Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and physical spousal abuse but makes no specific provision for spousal rape. According to Odhikar from January through September, there were 729 reported incidents of rape against women and girls, including 305 women, 404 children, and 20 victims whose age could not be ascertained. Of the women, 55 were killed after being raped and 201 were victims of gang rape. ASK reported 702 rape cases, including 166 attempted rapes, filed with police during the first nine months of the year. Of the women, 69 were killed after being raped and 207 were victims of gang rape. Twelve women committed suicide after being raped. 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 or fear of further harassment. Prosecution of rapists was weak and inconsistent. On January 13, Roich Sheikh raped a fifth-grade girl in Mulghor, Rajbari. Police had arrested Sheikh in June 2012 on attempted rape charges against the same girl but had released him on bail in December 2012.
The law criminalizes domestic violence. The government introduced a confidential hotline and opened several crisis centers for victims of domestic violence. Women’s rights groups, however, criticized the government for its overall inaction on domestic violence, and data were difficult to obtain. From January through September, the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) received more than 2,569 reports of violence against women and filed 43 cases related to violence against women. NGOs, with little assistance from the government, funded most efforts to combat domestic violence. Courts sent most victims of domestic violence to shelter homes, such as those run by the BNWLA. In a few cases, the BNWLA sent victims to prison as a transitory destination for short periods. There were some support groups for victims of domestic violence.
A UN multi-agency study on violence against women, released on September 10, surveyed almost 2,400 men between the ages of 18 and 49 in one urban and one rural area of the country. According to the study, 55 percent of urban male respondents and 57 percent of rural respondents reported they themselves had perpetrated physical and/or sexual violence against women. The study concluded that the low prosecution rate of rapists supported a culture of impunity and encouraged further criminal acts of respondents who admitted to perpetrating rape. In total 88 percent of rural respondents and 95 percent of urban respondents reported they faced no legal consequences for rape charges.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Some NGOs reported violence against women was related to disputes over dowries. Odhikar reported 383 cases of dowry-related violence from January through September. Of this number, 125 cases involved victims who were killed and 15 involved victims who committed suicide. ASK reported 265 cases of dowry-related violence during the same period. Of this number, 128 cases involved victims who were killed and 21 involved victims who committed suicide. For example, 21- year-old Nilufa died on March 2 after her husband, Rakib Hossain, beat her in Sadar, Natore. Hossain told his in-laws that the model of motorcycle they gave him was not the one they had promised as part of Nilufa’s dowry. Nilufa’s family filed a case with the police against Rakib and his parents. The police completed their investigation, and court hearings continued at year’s end.
On May 12, the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division overruled a 2001 high court ruling prohibiting fatwas (religious edicts). In its ruling, however, the court declared that fatwas may be used only to settle religious matters and may not be invoked to justify meting out punishment, nor may they supersede existing secular law. Islamic tradition dictates that only those religious scholars with expertise in Islamic law may declare a fatwa. Despite these restrictions village religious leaders sometimes made such declarations. The declarations resulted in extrajudicial punishments, often against women, for perceived moral transgressions.
Incidents of vigilantism against women occurred, sometimes led by religious leaders enforcing fatwas. According to ASK there were 21 incidents of vigilante violence against women during the year, but only five incidents resulted in police action. The incidents included whipping, beating, and other forms of physical violence.
Acid attacks, although less common than in the past, remained a serious problem. Assailants threw acid in the faces of victims--usually women--leaving them disfigured and often blind. Acid attacks often related to a woman’s refusal to accept a marriage proposal or to land disputes.
The Acid Survivors Foundation reported acid attacks on 31 women, 23 men, nine girls, and one boy from January through September. Odhikar reported acid attacks on 31 women, seven men, four girls, and two boys, and ASK reported acid attacks on 36 women. The law 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 its effect. The government made efforts to punish offenders and reduce the availability of acid to the general public. The Commerce Ministry restricted acid sales to buyers registered with relevant trade organizations; however, the government did not enforce the restrictionsuniversally. The law provides for speedier prosecutions of acid-throwing cases in special tribunals and generally does not allow bail. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation, the special tribunals were not entirely effective, and conviction rates remained low. The Police Acid Crime Control Monitoring Cell stated prosecutors obtained a conviction in 10 percent of such cases from 2002 to March 2013. From January to September, courts convicted 10 persons in three cases.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in public and private, including in educational institutions and workplaces, is a criminal offense; however, harassment remained a problem and sometimes prevented girls from attending school or work. Odhikar reported 291 cases of harassment against women, and ASK reported 157, although many incidents went unreported. On June 5, a supervisor at Kachua Garments in Fatullah, Narayanganj, sexually harassed worker Khadiza Akhter Munni. Khadiza committed suicide on June 6.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the information to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children free from discrimination, coercion, or violence through access to a full range of contraceptive methods, including long-acting reversible contraception and permanent methods. Pharmacies carried a wide range of family planning options and sold 41 percent of family planning supplies distributed. Low levels of income and education and traditional family roles often served as barriers to access, and most low-income families relied on public family planning services offered free of cost.
According to the 2010 Bangladesh Maternal Mortality Survey, the maternal mortality ratio declined by 40 percent during 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 or prolonged labor. According to the 2013 Utilization of Essential Service Delivery (UESD) survey, a skilled birth attendant delivered 34 percent of births, and 32.7 percent of the deliveries occurred at a health facility, compared with 31.7 and 29 percent, respectively, in 2011. Although 54.6 percent of women received at least one antenatal checkup from a medically trained provider, only 25.5 percent of women received the recommended four checkups following live births. Only 27 percent of the mothers received a postnatal checkup from a trained provider within two days of delivery.
Discrimination: Women do not enjoy the same legal status and rights as men in family, property, and inheritance law. Under traditional Islamic inheritance law, daughters inherit only half of what sons do, and in the absence of sons, they may inherit only what remains after settling all debts and other obligations. Under Hindu inheritance law, a widow’s rights to her deceased husband’s property are limited to her lifetime and revert to the male heirs upon her death.
Employment opportunities increased for women, who constituted approximately 80 percent of garment factory workers. Women were occasionally subjected to abuse in factories, including sexual harassment. There were some gender-based wage disparities in the overall economy, but wages of women and men were comparable in the garment sector. Women faced difficulty obtaining access to credit and other economic opportunities, but the government’s National Women’s Development Policy included commitments to provide opportunities for women in employment and business.