September 25 2012
The Real War on Women: Bangladesh's Legal System
I have written before that the alleged “war on women,” or argument that objecting to ever-expanding government makes one women’s enemy, is insulting given the real wars women around the world fight every day for basic rights, safety, and freedom.
Bangladesh’s legal gender inequality is another example of the real injustices and discrimination that confront women. Human Rights Watch reports:
Namrata… gave her life savings to her husband to start a business. He misused the money, turned violent when she challenged him and demanded that it be returned, and eventually tricked her into drinking acid… He fled, and she is now dependent on a feeding tube. Namrata wants to divorce her husband but Hindu personal laws do not allow her to.
Namrata’s lack of basic legal protection is because of the Hindu legal system. Bangladesh actually has separate Hindu, Christian, and Muslim laws all of which put women at crippling disadvantage under marriage, separation, and divorce laws.
It’s not just the legal system that disadvantageous women in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi women, 55 percent of whom over 10 years of age are married, are socially pressured to leave their jobs upon marriage. When marriages turn violent or women want to leave, lack of work experience leaves many women at an economic disadvantage.
Though women invest money and time into their husbands’ businesses, education, and property, they don’t have equal rights to property under Bangladeshi law. This leaves many women in abusive relationships or, if they leave their partner, in poverty and destitution.
Little assistance or protection is offered for women in abusive marriages, and what legal protections and rights are offered under law are slow to be enforced or granted.
Bangladesh’s real war on women threatens their safety, family rights, and ability to provide for themselves and their families. In order to gain autonomy, Bangladesh’s government should review archaic laws written to benefit men more than women. Furthermore, it must enforce public safety and work rights for women, which will benefit both genders.