Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and physical spousal abuse but makes no specific provision for spousal rape. According to Odhikar, there were 711 reported incidents of rape against women and girls during the year, including 450 against girls. According to human rights monitors, the actual number of rape cases was higher because many rape victims did not report the incidents due to social stigma. Prosecution of rapists was not consistent. Of the 711 rape victims, 119 were victims of gang rape; 54 were killed after their rape. According to ASK, there were only 599 rape cases including 83 attempted rape cases filed with the police during the year.
According to Odhikar, on June 2, a group of men gang-raped a teenage girl in the Tongi subdistrict of Dhaka Division. They were led by her landlord’s son, Moinuddin. After raping the girl, the assailants doused her body in kerosene and lit it on fire. The girl died several days later and no arrests were made.
Local human rights groups reported that rapes and rape attempts against indigenous females increased sharply during the year.
For example, according to The Daily Star, law enforcement authorities arrested nine persons, including a Catholic priest, on February 23 in the Godagari subdistrict in Rajshahi Division for their involvement in a village arbitration following the gang rape of a local woman. Eight villagers allegedly raped a 14-year-old indigenous girl and, following the arbitration, harassed her until she committed suicide. The illegal village arbitration had sent the victim to live in a convent near her home and ordered the attackers to pay a sum of money to the victim’s family to avoid being reported to the police. The case continued at year’s end.
In October 2010 the parliament passed the Domestic Violence (Protection and Prevention) Bill, which criminalized domestic violence. Women’s rights groups criticized the government for its inaction on domestic violence, which was widespread, although data quantifying it was difficult to obtain. A 2000 study by the UN Population Fund indicated that at least 50 percent of women had experienced domestic violence at least once in their lives. The Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) filed 384 cases related to violence against women during the year and received more than 4,247 reports of violence against women. Most efforts to combat domestic violence were funded by NGOs with little assistance from the government.
For example, according to press reports, in December Rafiqul Islam tied and gagged his wife Hawa Akther Jui, then cut off all the fingers on one hand, allegedly because she had begun attending college. Islam was arrested, and the case continued at year’s end.
According to numerous press and human rights reports, in early June Syed Hasan Sumon brutally beat his wife in the Dhanmondi area of Dhaka, biting off part of her nose and causing her to lose her sight in one eye. Sumon alleged that his wife was committing adultery. The courts, however, rejected Sumon’s justification of the assault, and the police charged him with domestic violence. Sumon died of unknown causes in police custody while awaiting trial.
Some of the reported violence against women was related to disputes over dowries. For example, according to the Daily Star, Ainat Ali and several of his relatives in the Thakurgaon Sadar subdistrict of Rangpur Division, brutally beat and poisoned his wife on September 10 during a dowry-related dispute. The attackers allegedly beat the victim regularly over a two-year period in an attempt to elicit a larger dowry from her family. After the victim’s death, the alleged attackers attempted to pass the incident off as a suicide. The victim’s family filed a murder case with local police, and the case continued at year’s end.
There was an increase in the number of dowry-related killings during the year. ASK reported 502 cases of dowry-related violence, including physical torture, acid attacks, and killings, compared with 395 the previous year. There were no adequate support groups for victims of domestic violence.
NGOs such as the BNWLA operated facilities to provide shelter to destitute persons and distressed women and children. Courts sent most of them to shelter homes. In a few cases, they were sent to prison as a transit destination for short periods.
On May 12, the Supreme Court’s appellate division overruled a 2001 high court ruling banning fatwas (religious edicts); however, in its ruling the court declared that fatwas could be used only to settle religious matters and could not be invoked to justify meting out punishment, nor could they supersede existing secular law. Islamic tradition dictated that only those muftis (religious scholars) with expertise in Islamic law were authorized to declare a fatwa. Despite these restrictions, village religious leaders sometimes made such a declaration in an individual case and called the declaration a fatwa. Such declarations could result in extrajudicial punishments, often against women, for perceived moral transgressions.
Incidents of vigilantism against women--sometimes led by religious leaders by means of fatwas--occurred. According to ASK, 59 incidents of vigilante violence against women occurred during the year, and only 20 incidents resulted in police action. The punishments included whipping, beating, and other forms of physical violence.
For example, according to several newspapers and human rights groups, a 15-year-old girl in Shariatpur District of Dhaka Division died after being whipped at least 50 times in fatwa-based village arbitration. She was found guilty of adultery after she was raped by a relative. The local doctor’s initial autopsy determined that she died of natural causes; however, after the issue gained national attention, the High Court ordered the victim’s body exhumed, and her real cause of death was determined. The High Court ordered the arrests of the village arbiters and revoked the local doctor’s medical license. The case continued at year’s end.
Acid attacks remained a serious problem. Assailants threw acid in the faces of victims--usually women--and left them disfigured and often blind. Acid attacks often related to allegations of spousal infidelity. During the year, according to Odhikar, 101 persons were attacked with acid. Of these victims, 57 of the victims were women, 25 were men, and 19 were children. The government made efforts to punish offenders and reduce availability of acid to the general public.
For example, according to Odhikar, Liton Sardar of Satkhira District in Khulna Division threw acid in his wife’s face after she filed a case accusing him of bigamy. The victim was hospitalized with severe burns, and the case continued at year’s end.
On September 8, a court in Habiganj District in Sylhet Division sentenced four men to life imprisonment for a 2006 incident of acid violence. Abdul Quaiyum, Haris Miah, Auli Miah, and Alkas Uddin were also fined 50,000 taka ($633) for the incident, in which they broke into the home of an 18-year-old woman and flung acid in her face after she rejected their advances. Only Haris Miah was tried in court, as the other three individuals had absconded and were fugitives.
The law provides for speedier prosecutions of acid-throwing cases in special tribunals and generally does not allow bail. The Women and Child Repression Control Act seeks to control the availability of acid and reduce acid-related violence directed toward women, but lack of awareness of the law and poor enforcement limited the law’s effect. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation, the special tribunals were not entirely effective; prosecutors were able to obtain a conviction in an estimated 10 to 12 percent of attacks each year. In January the Commerce Ministry moved to restrict acid sales, limiting buyers to those registered with relevant trade organizations; however, the restrictions were not universally enforced, and acid attacks continued throughout the year.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in schools, workplaces, and other public spaces remained a problem during the year. A 2009 study published by the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that out of 5,106 unmarried adolescent girls in rural areas surveyed in 2004, 35 percent had experienced harassment; 34 percent, unwanted sexual attention; and 14 percent, sexual intimidation.
Reproductive Rights: Reproductive health information was freely available, but income and education often served as barriers to access. Pharmacies carried a wide range of family planning options; however, traditional family roles often hindered free access.
According to the 2010 Bangladesh Maternal Mortality and Health Care Survey, the maternal mortality ratio declined by 40 percent over the preceding nine years, from 322 to 194 deaths per 100,000 live births. Approximately half of the maternal deaths were due to postpartum hemorrhage and eclampsia, with 7 percent attributed to obstructed labor. One in three maternal deaths was due to indirect obstetric causes. Only 27 percent of births were delivered through a skilled birth attendant (23 percent of the deliveries occurred at a health facility and 4 percent occurred at home with a trained health provider). Although three in four births occurred at home, the total of women delivering at a health facility increased from 9 percent to 23 percent. Fifty-six percent of women received at least one prenatal check from a medically trained health provider; only 24 percent received the recommended four checkups. Fewer than one in four women received postnatal care from a trained health provider within two days of delivery.
Discrimination: Women remained in a subordinate position in society, and the government did not act effectively to protect their basic rights. On March 7, the cabinet approved the National Women’s Development Policy, which contains language encouraging the promotion of women’s education and participation in governance issues. The new policy, which does not have the full force of law, also contains language stating that women could have an equal share in property, businesses, and inheritance. Under traditional Islamic inheritance laws, daughters inherit only half that of sons, and in the absence of sons, they may inherit only what remains after settling all debts and other obligations. Under Hindu inheritance laws, a widow’s rights to her deceased husband’s property are limited to her lifetime and revert to the male heirs upon her death. The provision detailing the right to equal inheritance triggered a series of protests and a nationwide strike led by conservative Islamic groups. Several government leaders stated that the policy would not supersede existing religion-based inheritance laws, and as of year’s end there was no change to the law.
Employment opportunities greatly increased for women in the last decade, largely due to the growth of the export garment industry. Women constituted approximately 80 percent of garment factory workers. There were some disparities in pay in the overall economy between men and women, but in the garment sector wages were generally comparable.