Gender equality should be upheld

Our failure as a nation to ensure equal rights
for women as for men in all spheres and at all
levels is, we believe, a cause for great
disappointment and collective shame. While there
is no doubt that we have taken some measures
towards gender equity since our national
independence, there still remains much left to be
done. Even to this day, our country does not have
uniform inheritance laws for all Bangladeshis
that give women equal entitlement as men and nor
can a Bangladeshi woman pass down her nationality
to her children. In our view, unless such
discrepancies in our laws are addressed to put an
end to manifest discrimination against women, we
will never be and cannot claim to be a modern,
civilised and democratic state. In this regard,
we appreciate the policy decision of the
incumbents to revisit the issue of inheritance
and to bring about uniform laws which will apply
to all Bangladeshis irrespective of their
religious affiliation or beliefs and ensure that
women have equal entitlement to property as men.
We hope that the government will its policy to
reality by way of getting the relevant laws
amended and enforcing them properly.

However, it is extremely disappointing, though
not at all surprising, that at a time when the
government is apparently considering steps to
reduce discrimination against women in our laws
and customs, some obscurantist organisations have
come together under the banner of ’Islami
Uttaradhikar Ain Shanrakkhan Andolan’ to protest
and resist the government’s attempts to promote
gender equality. A few hundred obscurantists on
Friday staged demonstrations in front of the
Baitul Mukarram National Mosque to condemn what
it termed the ’western idea of gender equality.’
The organisations that joined the protest rally
include the Islami Shashantantra Andolan, Hizbut
Tahrir Bangladesh, Islami Chatra Andolan and
Khelafat Majlish. The activists have also warned
the government of ’dire consequences’, if it
proceeds with its plans.

We believe that there is nothing ’western’
about the idea of ensuring equal rights for all
human beings, irrespective of gender or other
characteristics and differences. Rather, it is
not only unjust but inhumane to promote or
protect the marginalisation of certain groups on
the basis of such things as gender, ethnicity,
religion and ability - physical or financial.
Bigotry should find no space in our society.
Hence, we urge the current regime to pay no heed
to the demands of the obscurantists. Instead, it
should stick to its plans and prove its
commitment to equity and social justice by
bringing necessary changes to laws that are
inherently discriminatory towards women.


* FromNew Age, March 9, 2008. Circulated by South Asia Citizens Wire | April 10-11, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2502 - Year 10 running.