Salma Sobhan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Salma Sobhan
Native name সালমা সোবহান
Born Salma Rasheeda Akhtar Banu[1]
(1937-08-11)August 11, 1937
London, United Kingdom
Died December 30, 2003(2003-12-30) (aged 66)[1]
Gulshan, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Nationality Bangladeshi
Alma mater University of Dhaka
Spouse(s) Rehman Sobhan (m. 1962)
Parent(s) Mohammed Ikramullah (father)
Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah (mother)

Salma Sobhan, (née Salma Rasheda Akhtar Banu; August 11, 1937 – December 30, 2003),[1] was a Bangladeshi lawyer, academic and human rights activist. She became the first woman barrister in Pakistan in 1959.[2] A member of the Law Faculty of the University of Dhaka, she was a co-founder of Ain-O-Salish Kendra (ASK), a national human rights watchdog.


Sobhan was born in London in 1937. Her father Mohammed Ikramullah was the first foreign secretary of Pakistan and mother Begum Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah, one of the first 2 women members in Pakistan's Constituent Assembly,[2] later serving as Pakistan's delegate to the UN and Ambassador to Morocco. Her mother was a member of the Suhrawardy family of Calcutta. On her mother's side she was a niece of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, premier of Bengal and Prime Minister of Pakistan, and on her father's side she was a niece of Muhammad Hidayatullah, Vice President and Chief Justice of India. She married Rehman Sobhan, an economist in 1962.[2] They had three sons, her eldest son Taimur died in an accident at the age of 18 in 1981. Her elder son Babar works for UNDP, her younger son Zafar Sobhan is the editor-in-chief of the Bangladeshi English daily, Dhaka Tribune. Her sister is the Princess Sarvath of Jordan. She had a brother Enam and another sister Naz.[1]

Education and early career[edit]

Sobhan was educated at Westonbirt School in England and studied law at Girton College, Cambridge in 1958. She was called to the Bar from Lincoln's Inn in 1959 and became one of Pakistan's first women barristers. She began working with a law firm in Karachi, M/S Surridge & Beecheno, as a legal assistant to practice in the High Court.[2] After her marriage in 1962 she moved to Dhaka and began teaching at the Law Faculty at University of Dhaka, and continued to teach there until 1981.[1] In 1974 she was appointed research fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs. She was responsible to edit the Supreme Court Law Reports.[2]

Human rights and law career[edit]

Sobhan, along with eight other colleagues, had founded a human rights organization Ain O Shalish Kendra in 1986. Until 2001, she served as the Executive Director of the organization.[2] For her dedication to the defense of women's rights she received Ananya Magazine Award in 2000 and Award from the New York-based Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights (later became Human Rights First) in 2001.[2] Sobhan was elected to the Board of the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Service Trust, and that of BRAC and Nijera Kori. In 2001, She was elected to the Board of the United Nations Research Institute For Social Development (UNRID). She was also a member of three international feminist networks - Asia Pacific Women Law and Development, Women Living under Muslim Laws and Match Canada.


Sobhan had publications that include Legal Status of Women in Bangladesh (1975), Peasants' Perception of Law (1981), No Better Option? Women Industrial Workers (co-authored in 1988).


The Protichi Trust started by Amartya Sen recently instituted an award in her name.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Eminent HR activist Barrister Salma Sobhan passes away". The Daily Star. 31 December 2003. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Hameeda Hossain (2012). "Sobhan, Salma". In Sirajul Islam; Ahmed A. Jamal. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  3. ^ Hameeda Hossain. "Salma's journey into activism". Adhunika.