Discussion on Government Pledges and Situation of Indigenous Women and Girls held in Dhaka

KF Report: On 20 March 2017, Kapaeeng Foundation (KF) and Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network (BIWN) jointly organized a discussion meeting titled “Government Pledges and Situation of Indigenous Women and Girls” at the Daily Star Center, Dhaka.

Kazi Reazul Haque, Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Bangladesh was present as the chief guest in the discussion meeting. Noted politician Shirin Akhter, Member of Parliament; Farida Yasmin, Deputy Commissioner of Head of Victim Support Center of Dhaka Metropolitan Police; Advocate Rakhi Das Purkayastha, Joint General Secretary, Bangladesh Mohila Parishad; Halima Begum of Department of Women Affairs;

Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation also addressed the discussion meeting. The event was moderated by Dr Sadeka Halim, former Information Commissioner and professor of Dhaka University while Sulekha Mrong, Indigenous Women Leader and Member of Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network (BIWN) chaired the event. Falguni Tripura, Secretariat Coordinator of BIWN delivered the keynote paper.

Kazi Reazul Haque said, Bangladesh Government does not tolerate any crime and it has already ratified many international conventions in order to develop the human rights situation of the country. The Government and National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh have been shocked to notice the incident of the Santal people at Gobindaganj in Gaibandha district. But it should also to be remembered that the Government as a whole is not responsible, but local political leaders with the support of local administration is responsible for this crime that had been carried out against the indigenous Santal people, he added.

Kazi Reazul also said that, indigenous peoples of Bangladesh significantly contributed during the liberation war side by side majority Bengali people. Hence, the land and other rights of indigenous people have to be protected. The High Court of Bangladesh has proved that human rights situation of the country is still not beyond control by giving the judgment against the attacks on Santal people in Gaibandha.

Shirin Akhter MP said, we have to find the factors behind the violence against women while changing the perspectives towards indigenous peoples. She also addressed that all type of violence against women should be monitored directly by the state itself. There are many laws to prevent violence against women, but when it comes to implementation, the process becomes very lengthy. The government should put considerable emphasis on the matter.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Farida Yasmin said, violence against women has been increasing day by day. Because of the loopholes in the initiatives and investigations, the perpetrators are escaping away and justice is being denied. All law enforcing agencies, Department of Women and Children Affairs and the Judiciary Department should come forward to play a great role in reducing violence against women along with the Govt.

Mohila Parishad leader Rakhi Das Purkayastha said, the livelihood of indigenous women is more challenging than their majority counterparts. When it comes to implementation of any laws, the women the indigenous women always lag behind. In this regard, the government has to take more actions make them aware so to reduce injustice and violence against indigenous women, she added. She also mentioned that the government should fulfill its promises regarding combating violence against women in the country.

Women Affairs Department representative Halima Begum stated that, there are many activities which are being conducted by the Government to stop violence against women, but most women in the country do not know about the processes in this regard. She also emphasized on gathering all the information and evidences regarding any violations against women because half the cases do not see any success due to the lack of right information and supporting evidences.

Prof. Dr. Sadeka Halim said, there are no initiatives to keep the record of the violence of the women. She recommended the NHRC to build a database to preserve the violations records concerning women and demanded to take actions to reduce violence against women.

Romila Kisku, a Santal woman from Gobindaganj, alleged that the Santals in her village were still being harassed by members of the administration.

In her keynote paper, BIWN Coordinator Falguni Tripura outlined the current state of human rights and pledges the government made through different UN treaties. She also shared an analysis of current state of indigenous women in Bangladesh. In the span of three years, human rights abuse on Adivasi women has doubled and the victims do not get justice from the police, court and civil administration. Falguni has said it may look that the number of crime inflicted upon Adivasi women and child are only 53 incidents, but the ratio in relations to national average is 5.7 percent, whereas the national population of indigenous peoples is only 1.8 percent. Indigenous women and girl victims do not get cooperation from the police, hospital doctors and local administration, which hinders from getting justice for the crime they suffered. Despite constitutional obligation of having reserved seats in national parliament and local government, indigenous women were not represented in Jatiya Sangsad and Local Government Councils, lamented Falguni Tripura of BIWN. The government needs to take stern actions against the perpetrators of the crimes to establish the rights of indigenous women and girls after determining the causes behind such violence, she demanded. Finally, concerning protection of indigenous women and girls from violence, Ms. Falguni Tripura recommended followings:

  • Establish the human rights of indigenous women.
  • Take immediate and proper actions to reduce violence against indigenous women and girls.
  • Ensure punishment of the alleged perpetrators of violence against indigenous women and girls.
  • Ensure commensurate compensation and rehabilitation of the victim.
  • Ensure proper medical and legal aid support for the victims.
  • Ensure effective and meaningful consultations with indigenous women prior to formulating policies concerning the development of women and keep a separate chapter for the indigenous women in the National Women Development Policy.
  • Implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord 1997 fully and declare a time bound road map for implementation of the Accord.
  • Establish a separate land commission for the plains indigenous peoples.
  • Ensure education and health services for indigenous women.
  • Take special measures to reduce maternal and child mortality of indigenous peoples.
  • Ensure the rights of indigenous women in land and property and recognize the role of indigenous women in preserving the forests and natural resources.
  • Ensure quota for indigenous women in every sector and allowances for the widowed and elderly women.
  • Ensure indigenous women representative’s area wise in Parliament and Local Government.

Published on 22 March 2017.

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