Violence in Bangladesh over new equality law

April 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Photo EPA: Protests in Bangladesh

Riots have broken out today in Bangladesh over a new law  which would give women equal property rights as men. The country, although it has a secular legal system most the time, bows to Sharia law in issues relating to inheritance, and therefore a woman only inherits half as much as her brother.

Under the National Women Development Policy, she would inherit equally.

More than 100 protestors have been taken into custody today according to police, but there is worryingly a high level of support for challenging a law like this. The Islamic Law Implementation Committee for example (not surprisingly, I suppose) saying that the protests had the support of the “people” and that they go against the Koran. In a country where 90% of the population are Muslim, a claim like that carries great power.

Women in Bangladesh are an important part of the workforce, with many working as they do in export trades such as making garments. But, women are still part of an overwhelmingly patriarchal society, being judged by their family life, and their opportunities in the country tend to be markedly fewer. For example, there is a higher dropout rate from school for girls than boys, and younger children face a higher mortality rate if they are girls. Trafficking is a huge problem in Bangladesh, including kidnapping into Burma, as is domestic violence which can often pass under the averted eyes of the community.

The return of prime minister Sheik Hasina Wazed to the government in 2008 has been another positive role model for women in the country, and as a member of the Council of World Women leaders she has put rights for women high on the priority list. Nonetheless she has been locked in conflict with extremists in the country throughout her political career, and has withstood assassination attempts on her own life and the murder of many of her colleagues.

It goes without saying that this blog supports these new laws and wishes safety to those pushing them through. Until women can secure economic independence they will always be viewed as second class citizens in a country. This is another step towards independence for women in Bangladesh. I hope the government holds fast in its commitment to give women greater rights in education, employment and inheritance.

Sudan defends the flogging of “indecent” women

December 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

YouTube image: A woman is flogged in Sudan

It’s legal to flog women in Sudan. Whipping women is allowed under the country’s Sharia Criminal Code for “indecent behaviour” – adultery, running a brothel, or worst of all, wearing trousers.

Even with that in mind, there is no explanation for the video of a woman being flogged in a car park. YouTube have now taken the video off – but I’ve watched it, and it’s really not nice. The woman is fully covered in accordance with Sudanese requirements, and seems to be pointlessly whipped by police officers in the midst of a group of men in a dusty car park while she cries and calls for her mother.  Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time – and realising they are being filmed only makes the policemen play up for the camera more. Images are all over the internet – I’ve included one here mainly because I think it’s important not to shy away from the truth. Before being lashed 53 times, the young woman is told she will be jailed for two years if she does not sit down on the ground and allow herself to be whipped.

According to the Sudanese authorities, a “mistake was made in the way the punishment was carried out”.  According to comments on the web, this sort of attack happens “all the time” and so one can only imagine the “mistake” Sudan meant was not the flogging, but the way the video has captured them in this act of cruelty , and how it has now gone viral worldwide.

Reports now are that dozens of women have been arrested for trying to protest at these laws which humiliate women. Attempts by them to hand over a letter of protest were denied, and reports suggest they have all been arrested and take into the police station – where their lawyers have not been allowed access.

This is a stark reminder of what happens in a country where misogynistic attitudes and violence towards women is condoned – you are left in a country ruled by bullies with half the country as potential victims.

“This horrendous footage provides a chilling reminder that flogging continues to be used as a form of punishment in Sudan. The law which enables flogging to persist is discriminatory and inhumane. Flogging of this kind amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and in some cases can constitute torture.
No one should be subjected to such treatment.”

Mike Blakemore, Amnesty International

 

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