Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and physical spousal abuse. Marital rape is not a crime. Gender-based violence remained a serious challenge. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics’ Report on Violence Against Women Survey 2011 stated that 26 percent of women were victims of spousal rape by their current husband at some point in their lives. Of the rape cases tabulated by ASK during the year, 28 percent were gang rapes and 7 percent of victims were killed after the rape; 17 percent of victims were between ages 13 and 18, 19 percent were between ages seven and 12, and 5 percent were age six or younger. At least one child six years old or younger was gang raped. According to human rights monitors, many victims did not report rapes due to lack of access to legal services, social stigma, or fear of further harassment and the legal requirement to furnish witnesses. As a result the prosecution of rapists was weak and inconsistent. In August a government committee created by order of the High Court recommended replacing the “two-finger” rape test with other examinations by medical professionals. The Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) reported some perpetrators distributed photographs and videos of the rapes via cell phones and the internet to humiliate victims and their families.
A UN multiagency study on violence against women, released in 2013, 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 by 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.
Multiple, public, sexual assaults occurred during the April 14 Pohela Boishakh (Bengali New Year) celebrations. Approximately 30 youth assaulted an estimated 20 women on the Dhaka University campus and beat bystanders who tried to help the women. The attackers ripped clothes off the victims, including one 10-old-girl on whom they left bite marks. Nearby police did nothing to stop the assaults. Two women were assaulted on the campus of Jahangirnagar University, and other women were assaulted on a Jagannath University bus. The assaults triggered widespread social outcry and a public discussion of the factors driving sexual violence.
Rights groups said minority populations were at times targeted for rape due to their generally lesser societal influence. In May a 21-year-old indigenous Garo woman was gang-raped by five men on a microbus while returning home from work in Dhaka. The High Court ordered the police to take action in the case and the government to pay compensation to the victim.
Following the rape of a 13-year-old girl in Rangunia, local police imprisoned the rape survivor, her brother, and family in May and exonerated the police officer accused of destroyed evidence in the case. The High Court subsequently issued a rule calling for punishment for police for failing to report rape and protect the accused.
The law criminalizes domestic violence. The government operated a confidential hotline and several crisis centers for victims of domestic violence. Women’s rights groups criticized the government for its overall inaction on domestic violence. 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. According to a 2013 survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 87 percent of married women were abused by their husbands, with 50 percent reporting serious injuries.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Some NGOs reported violence against women related to disputes over dowries. In February a Thakurgaon husband strangled his wife and dumped her body in a septic tank in a conflict over unmet dowry demands.
A Supreme Court Appellate Division ruling allows the use of fatwas (religious edicts) only to settle religious matters; fatwas may not be invoked to justify punishment, nor may they supersede 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. The incidents included whipping, beating, and other forms of physical violence. In October village arbitrator Mohammad Jalal Uddin of Gazipur and his accomplices beat a woman with sticks until she was unconscious for disobeying his summons to a meeting. The woman was hospitalized for her injuries.
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 were often related to a woman’s refusal to accept a marriage proposal or in connection with land disputes. 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 restrictions universally. To facilitate speedier prosecution of acid-throwing cases the law provides special tribunals and generally does not allow bail. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation, the special tribunals were not effective, and conviction rates remained low.
A prominent local NGO reported 25 acid attacks from January through June. In January, Mohammad Shamim of Mymensingh threw acid on a second-year higher-secondary-school student for rejecting his romantic advances. The girl was hospitalized with burns to her forehead and one eye.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in public and private, including in educational institutions and workplaces, is prohibited by a High Court guideline. Monitoring and enforcement of the guideline were poor; harassment remained a problem and sometimes prevented girls from attending school or work. In June 12-year-old Momtaz Khatun of Sirajganj committed suicide after a young local man stalked her to and from school and harassed her over the telephone.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health and had access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, although civil society organizations reported that victims of child marriage often lacked the means to access services. Couples and individuals had 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 33 percent of the family planning supplies distributed in the country, according to the 2011 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey. While low levels of income and education and traditional family roles sometimes served as barriers to access, and most low-income families relied on public family planning services offered free of cost, the survey showed no link between socioeconomic status and the use of family planning.
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 33 percent of the deliveries occurred at a health facility, compared with 32 and 29 percent, respectively, in 2011. Although 55 percent of women received at least one antenatal checkup from a medically trained provider, only 26 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: The constitution declares all citizens equal before the law, with entitlement to equal protection of the law. It also explicitly recognizes the equal rights of women “in all spheres of the state and of public life.” Nevertheless, 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.
Women faced difficulty being promoted in factory jobs, 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. Employment discrimination towards women occurred (see section 7.d.).