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Research Paper

Combating Violence against
Women in Bangladesh

Submitted to
Professor Dr. Sarkar Ali Akkas
Department of Law
Jagannath University.

Submitted By
Lima Akter
Department of Law
Jagannath University.

Date of Submission: April, 2017

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Letter of Transmittal
Date: April, 2017

Professor Dr. Sarkar Ali Akkas

Department of Law
Jagannath University.

Subject: Submission of Research Paper on Combating Violence against Women in


Dear Sir,
This is to inform you that I have completed my research paper on Combating Violence
against Women in Bangladesh it has been a great learning experience for me. I would like
to thank you for assigning me such a responsibility and helping me on different aspects of
the thesis, which the knowledge will help in my future professional life.

However, I shall be grateful and obliged if you kindly accept my thesis and evaluate it.

Sincerely yours,

Lima Akter
Department of Law
Jagannath University.

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I do here by solemnly declare that the work presented in this Research has been carried
out by me and has not been previously submitted to any other institution. The work I
have been presented does not breach any copyright.

I further undertake to indemnify the University against any loss or damage arising from
breach of the foregoing obligations.

Lima Akter
Department of Law
Jagannath University.

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This is to certify that the Research Paper on Combating Violence against women in
Bangladesh is done by Lima Akter in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
degree of LL.M. from Jagannath University. The research has been carried out under my
guidance and is a record of the bonqfide work carried out successfully.

I wish her every success in her life.

Professor Dr. Sarkar Ali Akkas

Department of Law
Jagannath University.

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The author is immensely grateful to all of them who have given guidance, help and
co-operation during the tenure of the study. Although it is not possible to mention
every one by name, it will be an act of ungratefulness if some names are not
mentioned here.

I would like to acknowledge the untiring inspiration, encouragement and precise

guidance provided by my respected teacher and Supervisor Professor Dr. Sarkar
Ali Akkas, Chairman, Department of Law, Jagannath University. His constructive
criticisms, continuous supervision and valuable suggestions were helpful in
completing the research and writing the manuscript.

I take the opportunity to express my appreciation and hearties thanks to my entire

respected teachers of the Department of Law for their proficient teaching and
helpful advice.

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The objective of this dissertation is to report the prevalence and other related issues of
various forms of violence against women in Bangladesh. The term violence against
women is not new to us. But today this problem is very seriously committed through all
over the world especially in south Asia likes, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan. In this
dissertation attempt has been made to explore the nature, forms, causes, impact and the
remedies are available of violence against women in Bangladesh. First, some thought is
given to the correct definition of violence against women. Then, different manifestations
of violence are presented along with prevalence data. Lastly recommendations are made
to combat violence against women in Bangladesh.

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Table of Contents
Chapter 1
1.1 Causation of crimes against women in Bangladesh

Chapter 2
2.1 Definition of Violence
2.2 Situation of Women in Bangladesh
2.3 Position of women as a human being
2.3.1 Women in constitution
2.3.2 Human Rights and Women
2.4 Existing Reality
2.5 The status of women under religion

Chapter 3
3.1 Acid throwing
3.2 Dowry
3.2.1 Dowry-related violence
3.3 Sexual Harassment
3.4 Rape
3.5 Prostitution and Trafficking
3.6 Other Crimes
3.6.1 Murder and Trafficking
3.6.2 Eve Teasing
3.6.3 Victimization by Fatwa
3.6.4 Domestic violence

Chapter 4
Violence Against Women Around the World
4.1 The global scenario: A Comparative study about violence against Women
5.7.7 Dowry Prohibition Act, 1980

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Chapter 5
5.1 Specific laws of our country relating to crimes against women
5.1.2 Repression against Women and Children (Special Provision) Act, 1995
5.1.3 Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Demon Ain, 2000 (as amended in2003)
5.1.4 The Suppression of Immoral Traffic, 1933
5.1.5 The Children Act, 1974
5.1.6 The Acid Control Act, 2002
5.2 Criminal Law
5.2.7 Criminal Law Relating To Physical Harm
5.2.2 Violence against Women Relating To Marriage
5.2.3 Rape with Wife and Sexual Harassment
5.3 Civil Law
5.3.1 Divorce
5.3.2 Polygamy
5.3.3 Non-Maintenance
5.3.4 Child Marriage

Chapter 6
6.1 Recommendations
6.1.1 National Policy
6.1.2. Governments should recognize that women's human rights are universal
6.1.3 Ratify and implement international instruments for the protection of human rights
6.1.4. Eradicate discrimination, which denies women human rights
6.7.5 National Anti-Violence Movement
6.1.6 Legal Reforms
6.1.7 Support Services
6.1.8 Political Commitment
6.1.9 Social Awareness
6.2 Conclusion

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Chapter 1
The issue of violence against women in Bangladesh is not a new one. Women of
Bangladesh are victims of disparity, discrimination and exploitation. This discrimination
stems from the fact that gender has a camouflaging role, where Human rights of women
cannot be exercised in full. Some laws are gender biased and discriminatory to women's
human rights. The imbalance in these laws clearly shows that it is male gender, e.g. the
unilateral right of divorce of husband. The increasing crime rate and violence against
women indicate the inter relatedness of the various manifestations of gender
discrimination. In this regard it is worthy to note that a very recent study by the World
Bank shows that the countries that adopt measures to protect women's right and reduce
gender gaps have less corruption and faster growth than other countries.

Bangladeshi women face different forms of violence by men on a daily basis. One
research report1 published in 2000 by a reputed women's non-governmental organization
in Bangladesh shows that 30% of the women in the cities are battered by their husbands,
37% are victims of verbal insults and harassment, and 33% are victims of other forms of
domestic violence. Another survey reveals that among the victims of physical violence,
23% are rape victims, 22% acid-throwing victims, 10% burn-victims, 5% are victims of
poisoning, forced abortion and other kinds of violence.

1 'Violence on Women in Bangladesh', Nari Pakha Report, (July 2000)

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Violence against women may include murder of women/wives, wife abuse, bum, rape rap
in custody, fatwa related violence, trafficking, kidnapping, abduction, wrongful detention,
police violence and so forth, Generally, police are Kfactant to take cases of violence
against women. Even where women go to police station to file a case they are confronted
with total indifference, or coldness Off the police personnel who are usually male.
Moreover, if the complaint is for wile abuse she is treated more callously. Police attitude
to violence against women is another determining factor in questionable implementation
of the law.
The goal of the study is to protect our Women rights from offences, to eliminate
discrimination against the women it is necessary to create awareness " among the women
by our laws.

1.1 Causation of crimes against women in Bangladesh

I would like to give a brief bundle of causes about the crimes against women r1cfore
going through the elaborate discussion in respect of crime against women. These bundles
of causes are
Lack of education.
Lack of awareness about rights and self respect.
Degradation of family and social value.
Degradation of religious and culture.
Male dependence.
Limited participation of women in socio-economic development process.
Unhealthy and unsuitable working place.
Want of good governance and accountability
Lengthily process of justice system and uncertainty of getting justice.
111 and unhealthy culture.
Political patronization to the known criminals.
Law of proper implementation of existing laws.
Unkind and ill attitudes of male to women.
Lack of social security.

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Now short elaborate discussion about causation of crimes The study of economic rights
of women is never analyzed in detail. Specifically it is never analyzed that enforcement of
family Low can empower women and given them economic freedom. This article is an
endeavor to concentrate on all the property rights of women provided under Muslim
personal lows of Bangladesh. Which are dower, maintenance and inheritance?2

Recent economic pressures have the effect that more husbands cannot maintain their
wives and both partners have to work for the survival of the family. However, in
accordance with Muslim law and religion, men have full responsibility for the
maintenance of their wife and children (see for details below). In this context it should be
emphasized that more women in Bangladesh should insist that men should fulfils their
normative obligations and make them free from economic deprivation. There is no male
right in Islam to grasp a wife's income, whatever she earns is her own to dispose of, either
she can use it herself or may contribute it to the family budget if she wishes.

22. Taslima Monsoor, 'In Search for security and poverty alleviation: women's inheritable
entitlements to land, the untapped resources', Journal of International Affairs, vol.4, no.2 (1998),

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Chapter 2

2.1 Definition of Violence

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, UN Resolution 48/104
defines violence against women as any act of gender based violence that results in, or is
likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women,
including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether in
public or private life.

The Beijing Platform for Action retakes the above definition and stresses that "in all
societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual
and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture" (PFA,1995).
Violence has multi-dimensional forms starting from verbal abuse to trafficking of women.
Violence against women has been clearly defined as a form of discrimination in numerous
documents. The World Human Rights Conference in Vienna, first recognized gender-
based violence as a human rights violation in 1993. The 1993 Declaration on the
Elimination of Violence against Women noted that this violence could be perpetrated by
assailants of cither-gender, family members and even the "State" itself.3 Worldwide
governments and organizations actively work to combat violence against women through
a variety of programs. A UN resolution designated November 25th as International Day for
the Elimination of Violence against Women.4
The Fourth Conference of Women, 1995 has defined violence against women as a
physical act of aggression of one individual or group against another or others. Violence
against women is any act of gender-based violence which results in, physical, sexual or
arbitrary deprivation of liberty in public or private life and violation of human rights of
women in violation of human rights of women in situations of armed conflicts.5

33 United Nations General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women,

4 1993. ** International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, UN Resolution

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Violence is an act carried out with the intention or perceived intention of physically
hurting another person. Gender violence is defined as "any act involving use of force or
coercion with intent of perpetuating promoting hierarchical gender relations".
Liz Kelly (1998), Surviving Sexual Polity has defined violence as "any physical, visual,
verbal or sexual act that is experienced by the women or girl at he time or later as a threat,
invasion or assault, that has the effect of hurting her or degrading her and/ or takes away
her ability to contest an intimate contact".
Dr. Joanne Liddle modified this definition as "any physical, visual, verbal or sexual act
that is experienced by the person at the time or later as a threat, invasion or assault, that
has the effect of hurting or disregarding or removing the ability to control one's own
behaviour or an interaction, whether this be within the workplace, the home, on the streets
or in any other area of the community".

2.2 Situation of Women in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Constitution and the general laws of the country entitle women to equal
rights and status to those of men in public life, but non-discrimination in the private
sphere is not guaranteed. Consequently there are significant disparities between men
women in all realms of life. Lack of equal access to economic opportunities, education,
health services and their lesser role in decision making perpetuate women's subordination
to men and susceptibility to violence. All sources' of information be it news reports,
records from State institution or research show that there is an increasing trend of
violence against women.

5 Conference on Women, Beijing, 199

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Following the declaration of UN Decade of Women (1976-1985), the Government of
Bangladesh and some NGOs have undertaken several programmed for the advancement
of women. Simultaneously the women's movement has played an important role in
enhancing women's participation in every sphere of life in order to achieve equality. As a
result, over the last two decades, women in Bangladesh have gradually become more
visible in the labour force, in development programmed and local institutions such as
Local government bodies.

Culturally and socially the family is still seen as the rightful place for women and yet it is
within this arena where power relations are often played out. It is on the one hand, a
source for positive nurturing and caring where individuals bond through mutual respect
and love. But on the other hand, in many cases, it becomes the site for discrimination,
deprivation and exploitation. It is where discriminatory socializations processes occur,
which in turn result in promoting and justifying violence against women.

News of rape, assault, trafficking, death due to dowry, etc., are common features of
Bangladeshi society. The four broad categories of violence against women in Bangladesh
are domestic violence, violence at the workplace, trafficking in women and forced
prostitution, and sexual abuse. In the face of actual or threatened violence, women cannot
develop to their full human potential or participate in the economic, social, cultural, civil
and political arenas on equal terms with men.

Recently, violence against women has reached another dimension with the rise in the
number of trials through the "fatwa" (religious judgments) in rural areas. Village elders-
usually form a "salish" or tribunal to settle some local disputes. This traditional custom of
excluding women in the rural salish can be manipulated by the local mullahs (religious
leaders) and the social elite to find women guilty of extramarital sexual affairs and other
acts. Punishments are meted out (in accordance with religious laws as interpreted locally)
in contravention to the existing penal code. Some women were flogged publicly and a
few among them have committed suicide. Prompt protest and local actions by women's

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Organizations, NGOs, human rights groups forced local administrators to take legal
measures against the perpetrators.

Since the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), the Government of Bangladesh has also
identified violence against women as a priority issue. Given this recognition, incidences
of violence against women today receive greater attention than they did a decade ago. All
State records show an increased incidence of violence- but this may due to the fact that
special legal provisions ensure that such cases are now recorded more precisely than they
were two decades ago. Some argue that there is a rising trend of all forms of violence but
until more reliable longitudinal data is available, one cannot confidently conclude that in
general violence against women is increasing.

Bangladesh has several laws specifically protecting women's rights to life and safety and
severely punishing offenders. The Penal Code 1860, Criminal Procedure Code, Dowry
Prohibition Act, Repression of Violence Against Women and Children Act 2000, among
others, all contain provisions punishing those who dare commit any sort of crime against
women. There is no separate legislation of domestic violence. The implementation of
these laws is getting weaker in the past few years. No measure has been taken to strictly
implement laws protecting women. As a result, crimes perpetrated against women have

2.3 Position of women as a human being

2.3.1 Women in constitution
Under constitution of Bangladesh the Proclaims equal opportunity to all citizens and it is
a fundamental policy statement to do so. Under the 1972 Constitution of Bangladesh,
women's rights are protected under the broad and universal principles of equality and
participation. These principles are found in the following Articles in the Constitution:
Article 10 of the Constitution provides that step shall be taken to ensure participation
of women in all spheres of national life.6

66. The Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, Article 10

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Article 19(1) provides that the State shall endeavor to ensure equality of opportunity to
all citizens.7 Article 27 specifies that all citizens are equal before the law is
entitled to equal protection of the law.8 Moreover, Article 28(1) provides that the
State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race,
caste, sex, or place of birth.9 Article 28(2) more directly and categorically says
that women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the State and of
public life.10 This latter provision means that all rights mentioned in the
constitution, such as right to life, right to personal liberty, right to property,
freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom to exercise a profession or
occupation are equally applicable to women in Bangladesh.
But in reality basic socio-economic indicators show that women certainly do not enjoy
equal rights, nor do they have equal access to the basic opportunities of life. Indicators
like literacy, health, education, nutrition, employment and other basic amenities show that
women are subject to lower status due to deprivation and discrimination and are excluded
from the development efforts of the country.

2.3.2 Human Rights and Women

Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognition of the inherent dignity and of the
equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of
freedom, justice and peace in the world.11 Under the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and women stats that: "All human being are born free and equal and
dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards
one another in a sprit of brotherhood".

7 Ibid, Article 19(1).

8 Ibid, Article 27.

9 Ibid, Article 28(1).

10 Ibid, Article 28(2).

11 Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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The 1993 UN Vienna Declaration and Program of Action affirms that women's rights are
human rights. Women, there, are entitled to the guarantees and protections provided by
the international legal of human rights.
The human rights of women and of the girl child are an inalienable, integral and
indivisible part of universal human rights. The full and equal participation of women in
political, civil, economic, social and cultural life at the national, regional and international
levels, and the eradication of all forms of discrimination on the grounds of sex are priority
objectives of the international community.
According to a report of the United Nations published in 1980- "Women constitute half of
the world population, perform nearly two-thirds of words hours, receive one tenth of the
world income and own less then one hundred percent of world's property."
In 1995, at the United Nations World conference on women in Beijing, China, 189
Governments pledged to tight violence against women in all its forms, to protect women
at risk of violence; arid to build ways for women to win justice and redress when they are
targeted for violence.

2.4 Existing Reality

In addition to the appeal code, in our country, other special laws have been enacted to
address specific needs of women in the country. But in reality everything is almost
meaningless. The following are the reasons:
The legal procedure in Bangladesh is very lengthy. At first a crime is to be reported to
the local police station. Needless to say that a greater segment of police officers
appears to be negligent in the task of investigation.
Thus the affected women usually fail in getting a well documented charge-sheet.
As a result the offender who usually is more powerful takes its advantage and
they become able to get "Charge-sheet" which is inaccurate, vague and under
rated that it does not stand when put up in the Court.
Next when a sentence is passed in the lower Court it goes to the High Court and
ultimately to appellate division of the Supreme Court. The process takes couple of
years, Consequently the victim women or her family can not bear the cost of such
lengthy legal procedure.
The perpetrators usually remain at large on bail & persecute the victims and their
family to withdraw the case.

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2.5 The status of women under religion
Islam duly recognizes the equality of sex in order to maintain order and prosperity in
human society, Sura 3 verse 195, however, declares Be had male or female: Ye are
members, one of another". We find and understand that in Islam the equal status of sexes
is not only recognized but also insisted on. Though sex distinction, which is a distinction
in nature, is less countable in conceptual or spiritual perspective but the artificial
distinction regarding rank, wealth, position, race, Colour, birth etc. bitterly matters our
life a lot.

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Chapter 3

3.1 Acid throwing

There is little firm evidence on these forms of violence against women. Acid throwing is a
form of violent assault.12 Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid victims (usually at their
faces), burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving
the bones.13 The consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring
of the face and body.14 It inflicts lifelong suffering on them. It has a catastrophic impact
on the lives of the victims psychologically, socially and financially. According to Taru
Bahl and M.H. Syed 80% of victims of these acid attack are female and almost 40% are
under 18 years of age.15

A recent study reveals that land disputes account for 27% of acid attacks, folloed by 80%
for family disputes, 10% for refusal of sex, 8% for refusal romantic relationship, 5% for
dowry conflicts, 4% for marital disputes, 3% for refusal of marriage proposal, 2% for
political enmity, and the remaining 23% for unknown reasons. Despite new harsh laws,
acid violence has been increasing over the last few years.

12 R.N Karmakar, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, 1st ed. (Kolkata: Academic Publishers 2003), p.

13 Jordan Swanson, "Acid attacks: Bangladesh's efforts to stop the violence.", Harvard Health Policy
Review, vol. 3, no.l (Spring 2002), p132.

14 Bandyopadhyay, Mridula and Mahmuda Rahman Khan, 'Loss efface: violence against women in South
Asia' Lenore Manderson, Linda Rae Bennett eds., Violence Against Women in Asian Societies (UK:
Routledge, 2003).

15 Taru Bahl, and M.H. Syed, Encyclopedia of the Muslim World, (New Delhi: Anmol Publications
Private Ltd., 2004), p.36.

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The Jagrata Jubo Sangha (JJS) Vice President Zakia Akhter in a written statement at the
press conference said a total of 1347 women and 653 children became victims of acid
attack across the country from 2000 tO 2008.16
Numbers of Cases of Acid violence Reported......2000-200417

1616 The Daily Star, (8 March 2009), p.3.

17 Resource Center, BNWLA

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Year No. of incidents Female victim Male victim Children less than 18 year
2000 172 114 39 73 226
2001 250 138 94 111 383
2002 366 221 139 124 484
2003 335 204 117 89 410
2004 266 183 63 76 322
As per Odhikar's data, in 2005 total 104 women were the victims of acid attack, in 2006
total 105 women were the victimized of acid. During last year, 2008, at least 133 persons
were the victims of acid attacks. Among them, 73 were women, 26 children and 34 men.
On the other hand, during January and February,2009, at least 11 persons were reported as
victims of acid attack. Among them, 7 were women and 4 men.18

3.2 Dowry
3.2.1 Dowry-related violence
Dowry-related violence is a common feature in Bangladesh, affecting the lives of many
women. Other than specific acts of violence such as killings, torture, the throwing of acid
and the like, dowry demands affect the lives of women socially and culturally in a much
deeper manner. Fundamentally, they undermine the equality of women and create
culturally accepted forms of discrimination against them. They can affect the life of a girl
from the very start. Preference for boys often begins with the parental realization that the
burden of finding dowries falls on them as soon as the child is born. Thus, the devaluation
of a child takes place in culturally subtle forms from the very beginning. This continues
throughout their early years and up to the time of marriage.
Dowry related violence has proved to be a highly complicated violence in Bangladesh.
Due to dowry related violence many women have been killed and the rest victimized by
physical and mental abuses. Sometimes husbands alone or in collaboration with in-laws
or with the help of other family members torture and kill wives for failing to fulfill dowry
demands. Dowry completely demolishes the dignity of women and makes them very
helpless in their so called homes.

18 Odhiker report, published on 8 March, 2009.

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According to Odhikar, in 2008 a total of 269 women were victims of dowry19 violence. In
2002 to 2006 total 1683 women were the victims of dowry related violence and during
this time total 1088 women had been killed and other 440 women had gone through
severe physical torture. In the year of 2006, a total 323 women had been victimized of the
dowry related violence and among them, 243 women had been killed by their husbands or
in laws. In 2005 total dowry related victims were 382 women and among them 227 were
killed due to that violence. In 2004 total 166 women had been killed and total 270 were
the victims of such violence. Besides, in 2003 total 261 women were killed of 384
victims. Whereas in 2002 total 191 had been killed when 324 victimized of dowry related

On 10 January 2004 the Daily Star, The Bangladesh Human Rights Organisation, and
Bangladesh Women Lawyers Association revealed that in 2001, there were 12,500 cases
of women repression, in 2002 the figure rose to 18,455 and in the year in 2003 the figure
climbed to 22,450. So, regularly increase the dowry related violence.

3.3 Sexual Harassment

Another area and trend of crime against is sexual harassment. The women fell in sexual
harassment when they go to the office, school, college, market on the may or in the
vehicles on the other hand a service holder women suspended from her service if she
refused any ill proposal, leaving together or illegal cohabitation. In this cases the women
are really helpless.
Sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviors (whether
directly or by implication) as:
(a) Physical contact and advances;
(b) A demand or request for sexual favours;
(c) Sexually coloured remarks;
(d) Showing pornography;
(e) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
An analysis of the above definition shows that sexual harassment is a form of sex
discrimination projected through unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours
and other and other verbal or physical conduct with sexual overtanes whether directly or

19 Giving and taking dowry are both prohibited under the Dowry Prohibition Act 1980.

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by implication, particularly when submission to or rejection of such a conduct by the
female on going to the office, school, college, market etc. In these cases the women are
really helpless.20

3.4 Rape
Rape, also referred to as sexual assault, is an assault by a person involving sexual
intercourse with or sexual penetration of another person without that person's consent.
Rape is generally considered a serious sex crime, as well as a civil assault.
Rape is one of the most brutal forms of violence against women in Bangladesh. In a
culture that holds a woman's chastity sacred, rape crimes are particularly injurious to a
woman's self-identity and social future as well as her physical and psychological well-
being. The ever-increasing rate of rape crime is an alarming phenomenon and depicts the
diminishing value of women in society.
According to Section 375 of the Bangladesh Penal Code 1860, rape occurs when a man
has intercourse with a woman of any age without her consent. Rape, in this Section, is
narrowly defined to mean forced penetration of the male sexual organ in the female
vagina. In this study rape was selected as a form of violence to be investigated because it
is a prevalent crime more commonly targeted against women, and moreover, in recent
times, reports of rape has been on the rise, especially among children and infants. Many
instances of gang rape are also reported as well as rape followed by murder. However it is
commonly assumed that a very low percentage of the rape cases are reported to the

20 Odhiker report, published on 8 March, 2009.

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Reported Cases of Rape in 9 Daily Newspapers 2000-200421
Year of Reporting 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Number of Cases of Rape Reported 564 605 1434 1550 1043

As per Odhikar's data, During 2008, a total of 454 women and girl children were raped of
which 202 were women and 252 were girls (under 17 years of age). During 1 January
2001 to 28 February 2007 a total of 5816 women and children were reportedly raped
across the country. Among these numbers, 636 women were killed after being raped and
69 committed suicide after the incident. Odhikar reports that a total of 639 women and
children were raped in 2006 , in 2005 total 907 women and children were raped.22
Rape incidents are a continuous form of violence but the number of incidents in January
and February 2009 is less than the number covering the same period in 2008. During
January and February in 2009, a total of 42 women and girl children were raped of which
20 were women and 22 were girls (under 17 years of age).23

3.5 Prostitution and Trafficking

One study on prostituting in Bangladesh is available. This focuses on prostitution in
Natinagar, one of the four red light districts of Dhaka, Anandabazar, one of the three such
districts in Narayanganj. It is estimated that there are approximately 2000 prostitutes in
each of these two areas. The main types of prostitution are: in brothels, where women are
organized under sardanis (madams); street-walking; in hotels, especially in Dhaka; and in
rented houses. In addition, baijis (dancing girls), and escorts, who may or may not engage
in sexual intercourse, are active in these districts. Khan and Arefeen (1989) found that,
contrary to popular opinion, the majority of prostitutes were not abducted and had chosen
the profession, perceiving it to have major economic advantages and also feeling that they
had no alternative skills with which to secure a livelihood. Generally, the prostitutes in the
study were well nourished but many suffered from untreated sexually transmitted disease.
Rates of contraceptive usage were relatively high, but only s small percentage of women

21 Resource Center, BNWLA.

22 Odhikar report, published on 8 March, 2009.

23 Ibid.

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used condoms, thus increasing their exposure to HIV infection. Prostitution without a
license is illegal and carries a sentence of two years imprisonment or a fine, although in
practice seven days is the normal sentence. Prostitutes are vulnerable to exploitation by
pimps or sardanis and by muscle-men (mastans) who organise protection. The general
state and societal perception of prostitutes is of socially deviant women, who need to be
rehabilitated into society (Guhathakurta, 1985). The rehabilitation of prostitutes through
corrective institutions seen as necessary. Such institutions place such women in the
protective custody of the state until they have been taught how to conform more closely
to the social norms of poor but virous womanhood. IWRAW (1993) and Kabeer (1991)
report that such institutions are much disliked by prostitutions because of the
infringement of their rights to go out or see relatives and friends. Shamin (1988) notes
that prostitution is not confined to urban areas, but forms one of a range of survival
strategies of some poor rural women. For urban prostitutes, by contrast, prostitution tends
to constitute their sole means of Livelihood.
According to an Indian Researcher Dr. K.K Mukherjee, 20 percent of sex slaves in Indian
brothels were trafficked from Bangladesh and Nepal. A review of UNICEF indicated that
2,00,000 women and children were trafficked to Pakistan from Bangladesh. The repot
further said that the figure might be below the real number, as all trafficking cases were
not duly reported. According to Center for Women and Children Studies (CWCS) about
100 children and 50 women are being trafficked to foreign countries every month from
Bangladesh. Since independence at least 10,00,000 women and children have been
trafficked from Bangladesh and of them about 4,00,000 were young women forced into
the sex business in India.

3.6 Other Crimes

3.6.1 Murder and Trafficking
The murder of women by their husbands and in-laws is associated with both the
escalation of dowry demands, and with the more general harassment and severe beating
of women. It is possible that, as in India, women are murdered if their dowries are too
small; if the women are disliked by her husband or his kin; if her household skills are
perceived to be lacking; or even if her skin is too dark. Often such murders are arranged
to look like accidents, or suicides, with bodies being suspended to resemble a hanging,
insecticides being poured down the dead women's throat or burning being passed off as a

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cooking accident. Like beating, the murder of women appears to be carried out by
husbands and in-laws, in distinction to sexual violence, which is more often carried out,
or at least reported to have been carried out, by unknown men. However, various reports
suggest an increase in fatal mugging, acid throwing and other attacks by outsiders. Jahan
(1988) and Hartmann and Boyce (1983) suggest that many women are in fact driven to
suicide by constant beating, harassment and the feeling that there is no escape.

During January and February in 2009, total of 5 women and 3 girls were killed after being
raped.24 In 2008, 172 women were killed over dowry disputes and 246 through domestic
violence, while 83 were killed after being raped.25

3.6.2 Eve Teasing

Eve teasing is an act of terror that violates a woman's body, space and self-respect. It is
one of the many ways through which a woman is systematically made to feel inferior,
weak and afraid. Whether it is an obscene word whispered into a woman's ear; offensive
remarks on her appearance; an intrusive way of touching any part of a woman's body; a
gesture which is perceived and intended to be vulgar: all these acts represent a violation
of woman's person, her bodily integrity. Eve teasing denies a woman's fundamental right
to move freely and carry herself with dignity, solely on the basis of her sex. Some acts of
eve-teasing mentioned by girl students interviewed are; indecent remarks, singing
obscene songs, hitting, touching or pinching in crowded places.

3.6.3 Victimization by Fatwa

According to Islamic teaching, fatwa is a religious edict based on Islamic principles
pronounced by a religious scholar. In Bangladesh, however, this notion has been totally
misconceived and is used by half educated village Mullahs (clerics) who actually are not
scholars in Islam. These Mullahs through the informal village justice system (shalish)
punish women for so-called anti-social or immoral activities. In almost all the cases
women are brought before the shalish simply for their involvement in extra marital

24 Odhikar report, published in 8 March 2009.

25 Human Rights in Bangladesh 2008, Sara Hossain ed., (Dhaka: Ain O Salish Kendra 2008),

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affairs, marrying a man from different religion, giving birth to a child before marriage,
complications due to oral divorce pronounced to a woman by her husband and so on.
Although these punishments are not legal per se, because the Mullah's exert considerable
autonomy and power in the rural areas, the punishments are generally carried out
against the helpless women. People's lack of knowledge about the law and religion, poor
education and absence of social awareness are the key factors, which allow fatwa to be
issues. Punishment awarded by afatwa is variable but include awarding hilla (intervening
marriage) to another man punishing with lashes, social boycott, stoning and physical

3.6.4 Domestic violence

Domestic violence is one of the trends of crimes against women. Now a day a husband
tortures his wife for dower or any unreasonable cause. Sometimes the maid servants are
raped and harasses by the house master or his son. In many cases it is seen that female
children are tortured by their parents. But in the more of the cases the people do not know
anything about the domestic violence.

Domestic violence, or violence perpetuated in the home or family environment, is a major

social problem in Bangladesh. Domestic violence incidences are fairly common and
widespread across the country. Women of all economic strata are vulnerable to
maltreatment and abuse by husbands, in-laws, and other family members. Available data
suggests that the number of cases of domestic violence is increasingly being reported in
the newspaper. In 2008 a total of 246 women were victims in domestic violence.26

26 Ibid

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Chapter 4

4.1 The global scenario: A Comparative study about violence against Women
General statistics around the world reveals some horrific picture. Everyday, 6000 girls are
genitally mutilated all over the globe, while every year in India alone, 5000 brides are
murdered or commit suicide because their marriage dowries are considered inadequate. In
the United States, one in every five women will be a victim of rape in their lifetime and
one woman is raped every 3 minutes. 55 percent of American women report having
experienced rape and/or physical assault in their lifetime. 10 women are killed by their
batteries every day.
In Russia, half of all murder victims are women killed by their male partners. This
information was furnished in 1995, which, at present, must be higher in its intensity.
Isreal, Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Pakistan, Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica,
Malaysia, Bangladesh, Ecuador and Tunisia each have less than 10 shelters for battered
In times of conflict, women and children are sold into forced servitude and slavery.
Massive rape of women during wartime is considered as a general but effective means of
undermining the enemy state or its army. This is also used as weapon of ethnic cleansing.
The 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, 1995 Bosnia Civil War and the 1999 war of
Kosovo bears testimony to this truth. It is and historically established fact that as many as
2000,000 Bangladeshi women were raped by Pakistani occupation forces in 1971. In the
other hand, in the land of modern civilized Europe, the former Yugoslav Army raped over
120,000 women of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a pre-planned way followed by killing of
tens of thousands of Bosnia Muslim population to root out Muslim from the country. The
leaders of the West gave them passive support. What the United States, Great Britain and
the United Nations did in the name of peace negotiation and imposing arms embargo to
Bosnia liberation force was just collaborating the Serb-Yugoslav butcher Armey
ethnically cleanse up Muslim population from Bosnia, rape their women en mass and let
them alive to give birth to millions of illegitimate children of Serb race.

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Apart from the conflict situation in regions, the low status of women in the society and
the unequal power relations between men and women in the patriarchal social structure,
constructed and designed by men, pave the way for men's power and control over women.
At least in poor countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America this social phenomenon
determines the social and state attitude towards women, which in most cases appear as
oppressive rather than cooperative for woman in the countries concerned.

In India almost every six hours somewhere at some place, a young girl married Indian
women experience domestic violence before they cross the age of 15. Discriminatory
provisions in personal Lows lead to institutional deprivation of rights of Indian women.
Many researches blame this situation for women's lower status and insubordination and
trace it as the most pertinent barrier to women's empowerment in India. For example, the
Hindu Law, governing legislation of personal affairs of the majority women in India,
keeps no provision for allocation or matrimonial property to a Hindu woman. While,
Muslim women in India still have to fight against polygamy practiced by their husbands,
which has yet to be prohibited by the law. Muslim husbands in India have been given
unilateral authority to pronounce extra judicial divorce to their wives. On the other hand,
the Christian personal low of marriage and divorce requires a woman to prove that her
husband is living in adultery and is treating her which cruelty, if she wishes to obtain a
decree of divorce from the Court. These provisions have simply curtailed the rights of
women in India and subverted the constitutional guarantee of equality and non-
discrimination. In another South Asia country. Nepal, the law has not recognized women
as legal guardian of their children. A Nepalese woman can't transfer her citizenship to her
husband in case she marries a foreigner. Inheritance law in Nepal is starkly
discriminatory for woman. According to this law, a daughter is only entitled to
ancestral to ancestral property only if she remains unmarried and is over 35 years of
age, whereas her brother is entitled to a birthright to the ancestral property. Again, a
married woman must complete 15 years of married life if she wishes to obtain her
partition share and live separately from her husband. The passage of age above 35 is
also mandatory in this case. A Nepalese husband can takes a second wife without
divorcing the first wife if the latter takes a share of the husband's property.

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Trafficking in women and children is a deep-rooted social as well legal problem for
Nepal, Due to object poverty, women and children from Nepal migrate to different
states of India for search of bread and butter. But what awaits most migrant women is
being trafficked in the red light zones of big cities like Calcutta, Mumbai, Madras,
Delhi and other places. Numerous gangs of traffickers are actively and institutionally
operating in Nepal to allure and/or force women and children into prostitution.
Although there are no exact figures, it is learnt that the number of child commercial
sex workers is very in India, most of whom are trafficked from Nepal. Very few
women and children can take legal recourse if they survive. It so happens due to social
stigma. HIV/AIDS has already turned out to be a serious problem for Nepal due to
this practice.

In countries like Thailand and the Philippines, women's agonies know no bound as
commercial sexual exploitation of women and children are most rampant in these two
countries. Thailand has reached to an intolerable height of sexual exploitation and
violence against women. It is estimated that half a million women and children are
engaged in commercial prostitution in the Philippines. The laws of the country do not
define 'prostitution' but are explicit in defining 'prostitution'. There is a provision in
the laws of the Philippines to try pimps. But their trials of convictions hardly take
place. What the Filipino Police do is just rounding up and imprisoning female sex
workers and deny many of their fundamental rights.

In Pakistan a barbaric law exists which requires a woman to produce oral evidence by
four male witnesses to prove her accusation if she is raped. The rapist enjoys the
greatest procedural immunity and impunity in Pakistani Laws. What happened in
2001 was that a women being awarded with death penalty for adultery since she did
not succeed to prove accusation of her rape by a man as she could not support her case
with evidence from four male witnesses. The lower Court judgment was pending with
the Pakistan Supreme Court during the year-end.

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In any Muslim countries including Tunisia, Sudan and Yemen there are provisions for
honour killing of woman who goes in sexual relationship with a man before marriage
or marries a man chosen by her own (in defiance of the choice of the family elders).
Even women, who have been victim to rape, do also face the 'honour killing'.
According to the social norms of those countries, it is a sheer dishonour for a family
whose daughter has married in such a manner or has been raped. Shooting of the
woman in public follows such incidents by none else than her father or brother who
take a pride in killing the 'delinquent' daughter or sister and revives the lost prestige of
the family.
In China, Women face discrimination at workplaces. The huge multitudes of Chinese
woman about force are paid fewer wages that their counterparts. The laws in force in
China guarantee women's right to equal working and wages opportunity. However, the
employers do not comply with this law. Abduction of women is a serious problem in
rural China. Since it is a big country may women from the rural areas are forcefully
taken into the brothels in the cities and towns like Shanghai, Hong Kong etc. These
women have to accept the fate of being branded as sex service provisions in brothels
or second wives of the clients.
In Japan, women are facing increasing violence day by day. Rape incidents are on the
rise. A survey conducted in late 2000 revealed that only less that 10 percent of rape
victims reported their cases to the police. The number of victims reported their cases
to the police. The number of victims of rape has been about 1500 to 1600 per year
throughout the major islands of Japan. Most worriedly, the recent rape incidents of
Japanese women by US marine forces deployed in the Okinawa Bay has raised
serious concerns among the citizens. But the United States has always declined to
accept Japanese Courts to try American citizens.

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Chapter 5

5.1 Specific laws of our country relating to crimes against women

5.7.7 Dowry Prohibition Act, 1980
The Dowry Prohibition Act was enacted and passed in 1980.27 The provisions of the
Act is very concise in form having only 9 sections. Section 1 of the Act describes the
commencement and application of the Act. The Act prohibits giving or taking dowry 28
(section 2), the offence being punishable 29under section 3 and 4 of the Act. It deals
with the offence of giving, taking or abatement thereof or demanding of dowry in
marriage by either party at or before or after the marriage as consideration for such

The judges in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court have no ensured in the
case of Abdul Basher Howlader v. State and another.30 That, not only the taking or
giving of dowry or abatement thereof before or at the time of marriage is made an
offence but also the demand thereof after the marriage. Thereafter, in a recent case of
Salma Mollick Md. v. State?31 it was "settled that if dowry is demanded after the
marriage then also the offence under section 4 will be committed...." despite the fact
that plea was taken that no offence was committed in the light of the said section. In
this case the couple was married on 24.10.87 and dowry of 50,000 was demanded on
25.1.91. The wife was abused and was sent to her parents along with her minor daughter
and was refused to be taken back unless the demand was met. It was held that the demand
amounted to dowry demand and thereafter the accused were found guilty accordingly.

27 Published in Bangladesh Gazette, 26 December 1980.

28 The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1980, Section 2.

2929 Maximum five years and minimum one year.

30 46 1994) DLR AD 169. 3148(1996)DLR329.

31 48 (1996) DLR 329

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5.1.2 Repression against Women and Children (Special Provision) Act, 1995
The increasing crime rate against women in the country gave rise to grave concern
in the government. Despite enacting several laws to safeguard women's rights,
which failed to curtail the rate of cruelty the government felt that a new law
should be framed. This Act mainly lays down more server punishment for the
perpetrators of the following offences, namely:

i) Causing death or grievous hurt to any child or woman by means of poisonous

of corrosive substance (sections 8 & 12).
ii) Rape (sections 6 & 7).
iii) Trafficking in women and children (sections 8 & 12).
iv) Kidnapping or abduction of women (sections 9).
v) Causing death or abduction of women (sections 9).

This Act overrides all other existing laws in this area. The Cruelty to Women (Deterrent
Punishment) Ordinance, 1983 was repealed after this Act came into operation. Section 4
of the present Act is almost a replica of section 326A of the Penal Code (acid throwing),
which was a new insertion into the Code by Ordinance no. LXIX of 1984. This insertion
may be a positive approach towards the solution of the rapidly growing offence of acid-
throwing. Section 4 of the Repression against Women and Children (Special Provision)
Act, 1995 lays down that, whoever uses a poisonous or corrosive substance to cause death
to a woman or child shall be punished with death. Section 5 of the same Act prescribes
the penalty for causing grievous hurt by means of poisonous or corrosive substances. For
causing grievous a) damages to eye-sight, b) disfiguration of the head or face, c) damage
to hearing, d) damage to any part of the body, e) disfiguration of any part of the body,
different types of penalties have been provided. The penalties may include: rigorious
imprisonment for a maximum 14 years (which cannot be less than 7 years) and a fine
or imprisonment for life and fine according to the nature of the offence. In case of
permanent disfiguration of the head or face or total permanent damage of eye-sight,
the person may be punished with death penalty.

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Section 6 of the Act corresponds with section 376 of the Penal Code and also section
8 of the Cruelty to Women (Deterrent Punishment) Ordinance of 1983. The Penal
Code provided imprisonment for life or with imprisonment either description for a
term, which may extend to 10 years and also fine. The Cruelty to Women (Deterrent
Punishment) Ordinance, 1983 also lays down severe punishment and section 8 of the
Ordinance increased the punishment to the death penalty for committing murder or
causing death after committing of attempting rape. The Repression Against Women
and Children (Special Provision) Act, 1995, provides for the death penalty in case of
causing death to any child or woman while committing the offence, whether by a
single person or through gang rape.

Section 2(f) of the Repression Against Women and Children (Special Provision) Act,
1995 and section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1980 are similar regarding the
definition of dowry. However, the difference lies in the penalty provided in them.
Both Acts penalize the offence of giving, taking and demanding dowry. The Dowry
Prohibition Act, 1980 provides imprisonment of one year of fine, which may extend
up to 5000 taka or both (section 2 of Ordinance No. 26 of 1986 enhanced the
punishment). The 1995 Act lays down that,

a) for causing death for dowry the offender shall be punished with death penalty,
b) for attempting to cause death for dowry, the offender shall be punished with
imprisonment for life and
c) for causing grievous hurt for dowry the offender shall be punished with
imprisonment for 14 years which cannot be less than 5 years and also liable to fine.
Nevertheless, preciously the Cruelty to Women (Deterrent Punishment) Ordinance,
1983 also provided that death penalty, transportation for life or rigorous imprisonment
for a term, which extend to 14 years and also dine for such offences.

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It may be appreciated that the new legislation lays down heavy penalties for
attempting to cause death or grievous hurt for dowry. But it may noted also that the
cruelty to women (Deterrent Punishment) Ordinance, 1983 did not make the offence
punishable if there was no allegation of attempt to cause death or grievous hurt while
demanding dowry.32 So, causing simple hurt or psychological harm did not attract the
provision of the Ordinance of 1983.33 The above observation also applies in the new
legislation of 1995, which dose not punishes the offence of causing simple hurt or
psychological harm in demanding dowry.

One pertinent point to note is that, out of 511 sections in the Penal Code, 9 sections
provide the death penalty, namely, section 121, 132, 194, 302, 305, 307, 326A and 396
whereas, 10 death penalties are prescribed by the 12 sections of the Repression
Against women and Children (special provision) Act of 1995. Considering the
increase of violence against women it is doubtful whether capital punishment is
worthy in curbing this evil.

5.1.3 Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Demon Ain, 2000 (as amended in2003)
Very recently a new law namely, Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Domon Bishesh Bidan Ain,
2000 has been passed which replaced. The Repression against Women and children
(Special Provision) Act of 1995. On the face of increasing violence this new Act has
been formulated to prevent such violence with stem punitive measures. This Act was
also enacted to provide for necessary provision against women and children. 34 This
Act is applicable in respect of all women and children. 35 Here also I have divided the
offences under two heads: crimes and attempt to commit crimes.

32 Firoza Begum v. HarmuzAli and another, 8(1988) BLD 122.

33 Dr. Atikur Rahman v. The State, 14 (1994) BLD 303.

34 Preamble of the Nari O Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain, 2000 or which is known in English as
The Law Relating to Suppression of Oppression against Women and Children, 2000.

35 Child has been defined in Section 2(ta) as 'a person who is below 16 years of age'

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Crimes punishable under the Act with mandatory death sentence and fine: Causing
death for dowry [section 11 (ka)].
Crimes punishable under the Act with death sentence or life imprisonment and
(a) Causing death by burning, corrosive and poisonous substances [section 4(1)].
(b) Causing grievous hurt by the above substances if eye-sight or hearing capacity
or face or breast or reproductive organs are damaged thereby [section 4(2ka)].
(c) Trafficking of women for prostitution or illegal or immoral acts [sections].
(d) Trafficking of children for illegal or immoral acts [section
(e) Stealing of newborn baby from hospital, nursing home etc.36
[section 6 (2)].
(f) Confinement of any woman or child for taking ransom [section 8].
(g) Causing death of any woman or child due to rape or any activities of the
offender after rape [section 9(2)].
(h) Causing death or hurt by gang rape [section 9(3)].
(i) Mutilation of any Limbs of child for the purpose of begging or
selling limbs [section 12].
Crimes punishable under the Act with life imprisonment or lesser terms of rigorous
imprisonment and fine:
(a) Causing grievous hurt by burning, corrosive and poisonous substances in case
of any damage to any part of the body other than those mentioned in section 4(2)
(ka) [section 4(2)(kha)]

36 Newborn baby has been defined in section 2 (cha) as a baby of not more than 40 days.

37 | P a g e
(b) Throwing any burning, corrosive and poisonous substance even though the
concern woman and child does not suffer from any physical, mental or other harm
[section 4(3)]
(c) Kidnapping or abduction of any woman or child for any purpose other than
those mentioned in section 5 [section 7]
(d) Rape [section 9(1)]
(e) Failing to provide safety to any woman who has been raped in police custody
[section 9(5)]
(f) Abetting any woman to commit suicide38 [section 9 (ka)]
(g) Sexual harassment39 [section 10]40
(h) Causing grievous hurt for dowry [section 11 (kha)] (i) Causing simple hurt for
dowry [section 11 (ga)] (j) Publicity of the identity of any woman or child victim
in newspapers [section 14] Attempt to commit crimes punishable under the Act:
(a) Attempt to cause death by burning, corrosive and poisonous substances for
which punishment is death sentence or life imprisonment and fine [section 4(1)]
(b) Attempt to throw burning, corrosive and poisonous substance even though the
concerned woman or child does not suffer from any physical or mental harm for
which maximum 7 years of imprisonment and fine have been imposed [4(3)]

37 Child' is not included here.

38 Again the term 'child' is omitted here. This provision was included by the Amendment Act of

39 Second part of the section omits the word 'child' The Law Commission 2007 report recommended
including the word 'child' after 'woman'. In fact this is not the only provision where his omission
occurred. Hence, a careful scrutiny of the Act is needed to prevent amendment again and again.

40 Section 10 was amended by the Amendment Act of 2003 which omitted the second part of section 10
providing for maximum 2 years of imprisonment for making incident gesture towards any woman for
satisfying sexual desire.

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(c) Attempt to cause death for down [section 1 l(ka)]
(d) Attempt to cause death or hurt by rape [section 9(4)9ka)]
(e) Attempt to rape for which punishment is maximum 10 years Imprisonment
[section 9(4)(kha)]
(f) Attempt to cause simple hurt for dowry [section 1 l(kha)]
(g) Attempt to cause grievous hurt for dowry [section 1 l(ga)]

It is very interesting to note that in die chapeau of section 11 'attempt to cause hurt for
dowry' has been declared as an offence and, accordingly, the section is divided into three
parts: (ka) causing death or attempt to cause death, (kha) to cause grievous hurt, and (ga)
to cause simple hurt. But, the words 'attempt to cause grievous hurt' and 'attempt to cause
simple hurt' are totally missing from clause (kha) and (ga).
Abetment to commit any offence is punishable under the Act. It provides for the
punishments of offence, if offence is committed and the punishment of attempt, if attempt
is made due to abetment [section 30].
The act is almost similar with the 1995 Act with few amendments regarding penalties.
The position aspects of the new law are, for example, is that the Act provides pecuniary
compensation to the victims from the proceeds of the fines awarded or if necessary, by
confiscating movable property of the convict (section 15). The child born following a rap
will be the responsibility of the offender (section 13). The provision for camera trial and
non-publication of the victim's identify (section 14) are goods steps taken by the
Government. Moreover, relaxation of bail provision, removals of mandatory death
penalty are positive approaches taken and considered.

However, the provision of child maintenance as a result of rape is a mere force because it
is doubtful whether the offender will bear the responsibility of the child until he becomes
an adult or until the girls is married, can a country where post divorce maintenance is not
legal and even maintenance by husband itself is questionable, ensure the responsibility of
an offender to maintain a child following a rape? Therefore, it s argued that if the state is
made responsible for the child born out of rap then it may ensure the maintenance.
Furthermore, where state

39 | P a g e
becomes liable, it will ensure that law and order is maintained better. The provision of
safe custody in the present Act should also be scrutinized in the light of human rights. As
the constitution guarantees personal liberty, there should not be any provision in any law
infringing such rights. The present Act, in section 31, makes it mandatory for the tribunals
to direct the women should be given liberty to choose whether to go for safe custody or
not. However, the Act provides that, where a women is raped in custody, the custodian
will be subject to imprisonment of not more than 10 years or not less than 5 years and fine
up to 10,000 taka if he is found guilty (section 9 sub-section 5).

5.1.4 The Suppression of Immoral Traffic, 1933

The Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act, 1933 has often been criticized on account of its
effort to prevent the traffic in women rather than curb prostitution but in reality
prostitution and illegal trafficking are two sides of the same coin. The Act provides
penalties for the detention of any female under the age of 18 years for the prostitution in
brothers. The Act also provides punishment for causing or encouraging or abetting the
seduction or prostitution of any girl (section 8-12).

5.1.5 The Children Act, 1974

This Act provides for protection of children. Section 41 of the Act states that whoever
allows a child to reside in a frequently to go to a brothel, that be punished with
imprisonment and/or fine. The Act also penalizes any person other than her husband to
have sexual intercourse with a girl who is under sixteen years of age. The Act further
impose penalties for employment of a child in a factory, other employment or exploits the
child or expose the child to the risk of seduction, prostitution or other immoral conditions.

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5.1.6 The Acid Control Act, 2002
The Act which was enacted to strongly suppress the offences committed by acid 41has
made certain acts and attempts punishable offences.

Crimes punishable under the Act with death sentence or life imprisonment arid fine:
(a) Causing death by acid [section 4].
(b) Causing hurt by acid in such a way which totally or partially destroys eye-sight,
bearing capacity or defacing or destroying face, breasts or reproductive organ [section

Crimes punishable under the Act with rigorous imprisonment and fine:
(a) Causing hurt by acid in any part of body other than those mentioned in section 5(ka) [
section 5(kha)].
(b) Throwing acid on anybody although no physical, mental or any other harm has been
caused [section 6].
Attempts to commit crimes:
Attempt to throw acid on anybody although no physical, mental or any other harm has
been caused for which punishment is maximum 7 years and minimum 3 years of rigorous
imprisonment and fine [section 7].
Tills Act also provides for punishment for abetment and the law relating to abetment is
similar to that ofNari O Shishu Ain of 2000 [section 7].

5.2 Criminal Law

Criminal law which can be seen to specifically provide safeguard against crime on
women are in the Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860) are: kidnapping/abduction (u/s 359-
369), wrongful restrain/confinement (u/s 339-344), slavery/forced labour (u/s 370-374),
causing miscarriage etc (u/s 312-318), hurt (u/s 319, 326, 328), criminal force/assault (u/s
349-352, 354-358) etc.

41 Preamble of the Acid Crime Control Act, 2002.

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5.2.7 Criminal Law Relating To Physical Harm
Criminal law regarding physical harm is quite specific in the Penal Code of Bangladesh,
for example, the remedies against assaults and murders are clearly expresses in the law.
The interpretation of the judiciary is relevant to understand the impact of any legislation.
One of the most important factors to be considered by anyone wishing to examine the
effectiveness of any piece of legislation is the criteria which judges bring to bear on the
decision-making process.

As regards murder of wives or assault the criteria is influenced by patriarchy which

subordinates women to an inferior position and thereby condones wife abuse and also
emphasizes the privacy and autonomy of the family. Therefore, as far as wife abuse is
concerned, it appears that believes surrounding the family, property, the material status of
wife abuse and existing structural inequality between sexes play a central role in
determining the redress available to abused wives. The relevance of these considerations
becomes apparent from the examination of the interpretation and implementation of cases
on wife abuse and also from the assessment of police response to such offences.

However, the more severe offences like the murder are specified in Penal Code, under
section 302 and 304. However, in murder cases, which result from beating by husbands,
they often seem to escape punishment. Judges' willingness to treat wife killing as less
serious than other killing is often reflected in judgments. As will be seen, judge's opinions
often are shaped by the patriarchal value of family relations, which sanctions wife
beating. The case of Abdul Khaleque v. The State, is a common picture of wife beating
resulting in death.

Prosecution case, in short, is that the accused appellant married victim Rahima Khatoon
about one and a half years before the occurrence without the consent of her parents. Since
then she was residing in her husband's house with his first wife. On 12.8.1986, victim
Rahima was assaulted in her husband. On the next day the victim's maternal uncle heard
that the victim had died, taking poison. An unnatural

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death case was registered. Several wounds were found on medical examination. A case
was filed under the Penal Code.42
In the meantime, the accused absconded. He surrendered on 12.11.1986. The learned
judge held:
In our country special in the villages beating the wife by the husband on flimsy pretext is
a common day affair. Normally such beating is to chastise the wife for unbecoming
behaviour. Such beating becomes excessive when the wife provokes the husband. We do
not know what was the reason for beating victim Rahima, as there is nothing on record
about the same. But from the facts provided it is clear that victim Rahima did not die
immediately after the assault by her husband and died more than 12 hours after such
assault. But facts remain that victim Rahima died following the assault on her. In the
circumstances, accused appellant is not guilty of murder under section 302 of the Penal
Code but of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under section 304 Part I of the
Code. It was further argued that abscission of the accused appellant was with his guilty
mind and is sufficient to hold him guilty beyond reasonable doubt along with other
circumstances proved against him in this case. 43 Even though wife abuse was proved
beyond doubt in this case, the explicit narration by the learned judge-making wife beating
a normal habit of the husbands made it less likely to be treated as murder deserving the
highest punishment. Generally, assaults on wives by husbands do not attract criminal
liability. However, only when assault leads to murder, it is then viewed as an offence,
which is punishable.
However, in the following two cases the accused were actually convicted of murder
which resulted from beating of wives by their husbands: Kh. Ehteshamuddin Ahmed Iqbal
v. Bangladesh and others and State v. Munir Hussain Suruj and others,44 the Court found
that the accused husbands guilty of

42 45(1993)DLR75.

43 Ibid, 85

44 Title Suit no. 121, 1986.

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murdering their wife and sentenced to death which were confirmed the High Court
Reported cases are only the tip of the iceberg". All these cases give a general picture of
how the criminal law deals with offences relating to women especially those, which are
committed by husband against the wife. They show that some husbands are finally
punished after the most extreme abuse. However, the general picture remain one in which
penalties under the criminal law are imposed only relatively rarely.

5.2.2 Violence against Women Relating To Marriage

In my fieldwork on wife abuse 45 I found women being deceived by their husbands in
many different ways. There were women being deceived falsely representing to be
married to them and by abandoning them later. There were several cases where the
husbands committed adultery.
i) Cohabitation caused by a man deceitfully making the woman to believe that she was
lawfully married, is an offence under section 493 of the Penal Code. I have found in my
fieldwork women being deceived by men by a wrongful belief that found in my fieldwork
women being deceived by men by a wrongful belief that they are married to them when
actually they are not, for example, by holding a Quran and taking an oath to pretend a
lawful marriage. The women on their part believe them out of sheer respect for the Quran.
Ignorance and illiteracy are also reasons for such belief. For example, in the case of
Lukus Miah v. The State46where such facts arose, the court, however, held that the victim
did not have any reason to believe that she was not lawfully married to the accused
appellant. It was stated that the victim of the alleged cohabitation knew that there was no
marriage between her and the accused and that the latter had only promised to marry her
on some future date. Such conduct did not come within the mischief of section 493 of

45 43 (1991) DLR 230.

46 43(1991) DLR 230.

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the Penal Code. The courts are more concerned with the technicality of law than the
harmful impact on the victim.
ii) Adultery is also common in a marriage. However, the law on adultery in the Penal
Code (section 497) is peculiar. According to section 497, adultery is an offense committed
by a man against a husband in respect of his wife. A woman cannot be accused under this
Code nor is it an offence committed by a married man who has sexual intercourse with an
unmarried woman, or with a widow, or even with a married woman whose husband
consents to it.
Moreover, to prove adultery, the prosecution must not only prove that the accused had
sexual intercourse with someone else's wife but also that the act was done without the
husband's consent or connivance.

5.2.3 Rape with Wife and Sexual Harassment

In spire of penal sanctions against rape it remains a common form of violence against
women. Rape cases are often mediated by community elders by either making the
accused marry the victim and/or pay compensation irrespective of the consequences.
Investigation and filing of charges remains problematic because of the inefficient
procedures used by police for investigation and for medical tests.
Under our laws, a man can not legally 'rape' his unless she is below 13 years of age. Even
when the husband and wife are separated, a sexual assault by the husband may qualify as
a sexual offence, but not rape. As section 376 of the Penal Code 1860 states:
Whoever commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with
imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall
also be liable to fine, unless the woman raped is his own wife and is not under twelve
years of age [now sixteen years by Repression to Women and Children (Special
Provision) Act of 1995], in which case he shall be punished with imprisonment of either
description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
There is no specific law dealing with sexual harassment although sexual harassment is
increasingly becoming common in the wake of women's joining the

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formal sector as workers, particularly in the garment sector. The Penal Code however,
touches somewhat slightly on this issue. Section 354 states that a person will face penalty
if he assaults or uses criminal force intending to or knowing it to be likely to outrage the
modesty of a woman. Section 509 states that whoever intending to insult the modesty of
any woman, by uttering any word, making any gesture, or exhibiting any objects shall be
punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine or both.
Nevertheless, to control and reduce sexual harassment any company or establishment may
have its own code of conduct to publish the offender, for example, by suspension,
discharge, or dismissal according to the gravity of the offence.

5.3 Civil Law

5.3.1 Divorce
There are not specific civil law provisions to which victims of violence or wife abuse can
resort to. The only remedy open to them in case of abuse is to seek a divorce under the
Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Law of 1939, whereby a Muslim woman can seek
divorce of several grounds including physical or mental cruelty by the husband (Section 2
viii). However, this rights can be exercised only where the wife has been given the power
of divorce (Talaq-e-Toufiz). The wives abused by their husbands, finding no alternative,
are forced to seek divorce. Case studies of the City Corporation in Dhaka show that most
of divorces occur in this way [under the Muslim Family Law Ordinance of 1961, section
7(1)] and by invoking the Kabin nama whereby the wives are entitled to divorce by the
delegated power given by the husband.
Similarly, a Christian woman has the right to dissolve her marriage and judicial separation
on the ground of cruelty by the husband. Unfortunately, a Hindu woman does not possess
the right of divorce on the ground of cruelty; she can only claim the right of separate
residence from the husband temporarily.

5.3.2 Polygamy
The verse of Quran dealing with polygamy reads:

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If you fear that you will not act justly towards the orphans, marry such woman who seem
good in your eyes, one, two, three, or four, but if ye fear that ye shall not act enquitably,
then only one; this will make justice on your part. In the same context the Quran adds:
And ye will not have it all in your power to treat your wives alike, even though you would
fain do so.47
In this regard Muslim Family Law Ordinance of 1961 (MFLO) plays vital role by
imposing limitations on polygamy. Section 6(1) of the MFLO, 1961 states that, No man
during the subsistence of an existing marriage shall except with the previous permission
in writing of the Arbitration Council, contract marriage, nor shall any such marriage
contracted without such permission be registered under this Act.
If he fails to comply, he is liable to a fine or imprisonment, and to the repayment of dower
to his previous wife (MFLO, section 6(5)]. In addition, any of his wives may claim
maintenance or demand a divorce on grounds of inequitable treatment (MFLO, sections 9,
13 respectively). However, a polygamous marriage contracted without the necessary
permission remains valid; this, coupled with the man's right to unilateral divorce and the
fact that maintenance is not available to divorced women to silently suffer the humiliation
and indignity of such a relationship, given that the only alternative is destitution.
The law regarding polygamy should be scrutinized. The husbands contracting second
marriage do not feel the necessity of seeking permission from the Arbitration Council and
Council in most cases also ignores the issue. In many cases identities are forged and so
wives cannot seek redress. It is also difficult to get the copy of the nikah nama of the
second marriage for proceeding against the Marriage. To solve such problems, the
Chairman of the Council or the Union Parishad should be made accountable for
registration of marriage. The jail term for not seeking permission for second marriage
should be extended. Most importantly, it is time to think of prohibiting polygamy in
Bangladesh, like turkey.

47 The Holy Quran, Sura iv, verse 3.

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5.3.3 Non-Maintenance
Besides physical abuse, the most common abuse is desertion by the husband and non-
maintenance of the wife by him. The law states that a husband is bound to maintain his
wife so long the wife remains faithful to him and obeys his reasonable orders. If the wife
refuses herself to her husband or otherwise willfully fails in her marital obligations she
has no right to claim maintenance from her husband (MFLO, section 9).
If any solvent husband neglects or fails to pay maintenance to his wife or legitimate or
illegitimate children, he is guilty of an offence under section 488 of the Criminal
Procedure Code of 1898. The Court may also order payment of a subsistence allowance
not less than Taka 400 per month. In case of non-payment of the above amount the court
may sentence the husband to a fine or to jail for a month.
A divorced Muslim woman is also entitled to maintenance allowance from her husband
till the expiry of the period of iddat.48 Section 9 of the Muslim Family Law Ordinance of
1961 prescribes the legal procedures through which the wife can claim her maintenance
allowances. It states if any husband fails to maintain his wife adequately or where there
are more wives than one, fails to maintain them equitably, the wife, or all or any of the
wives may in addition to seeking any other legal remedy available apply to the chairman
of union council to determine the matter, and the arbitration council may issue a
certificate specifying the amount which shall be paid as maintenance by the husband.

5.3.4 Child Marriage

The system of child marriage is another factor, which contributes to wife abuse. Although
the government amended. The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 (in 1984) and raised
the minimum age for a girl to get married from 16 to 18 years, breach of which is
punishable, research shows that minor girls are still being married off by their guardians.
This legal provision is not implemented and no case has so far been filed against the
guardians. On the other hand, guardians are taking the plea of the Holy Quran that a girl
who attains the age of puberty can get married, although this is a misinterpretation as the
Quran has only indicated that a girl's reproductive capacity starts at puberty.

48 Very recently in 1999 the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh had set
aside the decision of High Court in the case of Hefesur Rahman v. Shamsun Nahar and others
47(1995) DLR 54 and the law is now settled that post divorce maintenance is not allowed and that
a divorced wife is only entitled to maintenance up to iddat period.

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Chapter 6

6.1 Recommendations
Over the last two decades, violence against women has become one of the most visible
and articulated social issues in Bangladesh. Today all the section of the society are
concerned about the issue and movements: agitation's and legal reforms are being made
against women oppression. But the rate of improvement is not noticeable. It is resultant of
a lot of reasons as negative socialization of our women, historical system of patriarchy,
economic dependence of the women, acceptance of violence in the society and so on.
Even the women themselves also are not able to realize the situation. They sometimes
accept violence against them as usual. On the other hand, security agencies have become
the breeding ground of violence. Police custody is considered to be more insecure place
for a victim. In spite of much agitation and protests and actions by government and non-
government organizations with international area: the evil persists and is aggravating. The
obvious question is what is the need of hour to face up to the challenge? A few
suggestions are made here:

6.1.1 National Policy

There should be a national policy on all forms of violence against women. Such a policy
should be framed on the basis of general consensus among major political parties and
professional and occupational groups.49

49 Md. Awal Hossain Mollah, 'Combating violence against women in South Asia: An Overview
of Bangladesh', Journal of Information and Media Studies, vol.2, no, 1, (2008), p.68.

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6.1.2. Governments should recognize that women's human rights are universal
and indivisible
The Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth United Nations (UN) World Conference
on Women reflects the commitment made by governments in the Vienna Declaration and
Programme of Action of the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights that "the
human rights of women and of the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible
part of universal human rights".

6.1.3 Ratify and implement international instruments for the protection of

human rights
Governments should ratify international legal instruments which provide for the
protection of the human rights of women and girl-children, such as:
1. the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its two Optional
2. the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
3. the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment;
4. the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
5. the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
6. the Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Governments
should also ratify regional standards which protect the human rights of women and girl-
children. Governments who have already ratified these instruments should examine any
limiting reservations, with a view to withdrawing them. This is particularly important in
the case of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women, where the commitment of many governments is seriously
undermined by the extent of their reservations. Governments should take due account of
non-treaty instruments such as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the
Declaration on the

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Elimination of Violence against Women. Governments should ensure that reports to treaty
monitoring bodies include detailed information on the situation of women and girl-

6.1.4. Eradicate discrimination, which denies women human rights

Governments should recognize that discrimination against women, including lesbians and
girl-children, is a key contributory factor to human rights abuse such as torture, including
rape and other forms of custodial violence. Governments should initiate a plan of action
against such discrimination. Governments should ensure that women are treated equally
in law; a woman's evidence should have the same weight as a man's in all judicial
proceedings and women should not receive harsher penalties than a man would for the
same offence. Where it is alleged that discrimination in the administration of justice
contributes to human rights violations against women an independent commission should
be appointed to investigate and make recommendations to rectify the situation.

6.7.5 National Anti-Violence Movement

Violence against women is a social evil and social action is probably the most effective
shield against it. Social mobilization must therefore be attained to curb violence. For this,
vigorous publicity should be given through all types of media. pictures, release,
demonstrations etc. Besides anti-violence committees should be formed in unions and

6.1.6 Legal Reforms

The patriarchal legal system needs to be salvaged from the traditional foundations of
discriminatory norms about women. A new system should be built on the solid foundation
of equality, reciprocity and interdependence of men and women. The proposed law
commission on a priority basis may handle the review of the legal system.

50 Ibid

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6.1.7 Support Services
The number of shelters for affected women and facilities for legal aid, counseling and
vocational training are inadequate. So, need for shelter is urgent. Besides, it is essential to
develop adequate facilities within the health system to identify cases of violence. Besides,
affected women should be absorbed in the income generating projects of NGOs for
providing skill training and rehabilitation.51
6.1.8 Political Commitment
Women's organizations can lobby with political parties to include women issues in the
respective mensifestor. They many reorient the attitudes and outlook of women
6.1.9 Social Awareness
Social awareness can help a lot to eliminate rape incidents. It is possible to build
awareness among the people through social education, media and civil society. Various
mass media (TV, radio, newspaper, seminar, rally, discussion, drama etc.) can display
multifarious aspects of rape for creating awareness. On the other hand, civil society and
social worker can play vital role to form the public opinion against women violence.

6.2 Conclusion
In Bangladesh it is difficult to change anything by the government initiatives alone. So it
is badly needed to add NGO initiatives with the government activities to bring any change
in the society. A collaborative effort of GOs and NGOs can reduce women violence. This
type of collaboration would same money and time, protect duplication of work and
provide maximum services for the victims. In this connection, the collaborative attitudes
and relationships between GOs and NGOs should be increased to erratic ate rape
violence. Apart from this, the government and non-governmenet organizations are
working especially to protect the women may be preference to take the lead.

51 Ibid, p.69.

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1. R.N Karmakar, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, 1st ed. (Kolkata: Academic
Publishers, 2003).
2. Bandyopadhyay, Mridula and Mahmuda Rahman Khan, 'Loss of face: violence
against women in South Asia' Lenore Manderson, Linda Rae Bennett eds.,
Violence Against Women in Asian Societies (UK: Routledge, 2003).
3. Taru Bahl, and M.H. Syed, Encyclopedia of the Muslim World, (New Delhi:
Anmol Publications Private Ltd., 2004).
4. Human Rights in Bangladesh 2008, Sara Hossain ed. (Dhaka: Ain O Salish
Kendra 2008).

1. The Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.
2. The Dowry Prohibition Act 1980.
3. Cruelty to Women (Deterrent Punishment) Ordinance 1983.
4. Repression Against Women and Children (Special Provision) Act, 1995.
5. Nari o Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain 2000.
6. The Suppression of Immoral Traffic, 1933.
7. The Penal Code 1860.
8. The Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act 1939.
9. Muslim Family Law Ordinance of 1961.
10. Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.
11. The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women
(CEDAW) 1979.

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Journals and Reports
1. "Violence on Women in Bangladesh', Nari Pakha Report, (July 2000). I.
2. Taslima Monsoor, 'In Search for security and poverty alleviation: women's
3. inheritable entitlements to land, the untapped resources', Journal of International
Affairs, vol.4, no.2 (1998).
4. Jordan Swanson, "Acid attacks: Bangladesh's efforts to stop the
violence.", Harvard Health Policy Review, vol. 3, no.l (Spring 2002).
5. Md. Awal Hossain Mollah, 'Combating violence against women in South Asia: An
Overview of Bangladesh', Journal of Information and Media Studies, vol.2, no,l,

1. Abdul Basher Howlader v. State and another, 46 (1994) DLR AD 169.
2. Salma MollickMd. v. State, 48 (1996) DLR 329.
3. Firoza Begum v. Harmuz AH and another, 8(1988) BLD 122.
4. Dr. Atikur Rahman v. The State, 14 (1994) BLD 303.
5. State v. Munir Hussain Suruj and others, Title Suit no. 121, 1986.
6. Lukus Miah v. The State, 43(1991) DLR 230.

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