”Women’s Rights and Islam in Bangladesh”
The family is the most important unit within the socio-cultural and religious milieu in Bangladesh. Marriage is the only acceptable union and an unmarried man or woman is viewed as an oddity. Issues arising out of marriage or incidental to it are therefore crucial to every Bangladeshi and such matters are determined by the religious laws of each community. In Bangladesh although in most matters a secular, uniform law is followed, in the case of personal family matters such as marriage, dissolution of marriage, maintenance, custody, guardianship and so forth, different communities follow their own religious laws. In the case of Muslims, the Shariah law is applicable with regard to family matters. Such law has largely remained untouched except for limited reforms made through legislative innovations or pro-active judicial actions. Despite the fact that significant progress has been achieved in terms of gender parity in various areas of employment, health and education, Bangladeshi women continue to be discriminated against in personal family matters. This presentation attempts to provide an overview of the personal family law regime which impacts upon Muslim women’s position within society including short discussions on women’s intestate succession rights as well as the social institution of dowry demands.
Dr. Shahnaz Huda has been teaching at the Law Department of the University of Dhaka for close to thirty years, specializing in personal and comparative family laws, gender and child rights issues. She obtained her Doctorate from the University of East London, UK in 1996 and completed her post-doctoral research at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, UK as a Commonwealth Academic Fellow on family law in South Asia. She is regarded as an authority in her field and is frequently consulted by NGOs and INGOs for advice and consultation. She has worked as a consultant for ADB, UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, ILO and other international organizations. She is an active Board member of the Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), a national initiative set up to promote good governance and human rights in the country. Dr. Huda is a former Chairperson of the Department of Law, University of Dhaka. She is an adjunct Faculty member of the Law Department of Eastern University, Dhaka; member of the Academic Council of Central Women’s University, Dhaka; external member of the sexual harassment redress committees of BRAC and the University of Liberal Arts and a member of the ‘National Committee on Prevention of Violence and Social Injustices against Women and Girl Children’ under the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (Bangladesh Women’s Council). She speaks and publishes very regularly on subjects of family law governing both the Hindu and the Muslim communities in the country as well as other gender related issues including violence against women.