political opposition is often restricted from holding public meetings and rallies by the government.

Article 38: Freedom of association[edit]

In spite of Article 38[24] calling for freedom okf association, trade union leaders from the textile industry often face arbitrary arrests and politically motivated lawsuits.[9] Forming trade unions is banned in export processing zones, but the government has pledged to remove the ban.[25]

Article 39: Freedom of thought, conscience and speech[edit]

Free speech is enshrined under Article 39.[26] During the 1990s and first one and a half decade of the 21st century, the Bangladeshi media enjoyed more freedom than at any other time in history. However, since the 2014 election in which the incumbent Awami League won a boycotted election, press freedom has dramatically declined. The ruling party has targeted the country's two leading newspapers The Daily Star and Prothom Alo with numerous lawsuits and has encouraged businesses to stop advertising in those papers. Pro-opposition journalists Mahmudur Rahman and Shafik Rehman were detained for prolonged periods. Nurul Kabir, editor of the New Age, has faced threats to personal life.[27] Mahfuz Anam, editor of The Daily Star, has faced 83 lawsuits since 2016.[28] Reporters without Borders ranked Bangladesh at 146th out of 180 countries in its index of press freedom.[29]

According to Amnesty International, independent media outlets and journalists have come under severe pressure by the government. Several journalists faced arbitrary criminal charges, often for publishing criticism of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, her family or the Awami League Government. Journalists reported increased threats from government officials or security agencies. The government continued to use a range of repressive laws to restrict the right to freedom of expression extensively. It increasingly used the Information and Communications Technology Act which arbitrarily restricted online expression. The human rights organization Odhikar reported increased arrests under the Act. Journalists, activists and others were targeted. Dilip Roy, a student activist, was detained for criticizing the Prime Minister on Facebook, but later released on bail. Parliament adopted the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act which significantly increased government control over the work of NGOs and threatened them with deregistration for making “inimical” or “derogatory” remarks against the Constitution or constitutional bodies. Several other bills that threatened freedom of expression were proposed in parliament, including the Digital Security Act ad the Liberation War Denial Crimes Act.[30]

The government has also been slow to investigate attacks on secularists in Bangladesh.

Article 70: Free votes in parliament[edit]

Parliament is not allowed to have free votes due to Article 70

Article 70 of the Constitution of Bangladesh is described as one of the most significant constraints on Bangladesh's democracy. The article restricts free votes in parliament. This means MPs have no voting freedom. According to the article, MPs will lose their seats if they vote against their party. Critics have argued the article tramples free speech in parliament itself.[31] As a result, parliament has been termed a rubber stamp and a lame duck.

Part VII: Elections[edit]

In 2011, the Awami League-led parliament abolished the caretaker government of Bangladesh, which was intended to act as a neutral guarantor during general elections. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party maintains that free and fair elections are not possible under the incumbent Awami League government, particularly after the League amended the constitution to have a sitting parliament while elections take place, in contradiction of Westminster norms.[32]

In 2015, local government elections were marred by allegations of vote rigging and intimidation of voters and the media.[25] Opposition parties have demanded a neutral interim government during the election period. In response, the government has proposed to restrict its political activities while organizing and holding elections.[33]

Part IXA: Emergency powers[edit]

Part IXA of the constitution concerns a state of emergency. Emergency powers were increased in the second amendment.[34] Three emergency periods have been declared in Bangladesh's history, including in 1973, 1990 and 2007. Article 141 (B) and Article 141 (C) allows for the suspension of fundamental rights during an emergency period.[35][36] The articles have been strongly criticized. In January 2007, when the 2006-2008 Bangladeshi political crisis saw a declaration of emergency rule, the New Age stated in an editorial "...by declaring a state of emergency to undo his mistakes, it is once again the people that the president is hurting by suspending their fundamental democratic rights. The citizens are not at fault for the existing political situation and therefore should not be punished for the failures of the caretaker government and the political parties. The president, therefore, should immediately restore the fundamental rights of the citizens."[37]

Capital punishment[edit]

Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Bangladesh.[38] There has been three executions in the country in 2015, and one in 2016 (as of July 5, 2016).[39]

It can theoretically be applied to anyone over the age of 16, but in practice is not applied to those under 18.[39]

The death penalty may be used as a punishment for crimes such as murder, sedition, offences related to possession of or trafficking in drugs, offences related to trafficking in human beings, treason, espionage, military crimes, rape, hijacking planes, sabotage, or terrorism.[40] It is carried out by hanging and firing squad; authorities usually use only hanging.[39]

Bangladesh is not a state party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on abolishing the death penalty.

Women's conditions[edit]

The United Nations country team in Bangladesh has identified "marital instability" as the key cause of poverty and "ultra and extreme" poverty among female-headed households. The Bangladesh Planning Commission has said that women are more susceptible to becoming poor after losing a male earning family member due to abandonment or divorce.[41] Women in Bangladesh are especially prone to a form of domestic violence known as acid throwing, in which concentrated acid is thrown onto an individual (usually at the face) with the aims of extreme disfiguration and social isolation. In Bangladesh, women are discriminately targeted: according to one study, from 1999–2009, 68% of acid attack survivors were women/girls.[42]

In 2010, a law against domestic violence was introduced, which defines causing "economic loss" as an act of domestic violence and recognises the right to live in the marital home. The law also empowers courts to provide temporary maintenance to survivors of domestic violence. In 2012, the Law Commission of Bangladesh, supported by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, completed nationwide research into reforms for Muslim, Hindu, and Christian personal laws. In May 2012, the cabinet approved a bill for optional registration of Hindu marriages. The Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs is also considering reforms to civil court procedures—especially on issuance of summons that will improve family court efficiency.[43]

Bangladesh has a high rate of early marriages. The government had vowed to end marriage of children younger than 15 by 2021. But in February 2017, a law was passed that permits girls less than 18 years of age to marry under “special circumstances,” such as “accidental” or “illegal pregnancy,” with permission from their parents and court.[44]

LGBT rights[edit]

In 2014, the Bangladeshi government officially recognized hijras as a third gender.[45]

The British Raj-era penal code remains in force in Bangladesh. Section 377 of the code criminalizes homosexuality. In 2016, Terrorist groups claimed responsibility for the murder of Bangladesh's first LGBTQ magazine editor Xulhaz Mannan and his partner Tanay Majumdar.[46]

Refugees[edit]

In 2008, the Dhaka High Court granted citizenship to the stateless Stranded Pakistani community.[47]

Bangladesh has been criticized for the poor living conditions in which over Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are kept in the country's southeast. There was international outcry after the army and government planned to relocate refugee camps to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal.[48] There were an estimated 22,000 registered refugees and over 100,000 unregistered refugees until 2016. Following the 2016-2017 Rakhine State crackdown, 65,000 refugees entered Bangladesh from Myanmar.[49]

Bangladesh has not signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Blood, Archer K. (2005). The cruel birth of Bangladesh: Memoirs of an American diplomat. Dhaka: University Press.
  • Benkin, Richard L. (2014). A quiet case of ethnic cleansing: The murder of Bangladesh's Hindus. New Delhi: Akshaya Prakashan.
  • Dastidar, S. G. (2008). Empire's last casualty: Indian subcontinent's vanishing Hindu and other minorities. Kolkata: Firma KLM.
  • Kamra, A. J. (2000). The prolonged partition and its pogroms: Testimonies on violence against Hindus in East Bengal 1946-64.
  • Taslima Nasrin (2014). Lajja. Gurgaon, Haryana, India : Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd, 2014.
  • Rosser, Yvette Claire. (2004) Indoctrinating Minds: Politics of Education in Bangladesh, New Delhi: Rupa & Co. ISBN 8129104318.
  • Mukherji, S. (2000). Subjects, citizens, and refugees: Tragedy in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, 1947-1998. New Delhi: Indian Centre for the Study of Forced Migration.
  • Sarkar, Bidyut (1993). Bangladesh 1992 : This is our home : Sample Document of the Plight of our Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Tribal Minorities in our Islamized Homeland : Pogroms 1987-1992. Bangladesh Minority Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, (and Tribal) Unity Council of North America.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Rounaq Jahan. "The Parliament of Bangladesh: Challenges and way forward". The Daily Star (Opinion). Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  2. ^ Professor M Rafiqul Islam. "Independence of the judiciary- the Masdar case". The Daily Star. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  3. ^ "Bangladesh: Dissenting voices trapped between fear and repression | Amnesty International". Amnesty.org. 2017-05-02. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  4. ^ "After Narayanganj verdict, Bangladesh should disband RAB | Human Rights Watch". Hrw.org. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  5. ^ https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/171752.pdf
  6. ^ "Indigenous people demand constitutional recognition". The Daily Star. 2010-03-10. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  7. ^ "Bangladesh's crisis of civil liberties and human rights | D+C - Development + Cooperation". Dandc.eu. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  8. ^ Al-Mahmood, Syed Zain (29 April 2015). "Bangladesh Local Elections Marred by Vote-Rigging Allegations". The Wall Street Journal.
  9. ^ a b "Bangladesh: Stop Persecuting Unions, Garment Workers | Human Rights Watch". Hrw.org. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  10. ^ "6. Citizenship". Bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  11. ^ Meghna Guhathakurta; Willem van Schendel (30 April 2013). The Bangladesh Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Duke University Press. pp. 358–. ISBN 0-8223-5318-0.
  12. ^ S. L. Sharma; T. K. Oommen (2000). Nation and National Identity in South Asia. Orient Blackswan. p. 192. ISBN 978-81-250-1924-4.
  13. ^ Hana Shams Ahmed. "Our constitution". The Daily Star. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  14. ^ "23A. The culture of tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities". Bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  15. ^ "Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh". Bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  16. ^ "10. Socialism and freedom from exploitation". Bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  17. ^ View Chart of Scores over Time (2017-01-13). "Bangladesh Economy: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade, FDI, Corruption". Heritage.org. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  18. ^ "11. Democracy and human rights". Bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  19. ^ By TASNEEM KHALILMARCH 2, 2008 (2008-03-02). "Surviving torture in Bangladesh". The New York Times (Opinion). Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  20. ^ "Police want revocation of anti-torture law". New Age. 2016-10-01. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  21. ^ "32. Protection of right to life and personal liberty". Bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  22. ^ "34. Prohibition of forced labour". Bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  23. ^ By LIPIKA PELHAMOCT. 29, 2014 (2014-10-29). "Modern Slavery in Bangladesh". The New York Times (Opinion). Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  24. ^ a b "37. Freedom of assembly". bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd.
  25. ^ a b "Govt to now allow trade unions in EPZ factories". Dhaka Tribune.
  26. ^ "39. Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech". bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd.
  27. ^ "Editors worried at threats to Nurul Kabir". The Daily Star. 3 March 2010.
  28. ^ correspondent, Michael Safi South Asia (18 May 2017). "Bangladeshi editor who faced 83 lawsuits says press freedom under threat". The Guardian.
  29. ^ "Press Freedom: Bangladesh slips two notches". The daily Star. 27 April 2017.
  30. ^ "Bangladesh 2016/2017". www.amnesty.org.
  31. ^ "Article 70: Contradiction with the spirit of the constitution". Dhaka Tribune.
  32. ^ "BNP welcomes EC roadmap but stresses poll-time neutral govt". The Independent. Dhaka.
  33. ^ "In quest of an acceptable polls-time goverment [sic]". The Daily Star (Op-ed). 14 January 2017.
  34. ^ "The cost of ignoring the Constitution". The Daily Star (Op-ed). 4 November 2016.
  35. ^ "141B. Suspension of provisions of certain articles during emergencies". bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd.
  36. ^ "141C. Suspension of enforcement of fundamental rights during emergencies". bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd.
  37. ^ "Press concern at Bangladesh emergency". BBC News.
  38. ^ "Death Penalty | Amnesty International". Amnesty.org. 2014-03-15. Retrieved 2015-11-22.
  39. ^ a b c "Bangladesh". The Death Penalty Worldwide database. Center for International Human Rights, Northwestern University School of Law. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  40. ^ "HANDS OFF CAIN against death penalty in the world". Handsoffcain.info. Retrieved 2015-11-22.
  41. ^ "Women's Rights in Bangladesh" (PDF). Online Women in Politics. 2002. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
  42. ^ Avon Foundation for Women. Combating Acid Violence in Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia: A Report by the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School, The Committee on International Human Rights of the New York City Bar Association, the Cornell Law School International Human Rights Clinic, and the Virtue Foundation. (2011): 1–64.
  43. ^ "Will I Get My Dues ... Before I Die?". Human rights watch. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
  44. ^ "Bangladesh Events of 2017". Human Rights Watch.
  45. ^ Blaustein, Jonathan. "Bangladesh's Third Gender". Lens Blog.
  46. ^ CNN, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Don Melvin, and Tiffany Ap. "Al Qaeda claims #Bangladesh LGBT murders". CNN.
  47. ^ "Bangladesh: High Court Grants Citizenship to Stateless Bihari Refugees - Global Legal Monitor". www.loc.gov. 2 June 2008.
  48. ^ Rahman, Shaikh Azizur; agencies (2 February 2017). "Plan to move Rohingya to remote island prompts fears of human catastrophe". The Guardian.
  49. ^ "Bangladesh wants to move Muslim refugees to an island to stop them 'mingling' with citizens". The Independent. London. 31 January 2017.

External links[edit]

Chancery Law Chronicles- First Bangladesh Online Case Law Database * [1]