Ferdous Ara Begum

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INTERGOVERNMENTAL WORKING GROUP ON THE EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DURBAN DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION
18th October, 2010
STATEMENT BY MS. FERDOUS ARA BEGUM, MEMBER UN CEDAW COMMITTEE
ON
GENDERED NATURE OF STRUCTURAL DISCRIMINATION IN THE FIELD OF MIGRATION AND EMPLOYMENT


Excellencies,
Distinguished Participants, Colleagues and Friends,
It is my great pleasure to be invited in this august forum and share my views as a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Aginst Women on the topic « gendered nature of structural discrimination in the field of migration and employment « I will also touch upon the situation of women in armed conflict, refugee women , women of ethnic minorites and trafficking of women and girls

INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS TREATIES AND ISSUES OF DISCRIMINATION
At the very outset, I would like to mention that the CEDAW Committee systematically addresses discrimination against women in all its forms including some specific forms of multiple discrimination and human rights violations faced by women during different stages of migration including trafficking , employment within the country and cross border, in the situation of armed conflict, statelessness, women with refugee status , asylum seekers and women from ethnic minorities .
Women in the above different situation as I have mentioned may confront structural discrimination in the realisation of their human rights.
Here I would like to recall the universal Declaration of Human Rights , which reaffirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein , without distinction of any kind , including distinction based on sex.
Like wise the CEDAW Convention also confirms that discrimination against women violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for dignity which is an obstacle to the participation of women on equal terms with men in the field of political, social , economical and cultural spheres of their lives. Our convention prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination against women committed by both private or public actors.
In fact all of the international human rights treaties, including International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and gender and include guarantees for the full enjoyment of human rights by men and women on the basis of equality.
But in reality, de jure and de facto equality has not been achieved in any country in the world due to inherent structural discrimination , which is reflected in discriminatory laws and practices that deny women’s right , in discriminatory customs and traditions that restricts women’s equal access ,and in marginalization and Social exclusion which generates feminization of poverty.
DURBAN REVIEW CONFERENCE
The Durban review conference held in 2009 , identified challenges and obstacles that hinder implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action adopted in 2001. Intolerance has now taken a new contemporary form and new challenges exist all over the world which may present significant obstacles for the effective prevention, combat and eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Several examples may be cited from Asia and Africa also from Europe where women are particularly targeted as a weapon of war through sexual violence, rape and gang rape even murder . We can recall the sexual and gender based crimes during communal violence in Gujarat in India in 2002 against Muslim minority community, in recent time in Democratic Republic of Congo,the UN reported that more than 500 systematic rapes have been committed by armed combatants in Congo since last July. Other similar examples of hate crime and gender based violence may be cited in Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, also in the recent past the situation of Bosnia and Hargigovina. We can go on with many more examples. In absence of witness and victim protection mechanism also lack of political will survivors of violence never can press their legal rights and ensure justice and remedial measures.
Addressing structural discrimination to eliminate racial discrimination, racism and xenophobia and related intolerance needs careful understanding of the traditional practices and social structure as well as basic cultural values and fundamental principles of a particular social system.. . It also needs mobilization of political will of all actors in the relevant fields which include policy makers , parliamentarians, the judiciary, NGOs civil society members also full compliance towards human rights , in particular the principle of non discrimination in respect of gender , age and sex.

FEMINIZATION OF MIGRATION AND STRUCTURAL DISCRIMINATION
Women currently make up about one half of the world’s migrant population . The dynamics of globalization, poverty, gender based violence in countries of origin, natural disasters and situation of armed conflicts determine women’s migration status . Also exacerbation of sex specific divisions of labour in the formal and informal service sectors in countries of destination act as a pull factor for women migrants , both documented and undocumented. It is also true that women fall victim to trafficking harm in the process of migration. As per UN USG Radhica Kumarashami,I quote “ Traffickers fish in the stream of migration”. Unquote.
I will elaborate the trafficking issue a bit later.

All migrant women workers domestic or cross border, are entitled to the protection of their human rights ,which include the right to life, right to personal liberty and security, right to be free of degrading and inhumane treatment, right to be free from discrimination on the basis of of sex, race, ethnicity, nationality, language, culture, religion or other status, the right to be free from poverty and right to equality before the law. These rights also ensured in all International Human Rights treaties including International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families .
But evidence shows that women migrant workers face multiple forms of structural discrimination and human rights violations in the countries of origin, destination and transit . In the home country , there may be complete bans or restrictions on women’s out migration based on sex , age and marital status. There might also be requirements of written permission from male relatives for a passport or to travel.
Even within the country, migrant women from one area to another seeking jobs as a domestic worker or in the informal labor market, may face violence or violation of their human rights in the form of sexual exploitation or wage pay gaps, although the feminization of migration considered as a development phenomenon in most countries of the world. .
Women returnee migrant workers may face compulsory HIV and AIDS testing in the country of origin . Women migrants are also vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse by agents and escorts when travelling in countries of transit. Young women returnees may find disintegration of the family upon their return where as men may return to a stable family situation which increases their personal , social , emotional and financial cost compare to men.
Once they reach their destination , women migrant workers may encounter multiple forms of de jure and de facto discrimination. They might be excluded from legal definitions of work and thereby excluded from legal protection. They may face xenophobia and racial discrimination as well in the destination country. Women migrant workers often suffer from inequalities in accessing health services including reproductive health as the insurance or national health schemes are not available to them. Women migrant workers face additional hazards compared to men because of gender insensitive environments that do not allow mobility for women, and that give them little access to relevant information about their rights and entitlements.
Women migrant workers may face mandatory pregnancy test followed by deportation if the test is positive or coercive abortion or lack of access to safe reproductive health.
Undocumented women migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation or abuse because of their irregular immigration status, which exacerbates their exclusion and the risk of exploitation.
This however is not the complete list of discrimination faced by migrant women in different settings. Here I have mentioned a few of them.
The CEDAW committee has expressed its concern that women migrant workers are subject to multiple forms of discrimination in the country of origin, transit and destination with respect to access to legal services, healthcare, protection for their contractual salary and wages and job security as well . Women belonging to those groups are also particularly vulnerable to poverty and gender based violence including sexual exploitation.
In its concluding observations CEDAW Committee has urged States Parties to step up efforts to protect the human rights of all women migrants , regardless of their immigration status. CEDAW urged States Parties to carefully monitor the impact of their laws and policies on migrant women with a view to taking remedial measures States Parties are also encouraged to formulate and implement training programmes for law enforcement authorities , immigration and border officials , prosecutors and service providers with a view to sensitizing them to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The CEDAW Committee has also urged States Parties to continue international, regional and bilateral dialogue on migration by developing real partnerships between countries of origin, transit and destination with a view to have a balanced approach to migration and development, while fully taking into account the human rights of women migrants.
CEDAW has also adopted a General Recommendation on Women Migrant Workers which aims at enhancing the fulfillment by States Parties of their obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of women migrant workers who often suffer multiple forms of structural discrimination.
States Parties also need to adopt and enforce legislation to protect migrant domestic workers of African and Asian descent, regardless of their immigration status.

TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN

While promoting domestic or outbound migration of women the CEDAW Committee has also urged States Parties to take all appropriate measures to combat trafficking in women and children in the sexual exploitation and forced labor. Trafficking is considered as a modern day slavery and worst form of human rights abuse. During the present CEDAW session it is reported that in many reporting countries trafficked women from the foreign origin particularly from Asia, eastern Europe and Africa are being exploited in the commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour in the construction sites, forestry and agriculture.
Women mostly fall victim of trafficking in the process of migration due to false hope of better life or better job or good marriages . Mail order brides from Asian origin, temporary marriages with tourists in Middle Eastern countries, marriages of foreign women for domestic work in some African countries are another form of trafficking and exploitation of women as a sex slave . Trafficked women also vulnerable to domestic violence and abuse and HIV and AIDS and other forms of sexually transmitted diseases as well.
CEDAW has called on States parties to elaborate comprehensive strategies to combat trafficking in women and girls, address the needs of victims, and ensure that trafficked women and girls have the support that they need in order to testify against their traffickers. States Parties are also requested to systematically collect and analyze data to identify the root causes of this phenomenon. States Parties also need to address the poverty issue and lively hood options of the venerable groups of women and to undertake efforts for the recovery and social integration of the victims also need to address the demand side of the sex trade.
The CEDAW Committee has urged the States Parties for the effective protection of victims and adequate redress in line with Palermo protocol and Article 6 of the Convention also to enhance bilateral and multilateral cooperation with neighboring countries

WOMEN IN THE SITUATION OF REFUGEE STATUS, ARMED CONFLICT AND MINORITY WOMEN

Women affected by forced displacement due to armed conflict or statelessness, asylum seekers, refugees and women belonging to minorities of African and Asian descent are subject to multiple forms of structural discrimination with respect to access to education, social services, healthcare, employment, economic safety net as well as social and political participation. Women belonging to those groups are also particularly vulnerable to poverty and gender based violence, including domestic violence. Older women are particularly vulnerable to above mentioned situation.
Refugee and internally displaced women are sometimes denied access to health care because they lack legal status in the country of asylum, lack legal documentation, and are resettled far from health-care facilities, or experience cultural and language barriers in accessing services.
The CEDAW Committee has urged States Parties to pay attention to the violence suffered by women in times of armed conflict, the impact of armed conflict in their lives and contribution they can make to the peaceful settlement of conflicts as well as to the reconstruction process also women’s participation in the implementation of the security Council Resolution of 1325 and 1820.
In its concluding observations, The CEDAW Committee has urged States Parties to carefully monitor the impact of their laws and policies on minority women, refugees and asylum-seekers with a view to taking remedial measures that effectively respond to their needs, and adopt measures aiming at the integration of women belonging to minority groups in all sectors of society.

WOMEN AND EMPLOYMENT
In most countries fewer women than men have the opportunity to work in the formal and full time employment sector .Most women are more involved in part time jobs as they cannot find more time due to family responsibilities. Women also tend to be paid less than men for equal work of equal value. Gender-based discrimination throughout their life cycle as well as lack of any reconciliation of employment and family responsibilities, lack of proper training and education, creates a cumulative impact on the disproportionately lower income and lower or no access to pensions compared with men. This increases women’s income poverty in old age .

Further, women are particularly affected by mandatory retirement ages, in many countries they are forced to retire early, which also constitute discrimination against women .

Beside the above mentioned structural discrimination affecting women in the employment sector , there are also vertical and horizontal occupational segregation with low representation of women in the top management impacting women in low skilled jobs with lower pay and poor working conditions. Working women also subjected to work place harassment and sexual exploitation. This is also a matter of concern that while general labour laws recognise maternity leave , but in practice this issue is not fully respected in line with ILO Convention No 89, and that the length of maternity leave differs between private and public sector. Our Committee expresses its concerns for the lack of information about the effective implementation of the labour legislation .

The CEDAW Committee in its concluding observations has urged States Parties to eliminate the structural barriers in the employment sector for women and broaden access to opportunities like education and training for greater participation of women in the labour market and more involvement of women in income and employment generation programmes and paid work also promoting policies that facilitate the reconciliation of employment , paid work and family responsibilities. States Parties also need to create awareness raising among men in respect of family responsibilities and raise maternity and paternity leave so that father also can take part in the child raising process and give women free time to build their career.

The Committee has urged States Parties to ensure that job evaluation system based on gender sensitive criteria be developed with an aim of closing the existing wage and pay gap in line with committee’s GR No 13 and ILO no100 on equal pay for equal value and work Our Committee also calls on States parties to make greater use of temporary special measures , in accordance with Article 4 , paragraph 1, of the Convention and committee’s GR No 25 by applying quotas in respect of women’s access in the labour market, including non traditional jobs , and protection of women in the upper levels of .the private and public positions
The Committee also recommends that the states parties should step up its efforts to improve the availability, affordability and quality of care places for school age children in order to facilitate the entry and re-entry of women into the labour market.

Recommendations

1.The CEDAW Committee urges States Parties to intensify efforts to combat the feminization of poverty, gender based violence and sexual exploitation of women , as the root causes of discrimination, segregation, and as an impediment to the advancement of women and invites the Durban mechanisms to address these issues as a matter of priority.

2.The CEDAW Committee calls upon the States Parties to identify structural discriminations which is embodied in the traditional practices and social structures as well as in basic cultural values also in the discriminatory laws and practices and recommends the States Parties to apply political will and commitment in to take all appropriate measures to address those issues and eliminate racial discrimination, racism and xenophobia and related intolerance

3.The CEDAW Committee calls upon States Parties to keep under review and carefully monitor the impact of its laws and policies on migrant women with a view to taking remedial measures that effectively respond to the needs of those women, including the clear adoption of a gender perspective in the action plan for immigrants.

4.States Parties also need to adopt and enforce legislation to protect migrant domestic workers of African and Asian descent, regardless of their immigration status.

5.The CEDAW Committee also urges States Parties to continue international, regional and bilateral dialogue on migration by developing real partnerships between countries of origin, transit and destination with a view to have a balanced approach to migration and development, while fully taking into account the human rights of women migrants

6.The CEDAW Committee called on States Parties to elaborate comprehensive strategies to combat trafficking in women and girls, address the needs of victims, and ensure that trafficked women and girls have the support that they need in order to testify against their traffickers.
7.The CEDAW committee further calls upon States Parties to consider the particular severe forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and the girls in all types of armed conflicts in the context of the follow-up to the Durban follow up process.

8.The CEDAW Committee also urges States Parties to eliminate the structural barriers in the employment sector for women and broaden access to opportunities like education and training for greater participation of women in the labour market and more involvement of women in income and employment generation programmes and paid work as well as promoting policies that facilitate the reconciliation of employment , paid work and family responsibilities.

9.The Committee has urged States Parties to ensure that job evaluation system based on gender sensitive criteria be developed with an aim of closing the existing wage and pay gap in line with committee’s GR No 13 and ILO no100 on equal pay for equal value and work Our Committee also calls on States parties to make greater use of temporary special measures , in accordance with Article 4 , paragraph 1, of the Convention and committee’s GR No 25 by introducing quotas in respect of women’s access in the labour market, including non traditional jobs , and protection of women in the upper levels of .the private and public positions
10 The Committee also recommends that the states parties should step up its efforts to improve the availability, affordability and quality of care places for school age children in order to facilitate the entry and re-entry of women into the labour market.

11..Finally, CEDAW urges Durban follow-up mechanisms to fully take into account CERD General Comment N. 25 of 2000 on the gender-related dimensions of racial discrimination in their work.

Thank you

 


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ELDER ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE:
IT’S NATURE AND EXTENT AND HOW TO PROTECT THE POTENTIAL VICTIMS

FERDOUS ARA BEGUM
Former Member of UN CEDAW Committee
WORLD ELDER ABUSE AWARENESS DAY, 15 JUNE, 2011

Hosted by the International Federation on Ageing and Ryerson University,
In Collaboration with the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat and the Ontario Women's Directorate

TORONTO, CANADA


Introduction
Apart from age and gender based discrimination against older women, elder abuse and sexual assault has a serious consequence on women’s physical and mental health and wellbeing in later life. Researchers have identified domestic violence as the most common form of abuse against older women, and many of them who suffered at the hands of their partners or husbands when they were young continue to be abused in their old age. Another study carried out by a Canadian Network for the prevention of elder abuse reveals that older women are more likely to be the victims of abuse than older men. Older women often represent two thirds of victims in the abuse or neglect cases in the hospitals and clinics.
Researchers claim that elder abuse is much more common than previously expected and its trend is on the rise worldwide. It could occur in the domestic settings or in the institutional setting. But there is a serious lack of statistical evidences and age and sex desegregated data on the number, causes and consequences of elder abuse .Also information regarding perpetrators or any complaint filed against them, in most cases not available.
The cost of the human sufferings due to elder abuse and sexual violence is immense, as it greatly affects women’s body and mind. Elder abuse, like all other forms of family or interpersonal violence, has come to be recognized as a universal phenomenon that cuts across cultural and socioeconomic lines. A major public awareness and further research as well as professional understanding of the issues are important.
To improve the prevention and support mechanism for older women who are at risk, effective protection strategies including appropriate legislation and policy measures, increasing knowledge base and public awareness about the issue, capacity building, treatment and empowerment of the victims and vulnerable groups are essential. Professional training for care providers along with effective implementation of the CEDAW Convention and its General Recommendation No 27 are very important to protect the human rights of older women, so that they have a decent and dignified life.

What is elder abuse and sexual violence?
According to US Justice Department report, the term “elder abuse” means any action against a older person that constitutes the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment with result in physical harm, pain, or mental anguish; or deprivation by a person, including a caregiver, of goods or services with the intention to cause physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness.
Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention which includes physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, sexual assault or rape.
Elder abuse victims face unique obstacles in seeking assistance because they often are dependent on the abusers and may not have the option to move or otherwise to end the abusive relationships.
In general, elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing or intentional act of physical abuse or sexual violence, or act of neglect by a partner or caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to vulnerable women. Different forms of elder abuse as have been identified by research organizations are summarized as follows:
• Physical Abuse - inflicting physical pain or injury on an older person, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical means.
• Sexual Abuse - non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
• Neglect - the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
• Exploitation - misuse or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else's benefit.
• Emotional Abuse - inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
• Abandonment - desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.

 

Demographic profile of older women and vulnerability towards violence in their life course
As per UNDESA projection, proportion of global population aged 60 years and older is going to be double between 2000 and 2050 from 10 percent to 21 percent. The 21st century may be termed as the century of ageing. Same source revealed that at present there are 82 men for every 100 women at the age of 60; there are only 55 for every 100 women at the age of 80. Older women continue to outnumber older men. The gendered nature of ageing reveals that women tend to live longer than men and more older women live alone than men. As women make up the majority of older adults in almost all countries around the world and the proportion of women to men increases with age, it is important to understand the forms of violence against older women and risk factors of sexual assaults on their health and wellbeing.
It is also important to note that older women are not a homogeneous group. They have a great diversity of experience, knowledge, ability and skills which may determine their degree of vulnerability towards abuse and violence. For example older women with disabilities, older women and widows in rural areas, minority older women or women with refugee status or stateless women, older sex workers or older women in prison may suffer different degrees of violence and sexual assault in their life. The impact of climate change, natural disasters and armed conflict are also specific areas of vulnerability for older women.
Discrimination against older women often based on deep rooted cultural and social ties. The impact of gender inequalities throughout women’s life cycle obviously reflects in old age and often results in unfair resource allocation, maltreatment, abuse, gender based violence and prevention of access to basic services. Older women often face discrimination in the work place, around ownership of, and access to, land due to discriminatory inheritance laws and practices. In many cases they are deprived of full inclusion and participation in social, economic, cultural and political affairs which increases their vulnerabilities towards violence and sexual assault.
Nature and extent of sexual violence and abuse on older women in different continent
As women age and their independence decline they become more venerable to exploitation, violence and sexual abuse. Ageism, negative stereotyping and prejudice against older women often cause harmful impact on older women’s life and mental health condition.
Research regarding the extent of elder abuse is lacking, and research regarding elder sexual abuse is even sparser. Reports point out that the problem exists and is likely to become worse due to the aging of the world's population.
Previously older women have never been considered as potential or actual targets of sexual assault and as a result have been under-identified and under-served as victims. The common perception is that elderly women after menopause are not sexually or reproductively active and may not be targeted as a victim of sexual abuse. A recent US national study of sexual abuse in long term care facilities challenged this knowledge gap with a shocking result which reveals that women even at the age 70 to 89 are the most victims of sexual abuse in a nursing home and typical sexual abuse involved instances of sexualized kissing and fondling and unwelcomed sexual interest in the person's body. The majority of perpetrators are nursing home residents who were 60 years of age and older and most of the witnesses to the sexual abuse are facility residents.
Elderly women may not report an abusive sexual incident because of shame or fear of retaliation. Older women are the targets of many types of ageist and sexist beliefs that can lead to abuse and victimization.
In some Asian countries where restricted polygamy is legally allowed, many older wife face violence and death threat from their husbands if they refuse to give consent for a second wife to their husbands.

Also in some African countries there is a custom called ‘widow inheritance” where widows including older widows are forced to marry and have sex with deceased husband’s siblings or any other person against their will to keep the marital property within the family. In many countries, including Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe, a widow becomes the property of another man from her village, usually a brother or a close male relative of her late husband and forced to marry him against her will.
Older widows in some African countries face witchcraft allegations and death threat by their family members after the death of their husbands to grab their inheritance. From the CEDAW Committee examination of State reports through concluding observations and constructive dialogue, evidences reveal that in Malawi and Tanzania many older widows in rural areas are subjected to witchcraft allegations and face the risk of death from lynching. Older women are particularly vulnerable to property grabbing, where by family members or others seize a women’s property.
Another real life story from Afghanistan, (I have visited Afghanistan as an International CEDAW Report Reviewer during November 2010) reveals that war widows of the country are facing extreme poverty, violence and sexual exploitation. Official report acknowledged that there are more than half a million widows who lost their husbands in the armed conflict and left alone to take care of their children without any support from outside. Many of these women try to burn themselves in a bid to escape from extreme poverty and hunger, violence and sexual exploitation. Herat province in Afghanistan has a hospital only for burn patients who are women both young and old.
A study in South Africa found that women both young and old who have been forced to have unprotected sex are almost six times more likely to be infected by HIV AND AIDS than those who have not been coerced. This clearly demonstrates the link between violence and the increased risk of HIV infection. Violence is also a barrier for women in accessing to HIV prevention, care and treatment services.
There has been a clear link between violence and the increased risk of HIV infection especially in some African countries where older women are working as a caregiver to the HIV patients.

 

Risk factors for elder abuse
The crisis that occurs as a result of a sexual assault leaves a woman feeling powerless: it damages self-esteem and erodes personal confidence.
Abused older women are significantly more likely to report more health problems than those who are not abused. Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment. Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
Older women in need of long term health care face abuse and discrimination at home from their family members or from the care givers .This is a great challenge for Governments and social workers too. Many of the health care providers lack training on age related illness and access to palliative care.
Each year hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. Most victims are older, frail, and vulnerable and cannot help themselves and depend on others to meet their most basic needs. Abusers of older adults are both women and men, and may be family members, friends, or “trusted others.”
Because of these very sensitive equation of interpersonal relationship, most of the time elder abuse and sexual assault go unnoticed and unchallenged.

Sexual Abuse linked to domestic violence
According to US Government report on abuse in later life stated that “Women who are 55 years or older and who has experience of abuse face unique challenges. These women grew up and married during a time when domestic abuse was often ignored. Now, at an older age, they have endured many years of abuse and may have problems with poor self-esteem, lack of confidence and shame.”
Another study in two north western states of USA states that “intimate partner violence is not a problem for younger women only. About one in four women older than 65 has been the victim of physical, sexual or psychological violence at the hands of a spouse or other intimate partner.” The study appears in the February 2007 issue of “The Gerontologist”.

Low public awareness and lack of statistical evidences
There has been slow but increasing awareness of elder abuse over the past few years. As challenging as it is for the population at large to acknowledge, it is even harder for older people to admit that they have been victimized. Most women who are sexually assaulted never report it to anyone. As a result, statistical evidences and data on the extent of elderly abuse are scarce.

Older women who have been abused are less likely to tell anyone about it. They may have health problems that keep them dependent on their abusive partners or may feel committed to caring for their abusive ageing partners; and are fearful of being alone.
A 2002 World Health Organization (WHO) study on the abuse of older adults in Germany, France, Sweden, Thailand, Kenya and Columbia have reinforced the reality that older people are often reluctant to reveal incidents of sexual violence. Older women tend to deny its extent or impact as they think discussion of any sexual activity is often deemed inappropriate.

 

Innovative protection strategies to prevent elder abuse, violence and sexual assault

1. Older women’s rights and State obligation on the basis CEDAW Convention
Despite a growing interest in the problem, most countries have not introduced specific legislation on elder abuse. Only Canada, USA and few other countries have legislation for the mandatory reporting of abuse of the elderly. France has a separate ministry for older persons. Health care, especially long term health care is the primary focus of the Ministry. Although elder abuse has been proven to exist in several low income or middle-income countries, very few specific programmes have been established in this respect. The China National Committee on ageing has taken several positive measures to address these challenges. They are offering tax breaks to investors working in the ageing industries such as hospitals, homes and other industries for senior citizens. Chinese enterprises in growing numbers are investing money and manpower into developing products especially for senior citizens.

The General Recommendation No27 of the CEDAW Convention is aimed to protect the human rights of older women which outlines the content of the obligations assumed by States as parties to the Convention from the perspectives of ageing with dignity and older women’s rights; and, identifies the multiple forms of discrimination, abuse and violence that women face as they age; also includes legal measures and policy recommendations to mainstream the responses to the concerns of older women into national strategies, development initiatives and positive actions so that older women can participate fully without discrimination and on the basis of equality with men in the political , social, economic, cultural, civil and any other field in their society .
The General Recommendation also explains that States parties have an obligation to recognize and prohibit violence against older women, including those with disabilities, in legislation on domestic violence, sexual violence and violence in institutional settings. States parties should investigate, prosecute and punish all acts of violence against older women, including those committed as a result of traditional practices and beliefs. The states parties should take into account relevant UN resolutions on women and peace and security when addressing such matters, including in particular, Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008) and 1889 (2009).
The General Recommendation also recommends that States parties should provide older women with information on their rights and how to access legal services. They should train the police, the judiciary as well as legal aid and paralegal services on the rights of older women and sensitize and train public authorities and institutions on age- and gender-related issues.
The CEDAW Committee has increasingly addressed the violation of the rights of older women and sexual exploitation in various countries in its concluding observations, during constructive dialogue and in its list of issues and questions, as well as through follow up mechanism with time bound recommendations and policy measures. At present 187 States parties are party to the Convention, so the Convention has already received almost universal acceptability.

2. Training for health care providers and creating networking and awareness building to increase sexual safety for older women
In some Latin American and European countries, as well as in Australia and Canada, the medical profession and existing health and social service networks have played a leading role in raising public concern about the elder abuse. Creating a strong network on the issues of elder abuse across the nation and exchange of good practices regarding medical and legal services, training of health care providers and case workers as well as developing a strong knowledge base and awareness on the issue in the community in order to create an environment where victims of abuse can share experiences, develop the strength to cope with their fear and stress and raise their self esteem are essential steps to address.
Research on the effectiveness of the interventions also an important issue to work.

3. Capacity building and empowerment of older women and vulnerable groups
The problem of elder abuse cannot be properly addressed if the essential needs of older people – for food, shelter, security and access to health care – are not met. Illiteracy and innumeracy can severely restrict older women’s full participation in public and political life, the economy and access to a whole range of services and entitlements.
States parties should provide adequate non contributory pensions to all women who have no other pension or insufficient income security.

Many older women face discrimination in the workplace and are compelled to work in low paid or part time jobs without income security. Very few older women have access to pensions. Retirement ages also may differ between men and women. Employers in most cases do not consider older women for further investment in training and skill development programmes.

The CEDAW Committee expresses its concern about the age and gender based discrimination and pay gaps in the employment sector and lack of statistical data, disaggregated by age and sex on ageing issues. The Committee is particularly concerned about older women’s insecurity in respect of their financial, medical and housing needs and rights to inheritance and property including their exclusion from national ID networks, which cumulatively expose them to multiple forms of discrimination.
Capacity building and empowerment of older women is essential to strengthen their self respect and autonomy.

 

4. Access to free or affordable health care
Access to free or affordable health care services is very important for older women in order to enjoy a satisfactory standard of mental and physical health. Post menopausal difficulties and diseases, neglect in disability and absence of geriatric medicine requires special attention. Older women face a higher risk of chronic illness and disability as well as from degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis and cervical cancer. In many countries there is inadequate provision of health care for older women , which amounts to denial of affordable medical care for people especially in rural settings. In particular, inadequate provision of long term care services remains a persistent concern in many countries, which is a gray area to address the issues of elder abuse and sexual abuse of older women.

Proper treatment and psychosocial counseling should be available to victims who experienced elder and sexual abuse .Uniform policy guide line for care givers, proper training for case workers are impotent aspect in this respect.

Reproductive health care services need to be provided to older women in an age appropriate manner.

Adequate budget allocation for treatment and long term care for older women are high priority concerns of the present day reality, which needs to be addressed as a priority issue.

5. Role of NGOs

NGOs can play a great role in creating massive awareness campaign regarding elder abuse and sexual violence against older women. They can submit shadow reports or alternative reports to the CEDAW Committee on elder abuse and violations of human rights of older women, so that the committee can raise these issues to the States Parties for remedial measures.

NGOs and civil society members should work to create an environment where older women’s contributions are recognised as a care giver to HIV patients or Migrant families also should be respected for their past services so that older women can live with dignity and honour.

It is true that in some African countries older women live on practicing FGM. Considering it as a harmful traditional practice, the CEDAW Committee urged the States parties to provide an alternative livelihood option for these women so that they may leave this profession as well as may survive against poverty.

 

Conclusion
Not very long ago, the issue of ageing was considered a matter of importance for only a handful of countries. Nowadays, the number of persons aged 60 and over is increasing at an unprecedented pace, anticipated to rise from its current 740 million to reach 1 billion by the end of the decade. Unfortunately the increase in numbers has also shed light on the lack of adequate protection mechanisms, and on the existing gaps in policies and programmes to address the situation of older persons.
The nations of the world must create an environment and policy measures in which ageing is accepted as a natural part of the life cycle, where anti-ageing attitudes, stereotyping and discrimination are discouraged, where older people are given the right to live in dignity – free of abuse and exploitation – and are given opportunities to participate fully in educational, cultural and economic activities.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the International Federation on Ageing and Ryerson University for hosting this very important programme on the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat and the Ontario Women's Directorate for sponsoring and facilitating this event. I think that similar programmes can be hosted in various cities around the world to create greater awareness on the issues of elderly abuse and the rights of the older women.

Thank you.

References:
1. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

2. CEDAW GENERAL RECOMMENDATION NO 27 on the protection of the human rights of older women

3. World Population on Ageing 1950-2050 Population Division, DESA, United Nations
IV. DEMOGRAPHIC PROFILE OF THE OLDER POPULATION
4. Older persons and social protection - Independent Expert on human rights and extreme Poverty

6. WORLD REPORT ON VIOLENCE AND HEALTH :Chapter 5, Abuse of the elderly

7. Intimate Partner Violence in the United States
.http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/index.html
8. Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being (pdf) report.

9. SEXUAL ASSAULT AND THE OLDER WOMAN:
Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region

9. Abuse of older women:
“The public at large is generally unaware of the incidences of sexual assaults against the elderly.”

10 .Broken Trust: The New York Times Editorial.

11. VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence
12. The Extent and Frequency of Abuse in the Lives of Older Women and Their Relationship with Health Outcomes

13. New Editor of the Gerontologist: Rachel Pruchno, PhD
14. Canadian Network for the prevention of elder abuse
15. Published report of the US Government and Justice Department on Elder abuse
16. US national study of sexual abuse in long term care facilities
17. February 2007 issue of “The Gerontologist”
18. World Health Organization (WHO) study:2002

 

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INTERPRETATION OF THE ISLAMIC JURISPRUDENCE IN THE SPIRIT OF THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS NORMS AND THE CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN

 

FERDOUS ARA BEGUM
Former Member of the UN CEDAW COMMITTEE

 

Rabat Round Table Discussion on
Women Leading Change in the Muslim World

Ministry of the Interior, Kingdom of Morocco and
Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College
May, 16-17, 2011

RABAT, MOROCCO

 

At the very outset I would like to thank Dr. Rangita De Silva and Dr Zarrok Nazat for inviting me in this important roundtable discussion on the Role of women in leading changes in the Islamic World.

INTRODUCTION

The concept of nondiscrimination and equal rights for both men and women in all spheres of their lives as enshrined in the CEDAW Convention (1979) and all other Human Rights Frameworks generated a new realization and discourse in the Islamic world. The Universal Declaration on human Rights (1948) states in Article one that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. By ratification of these International human rights frameworks States parties are in obligation to domesticate these human rights standard in their own legal system.

At present about 187 states parties have ratified the CEDAW convention which is almost a universal ratification for the Convention. Except Iran, Sudan and Somalia all other Muslim countries have ratified or acceded to the CEDAW convention. Many of these Muslim countries imposed reservations under Article 28 of the convention on certain core Articles, such as Article 2, 16, 9 etc of the convention in the name of Islamic Sharia law.

More or less 20 Muslim States parties are maintaining reservations on the Convention (on Article 2 and 16) on the basis of Islamic Sharia laws. These are namely, Algeria , Bangladesh , Brunei , Egypt, Iraq, Jordon, Kuwait, Libya , Malaysia, Maldives Mauritania , Morocco , Niger ,Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and UAE.

SCOPE OF THIS ARTICLE

In this article we will examine the Islamic jurisprudence in the spirit of International human rights norms and how reform process in different Islamic countries could minimize differences in the area of women’s equal access to public goods such as education, health , employment, rights to justice and political participation as well as equal rights in the family relations such as marriage, divorce, custody rights and inheritance to the property and most importantly withdrawal of the reservations on the CEDAW Convention. In the elaboration of this article we will also touch upon the issues like gender stereotyping , violence against women, patriarchy, harmful traditional practices, like FGM, honour killing, dowry related crime etc also minimum age of marriage, consequence of early marriage , polygamous union etc which affect women in realization of equality and non discrimination status. We would also examine how women’s human rights, International human rights frameworks, i.e., CEDAW and Islamic jurisprudence are not contradictory to each other.

DIVINE LAWS UNCHANGEABLE IN CHARACTER

Implications of these reservations indicate that provisions of those Articles are not binding upon those countries imposed reservations as it is not compatible with Quranic law. It is often argued that Muslim family law systems cannot be amended to allow equality between men and women because these are divine laws and therefore unchangeable, or that practices cannot be changed because they are part of the Islamic tradition.

Many Muslim countries view that the CEDAW as culturally biased towards the western nations and have consequently placed reservations on the elements that they see as in fundamental contradiction with Islamic Sharia laws based on Holy Quran and Sunna. Also most Muslims regard the advent of Sharia laws as a significant force in the improvement of women's rights.

Women human rights activists and Islamic feminists’ consider this notion as patriarchal interpretations of Islam based on unequal family relations that aim to subordinate women. They argue that justice is inherent to the philosophy of law in Islam, thus laws or legal amendments introduced in the name of Sharia and Islam should reflect the values of equality, justice, love, compassion and mutual respect among all human beings. These are values and principles on which Muslims agree and which Muslim jurists hold to be among the indisputable objectives of the Sharia, and are also consistent with universal human rights principles and values.

In the present paper we will try to examine the reconciliations of the Quranic injunctions on women’s rights with the existing human rights frame works i.e CEDAW.

ARTICLE 2, 9 AND 16 AND OBJECT AND PURPOSE OF THE CONVENTION

Article no. 2 of the Convention Says that States parties should eliminate discrimination against women in all its forms through appropriate legislation and repeal all national penal provisions which are discriminatory to women. Article 16 governs family relations, such as equal rights & responsibilities for marriage & dissolution of marriage, custody rights etc. and article 9 represents equal citizenship rights.
The General recommendation 28 of the CEDAW convention clearly mentions that those reservations on Article no 2 and 16 goes against the object & purpose of the convention. Practical realization of the principles of equality and nondiscrimination cannot be achieved keeping reservations on article no. 2 and 16.

ARTICLE 16 OF THE CONVENTION AND MUSLIM FAMILY LAWS

It is important to note that Islamic Nations imposed reservations mostly on the article 2 and 16 of the CEDAW Convention. Article 16 is the most debated legal position in the Muslim world which represents the following core themes of the family matters.

1. Equal Right to Marry and Choose a Spouse
2. Equal Rights and Obligations of Spouses during the Marriage
3. Equal right for the dissolution of Marriage
4. Equal rights for Custody and Guardianship of Children
5. Same rights for the ownership and acquisition of the property

Here lies the real tension and challenge for the Islamic States to realize women’s human rights as covered by the CEDAW Convention.

CEDAW CONVENTION AND STATE OBLIGATION

Ratification of the CEDAW Convention, which is one of the core international human rights treaties of the UN treaty system, requires Member States to undertake legal obligations to respect protect and fulfill human rights. In other words States parties are committed to adopt international human rights standard in their national legal system and incorporate those in the constitution.

There are several Islamic countries have ratified CEDAW without imposing any reservations on the Convention, such as Afghanistan. Many States Parties in the recent times have withdrawn reservations on the Convention, such as Morocco on Article 16, Maldives on Article (7) and Bangladesh on Article 9 etc.

Many Islamic Nations such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey complied with the CEDAW principles and brought amendments accordingly in their national legal system. As a signatory to the CEDAW Convention States parties are liable to submit reports to the committee every 4 years and explain the situation of women’s advancement in respect of their rights and legal protection for them in the country in light with the convention.

WHAT IS THE CEDAW CONVENTION?

The United Nations adopted the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) in 1979 which is the only legally binding international instrument to prohibit all forms of discrimination against women committed by public authorities or by any person or organization in the full range of civil, political, economic, social & cultural areas, covering both public & private life. The convention also targets culture & tradition as the influential forces shaping gender roles. The purpose of this treaty is to eliminate de facto and de jure discrimination and inequality on the basis of sex.

The CEDAW convention aims at achieving uniform development for women all over the world using global normative standards that has been enshrined in the 16 substantive articles of CEDAW and its 28 general recommendations. The CEDAW convention’s profound impact on the legal and socio political development of States parties including Muslim States who are party to the Convention are visible in the strengthening of institutional provisions for the protection of women’s rights and efforts to bring existing legislation in to conformity with convention principles, improvement in the capacity of national institutions to guarantee equality between men & women. Furthermore, increasing use of the convention, and the committee’s general recommendations by the States parties provide an important roadmap in developing its short term and long term national plan for advancement of women.
CEDAW legally binds all States Parties to fulfill, protect and respect women’s human rights – this means that States are responsible not just for their own actions, but also for eliminating discrimination that is being perpetrated by private individuals and organizations. Gender inequalities must be addressed at all levels and in all spheres, including the family, community, market and state.

IJTIHAD SUPPORTS REFORM MEASURES IN THE ISLAMIC JURISPRUDENCE

Many Islamic countries, such as, Morocco, Malaysia, Tunisia and Turkey have initiated reform measures in the family code in the line with the CEDAW principles to eliminate discriminate against women using the wisdom of ijtihad.

This is a creative interpretation of the Quran based on independent and contextual reasoning in light of relevant societal, historic and cultural rationality. Ijtihad is a flexible tool which has been used by the Islamic scholars to mold and shape the traditional Islamic legal theory to fit the needs of changing times .The Quran (Devine law), Sunnah (tradition of the prophet), Ijma (consensus) and Qiyas (analogy) are important sources of Islamic knowledge and the main basis of ijtihad, which provides a greater degree of flexibility in contemporary interpretation of Islamic laws and practices. It is considered that Ijtihad is the science of interpretation and rule making in the area of Islamic jurisprudence.

In recent times, even the judiciary has invoked ijtihad in its jurisprudence. For example, Justice Nasim Hasan Shah of the Supreme Court of Pakistan has invoked ijtihad in one of his judgment.

The Iranian Novel Laureate, Dr. Shirin Ebadi too argues that, “In Islam, there exists a tradition of intellectual interpretation and innovation known as ijtihad, practiced by jurists and other clerics over the centuries to debate the meaning of Quranic teachings as well as their application to modern ideas and situations.”

WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND ISLAM

It is true that in a great majority of Muslim countries participation of
Women in public and political life, even their ability to hold high-ranking positions in a State apparatus can be justified and supported from the point of view of Islamic law.

In Bangladesh both the Prime Minister and Opposition leaders are women and holding this position for more than one and half a decade. It is important to note that Bibi Aisha, wife of the Prophet Mohammed actively participated in political and public life. She is one of the most renowned and credible narrators of the Hadith.

Women’s equal access to education, health needs, political and economic empowerment of women and protection of human rights of rural women and older women are high priority issues in most Muslim countries. These are important indicators to fulfill the MDG, Beijing and CEDAW implementation goals, also these standards are not confrontational to Islamic Jurisprudence as well.

For example, Bangladesh, Egypt, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Morocco and many other Muslim countries have taken reform measures in the election law and imposed Quota to improve political participation of women in local and national level. As per Beijing PFA all of the signatory Muslim countries have developed Action plan and policy measures for the advancement of women and gender mainstreaming is the integral part of the national planning process.

From the examination of the CEDAW concluding observations it is very clear that due to CEDAW monitoring process most of the Muslim countries have taken adequate measures to achieve parity in girls’ education at the primary and tertiary level. Combating trafficking of women and girls for the exploitation of sex and violence against women including domestic violence also are high priority issues in most of the Muslim countries.

Many countries including Bangladesh enacted legal measures to end violence against women. Women’s health, maternal health, reproductive rights of women and girls are considered as important issues in the budget allocation of the Muslim countries.

Respect to women and respect to mother are Quranic teaching, which are very much visible in Quranic verses especially in the Sura Bakara and Sura Nisa. This is also an important moral support for the protection of the human rights of older women.

Quranic injunctions do not require a Muslim wife to share her resources with her spouse or spend it on household expenses. Islam has accorded women civil, political and property rights, including rights of inheritance. She has been guaranteed complete control over what she earns and possesses. . It is also important to note that a wife may seek a decree for dissolution of her marriage on the grounds that her husband is incapable of, or will not maintain her.

A Muslim husband is required to pay his wife a sum of money or other property as dower as part of the marriage contract, therefore, in addition to her share in inheritance, she also receives a further share as dower. She gets her part of property from three different sources i.e., father, husband and son, and thus increases her share to inheritance. Inheritance rights are crucial for Muslim women because distribution and control of property and assets significantly affect their ability to enjoy stable and fulfilling lives and to exercise their rights. Practice of providing “Meher” to wife in the Islamic marriage could be considered as a positive discrimination to women but practice of “dowry’is considered as a crime.

But obviously these rationale and rules were not conceived from an equitable point of view to maintain equality and non discrimination standard in the family life.
The above discussed economic, civil and political rights of women in Islamic countries are very much compatible to the international human rights norms. But levels of the advancement of women and enjoyment of their rights in terms of gender equality and nondiscrimination are not the same in all of the Muslim countries, as these are mostly depended on the socio economic situation, levels of poverty, political commitments, religious bias and stereotyped attitude towards women.

INEQUALITIES AND GENDER BASED DISCRIMINATIONS

However, most inequalities and contradictions in the Islamic jurisprudence regarding women’s rights exist in family matters and related traditions and practices such as marriage, dissolution of marriage, Custody and Guardianship rights, inheritance to property etc. In most Muslim countries women face gender based discrimination in the family code which is deeply embodied on the ideas of the inferiority or the superiority of either sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.

Discrimination against women can be manifested in the practice of polygamy, superior rights of the male to terminate marriage, unequal rights in marriage relations, husband considered as the natural guardian of children thus unequal rights in the child custody and guardianship, female genital mutilation, honour killing, lower age of marriage for women, early marriage, husband’s consent for using contraceptives, travel or outside work, disciplining wife through beating, lack of access to justice, traditional gender role and stereotyped attitude towards women etc.

Patriarchal interpretation of the Islamic Sharia laws along with traditional practices and customs created an unequal situation where men get priority and superiority in the family relations which consequently put women in the situation of low self esteem and powerless. Women continue to suffer profound and pervasive human rights violations, such as gender-based violence in the public and private spheres. A glaring example of gender based violence is the case of gang rape of Mukhter Mai in Pakistan and her inability to get remedial justice in the court. Fatwa against women and consequential violence could be another example in this direction.

Women continue to suffer profound and pervasive human rights violations, such as gender-based violence in the public and private spheres.

In 1979, CEDAW Convention embodied with the concept and commitment of nondiscrimination and gender equality created a new horizon for women which is nullified with the imposition of reservations on the core articles of the Convention.

FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES AND WAR WIDOWS IN THE CONFLICT ZONE

In the traditional Muslim society in line with traditional gender role, men perform the responsibilities of family maintenance and women require being obedient to their husbands in return for maintenance. But the present day reality is different. Now in the modern day society, mostly both spouse work to supplement family expenses and participate equally to create security and comfort as well. In case of war widows and single family households, in absence of any male member, women work to support their households and supplement the cost of education and other expenses for their children and family. Thus traditional values for male oriented households and family responsibilities do not work anymore. The CEDAW Committee has emphasized the importance of women being able to earn an income as well as recognition of both financial and non-financial contributions to the family.

REFORM INITIATIVES IN THE FAMILY LAWS

Muslim scholars ,women human rights activists and NGOs; are continuously working to achieve gender equality through a more dynamic interpretation of the Holly Quran which permits consideration of the opinions of individual jurists from different schools of thoughts . This could open a door for a new egalitarian vision of women’s rights in conformity with the requirements of the CEDAW at the same time respecting the Islamic heritage.

Besides, The CEDAW Committee has been increasingly addressing in its concluding observations, during constructive dialogue and in its list of issues and questions, as well as through follow up mechanism the discrimination faced by women in various countries in a wide range of areas and call for withdrawal of reservations from the convention and full implementation of the convention principles in the domestic legal system.

Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt and many other Muslim countries initiated reform measures in the family code on some key issues such as rising age of marriage to 18, restricting polygamy, providing greater security at divorce, prohibiting child marriage etc. Government of Bangladesh brought an amendment recently in the Citizenship act of 1951 and enacted law on domestic violence. Also in 1961 brought an amendment in the Muslim family law restricting polygamy and child custody and guardianship law.

Among the countries with the most liberal family codes is Tunisia, which has had a relatively liberal family code for many years. Morocco enacted a family code called the Mudawana in 2004 that has substantially expanded women's rights.

The Mudawana raised the age of marriage to 18, restricted polygamy and provided women strong protection at divorce including property management in the event of a separation or divorce. Amendment also brought in the child custody and inheritance.

The Moroccan reform has strengthened the argument that equal status within marriage is compatible with Shari'a law. One of the strategies advocates are using is a progressive interpretation of Islamic principles is being used in the revision of Malaysian Islamic Family Law of 1984 and in the Million Signature campaign in Iran for a more egalitarian revision of the civil laws.

The 2002 reforms to the Turkish Civil Law raised the age of marriage to 17 and equalized it to both women and men. Moreover, it created a joint system of property at marriage and equalized women’s and men’s rights in the marriage in relation to custody, property ownership, registration of marriage and births etc.

CONCLUSION

Muslim scholars ,women human rights activists and NGOs; are continuously working to achieve gender equality through a more dynamic interpretation of the Holly Quran which permits consideration of the opinions of individual jurists from different schools of thoughts . This could open a door for a new egalitarian vision of women’s rights in conformity with the requirements of the CEDAW at the same time respecting the Islamic heritage.

REFERENCES:

1. The CEDAW and family laws: In search of common ground, Musawah Research project on CEDAW, October, 2010.

2. Conceptualizing Islamic Law, CEDAWand Women’s Human Rights in Plural Legal Settings: A Comparative Analysis of Application of CEDAW in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan: Shaheen Sardar Ali.

3. Women , Islam and International Law, within the context of CEDAW: Ekaterina Yahyaoui Krivenko.

4. Cairo Roundtable Readings on Family Law and Islamic Feminism.

5. Women Leading Change: collection of essays on “Women’s Leadership Network: Women’s Political, Public, and Economic Participation in the Muslim World.”

6. Encyclopaedia of Quran.

7. WOMEN′S REBELLION: TOWARDS A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN ISLAMIC LAW: Andra Nahal Behrouz.

8. Towards deeper understanding of Al- Quran: Md. Ferdous Khan.

9. Usulul Fikh : Shah Abdul Hanan.

10. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional protocol.

11. International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.

12. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

 

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The Implementation of CEDAW in African Countries and Role of Local Government Elected Women towards Gender Equality.

Ferdous Ara Begum
Former Member of the UN CEDAW Committee

First African Forum of local Government Elected Women
In Tangier, Morocco
From 8 - 11 March, 2011

Organized by the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa, in partnership with the Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Morocco

 

Excellencies,
Distinguished participants, colleagues and friends,
Assalaamu Alaikum and good afternoon.
At the very outset I would like to thank Dr.Najat Zarrouk, Governor, Director of Training in the Ministry of Interior in Morocco and Member of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration in UN for inviting me to the First African Forum of Local Government Elected Women on the theme of “Millennium Development Goals and Good Local Governance: Roles and Responsibilities of Women’s Leadership “

I feel immensely honored to be present in this august forum. This is my greatest joy that today we all will celebrate the International Women’s Day honoring the Local Government elected women in the African region who are present here at the “First Women African Forum of Local Government elected Women.’

I will say a few words on the International Women’s Day and role of local government elected women towards gender equality.

Also I would like to focus on the issues of the implementation of CEDAW Convention in the countries of African Region and impact of CEDAW on the advancement of women in the last three decades.

International Women’s Day and Local Government Elected Women

In 1975, during the International Women's Year, the United Nations began celebrating 8 March as International Women’s Day. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

Today I congratulate the local government elected women across African Region for their great contribution in upholding women’s human rights at the grassroots level and promoting gender equality and advancement of women in the remote corners of their countries. They are definitely the agents of change in their own environment.

In the just concluded 55th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, Ms. Michelle Bachelet undersecretary general and executive director of the UN WOMEN emphasized on five thematic priorities in the country-specific context, these are:
1. expanding women’s voice, leadership and participation;
2. ending violence against women;
3. ensuring women’s full participation in conflict resolution;
4. enhancing women’s economic empowerment;
5. gender equality priorities central to national, local and sectoral planning and budgeting
I am sure that Governments of African region would take appropriate measures so that Local Government Elected Women who are the agents of change and local leaders can implement those directives in order to achieve advancement of women, good governance and realization of CEDAW and MDG in their own locality. Sectoral planning and Budget allocation is very important in this respect.

30th Anniversary of CEDAW Convention

We have observed 30th anniversary of the CEDAW Convention and 10th anniversary of the adoption of its optional protocol in the year 2010. During these 3 decades, the CEDAW Convention brought a great change in the life of women and has provided opportunities for countries to improve the status of women all over the world.

In many countries, CEDAW has been a force for change and has created opportunities for dialogue among citizens, civil society, governmental representatives, and the global community about the gaps and challenges towards the advancement of women.

CEDAW has been cited to protect women and girls against violence and trafficking; to prevent discrimination against women in all spheres of life, to protect inheritance and property ownership; to promote women’s full participation in the economic and political life in their own countries; and to advance women’s human rights by promoting equality. The CEDAW Convention has also been used to educate lawmakers, law enforcement officials, members of the judiciary and the citizens about the rights of women.

CEDAW Convention and Gender Equality

The United Nations adopted the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) in 1979. This is the only human rights treaty for women at the UN.
CEDAW is the only legally binding international instrument to prohibit all forms of discrimination against women committed by public authorities or by any person or organization in the full range of civil, political, economic, social & cultural areas, covering both public & private life. The convention also targets culture & tradition as the influential forces shaping gender roles. It is one of the core international human rights treaties of the United Nations treaty system, which requires Member States to undertake legal obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights.
Provisions protecting women’s human rights exist in all of the core international human rights treaties. What is significant about CEDAW is that it is exclusively devoted to gender equality, one of the key elements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is in CEDAW that the specifics of women’s human rights to equality and non-discrimination are spelled out in detail, and in broad range.

CEDAW legally binds all States Parties to fulfill, protect and respect women’s human rights – this means that States are responsible not just for their own actions, but also for eliminating discrimination that is being perpetrated by private individuals and organizations. Gender inequalities must be addressed at all levels and in all spheres, including the family, community and state. CEDAW recognizes that discrimination is often most deeply rooted in spheres of life such as culture, family and interpersonal relations – it addresses the negative impact of gender stereotyping as well.
The CEDAW convention aims at achieving uniform development for women all over the world using global normative standards that has been enshrined in the 16 substantive articles of CEDAW and its 28 general recommendations. But rate of progress in the advancement of women varies from country to country depending on the socio economic situation and political commitment of the state party.

Impact of CEDAW Convention
CEDAW promotes women’s full participation in economic, political and social life, which has enormous benefits for societies as a whole. Women’s health, education and economic status have numerous benefits for household members, particularly children. Women’s participation in the workforce leads to the growth of individual businesses and the economy as a whole. Women’s leadership in social movements and participation in government can foster peace, justice and security around the world.

As with other United Nations human rights treaties, each ratifying country submits a periodic report to the committee of 23 independent experts called the “CEDAW Committee” — which then offers its own recommendations to the reporting states parties. The monitoring mechanism of CEDAW through implementation and review process provides a forum for constructive dialogue with the State party and concluding comments from the committee about the status of women and girls in each country, and helps to provide a “blueprint” for further progress in each country

The CEDAW committee has consistently voiced its concern over the reservations of states parties in respect of some vital articles of the convention, while raising awareness of the impact on women of major global trends, including women and HIV/AIDS, FGM, Human Trafficking, Gender Based Violence, equal participation in the decision making and political activities etc. It has also played a crucial role in making the United Nations more gender sensitive and promoting women’s universal human rights.
CEDAW Convention almost has achieved universal ratification, at present 187 countries have ratified the CEDAW Convention.
In the African continent except Somalia and Sudan all other States Parties have ratified CEDAW and have taken several initiatives to implement CEDAW Principles in their own Countries.
The South African and Ugandan constitutions, for instance, contained significant provisions guaranteeing women’s equality, based on the convention’s principles. Morocco has brought a historic amendment to its family laws under article 16. A new quota system opened the doors for 30 women to enter the Moroccan parliament in 2002. This was followed by a progressive reform of the Mudwana law which allowed women to become judges. Egypt enacted a law banning FGM and imposed quota for more participation of women in the parliament. In 2003 the Constitution of Rwanda was amended to enshrine non-discrimination and gender equality, triggering extensive legal reforms to remove discriminatory provisions, particularly in the Family Code, Criminal Code. Women now have access to rights that they were previously denied, including the right to inherit family property

Security Council Resolution 1325

On October 31st 2000, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. It emphasized the vital role of women in conflict resolution and mandated a review of the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peace building and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution, as well as reconstruction and rehabilitation processes which is important for many of the African countries particularly those who suffer from Armed conflicts, such as the Rwanda, the Congo, the Sub Saharan Africa etc.
Women affected by forced displacement due to armed conflict or statelessness, asylum seekers, refugees and women belonging to minorities of African descent are subject to multiple forms of structural discrimination with respect to access to education, social services, healthcare, employment, economic safety net as well as social and political participation. Women belonging to those groups are also particularly vulnerable to poverty and gender based violence, including domestic violence. Older women are particularly vulnerable to above mentioned situation. . The UNSC 1325 and CEDAW are powerful tools when used together. Nepal is the first country in South Asia to have a Plan of Action on the implementation of the SCR 1325.

Implementation of CEDAW Convention in the countries of the African region
Africa is a vast and diverse region and a large continent. This is a place of incredible diversity of people, landforms, language, cultures, livelihoods, religions, customs and practices. Countries of African region are experiencing many common themes and challenges in regard to women’s rights and discrimination against women which travel across many, if not all of these borders.
I will touch upon some of the leading countries following CEDAW jurisprudence like Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia and some of the slow progressed countries in respect of women’s rights like Botswana, Kenya, and Malawi.
For rest of the countries I will go by following themes, like Particularities of Women and violence, rural life, employment, education, health, legal rights.

MOROCCO
Morocco has introduced comprehensive reforms to its family law in recent years. The original Moudawanah, or Family Code, was introduced following independence in 1957, and made wives legally subordinate to their husbands. Morocco ratified CEDAW in 1993 with few reservations on Article 16.
After civil society organizations advocated human rights for women for many years, Morocco introduced, with the support and cooperation of His Majesty the King Mohamed VI and the Prime Minister, a new Moudawanah in 2004.

Using Article 16 of CEDAW as a guide, the new code gives women greater equality and protection for their human rights within marriage and divorce. Husbands and wives now have joint responsibility for their families.

The Code had increased the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18, changed marriage and divorce laws, and greatly restricted polygamy. It also introduced Family Courts to ensure that the new rights are enforced.

Morocco’s introduction of the new Family Code was part of a broader wave of reforms, including changes to the Labor Code to introduce the concept of sexual harassment in the workplace (2004), changes to the Penal Code to criminalize spousal violence, changes to the Nationality Code (2007) to give women and men equal rights to transmit nationality to their children, and changes to the Electoral Code, to increase women’s political participation by creating a “national list” that reserves 30 parliamentary seats for women (2002).” In December 2008, His Majesty the King Mohammed VI publically banned discrimination against women, stating “Our country has become an international actor of which the progress and daring initiatives in this matter are readily recognized.”
In the Concluding comments on the 3rd and 4th periodic reports of Morocco the CEDAW Committee noted with appreciation the work of the Royal Commission on the Personal Status Code and commends the State party for the important legal reforms undertaken in the field of human rights and especially to eliminate existing discrimination against women, such as the adoption of the Family Code, the Nationality Law, the Law on Civil Registration, the Labor Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure as well as the amendments to the Penal Code and its programs to eliminate violence against women and to maximize universal basic education .

The Committee recommended that the State party take temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, to ensure that rural women enjoy their political, social, economic and cultural rights without any discrimination, especially with regard to access to education and health care facilities. It also recommended that they are fully integrated in the formulation and implementation of all sectoral policies and programs

Tunisia
While considering the fifth and sixth periodic reports of Tunisia, the CEDAW Committee noted with appreciation that the State party has a firm determination in achieving gender equality and aligning its legislative framework with international standards, including the Convention. In this respect, the committee commended that Tunisia is regarded by many other Arab and Muslim countries as a model.

The Committee welcomed steps undertaken by the State party in view of reviewing and revising discriminatory laws, namely:
(a) Amendment to the Code of Personal Status (Law No. 2007-32) in May 2007 to equalize the minimum age of marriage for women and men to 18 years.
(b) Amendment of the Nationality Code (Law No. 2002-4) in February 2002 to allow a Tunisian woman married to a foreigner to transmit her nationality to a child born abroad upon the death, disappearance or incapacity of the father.

South Africa
In the concluding comments on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th periodic reports of South Africa the CEDAW Committee welcomed the adoption of the Strategic Framework on Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality within the Public Service in 2006 and the fact that the State party exceeded the 50% representation of women at all levels of the Senior management target; women currently represent 54.38% of all people employed in the Public Service.
The Committee noted with satisfaction that South Africa has adopted the 50/50 gender parity in line with the Southern African Development Community’s Protocol on Gender and Development (SADC Protocol) and that currently women represent 44% of the parliamentarians and 43% of the members of the Cabinet.
The Committee also urged the State party to give priority attention to combating violence against women and girls and to adopting comprehensive measures to address such violence, in accordance with its general recommendation No. 19.

The Committee also expressed serious concern about the persistence of entrenched harmful cultural norms and practices, including Ukuthwala (forced marriages of women and girls to older men through abduction), polygamy and the killing of “witches”. The Committee also expresses its concern at the continuing stereotypical portrayal of women in the media, which encourages discrimination and undermines the equality of women and men.

Egypt

In the concluding comments on the Combined 6th and 7th periodic reports of Egypt the CEDAW Committee welcomed the adoption of the new child law (Law No. 126 of 2008), which raises the age of marriage from 16 to 18 years for both males and females and criminalizes female genital mutilation. The Committee further welcomed the State party’s acceptance of the Nationality code.

Egypt also introduced reforms in 2001 to permit no-fault divorce (divorce that does not require allegation of a spouse being at fault) and imposed quota to ensure higher political participation of women in the parliament.

The Committee recommended the State party to develop comprehensive data on the situation of rural women in all areas covered by the Convention. The Committee also requested the State party to accelerate the process of issuance of identity cards to all women, including women in rural and remote areas.

The Committee urged the State party to give priority attention to combating violence against women and girls and to adopting comprehensive measures to address such violence, in accordance with its general recommendation No. 19.

Malawi
At the 6th periodic report of Malawi the Committee expressed its concern about the precarious situation of women in rural areas, as these women constitute the majority of women in the state party and are disproportionately affected by the lack of adequate health services, education, ownership of land and inheritance, economic opportunities and social benefits. The Committee reiterated its previous concern about rural women’s access to justice and the enforcement of their rights under the Convention. It is also particularly concerned about the prevalence of harmful traditional practices and the persistence of customs and traditions in rural areas that violate the human rights of women and girls and adversely affect their equality and advancement.

Kenya
While noting some efforts made by the State party, in the 7th periodic report of Kenya the CEDAW Committee reiterated its concern at the persistence of adverse cultural norms, practices and traditions as well as patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes regarding the roles, responsibilities and identities of women and men in all spheres of life including family relations. The Committee noted that such stereotypes also contribute to the persistence of violence against women as well as harmful practices, including female genital mutilation (FGM), polygamy, bride price and wife inheritance.
Botswana

The Committee considered the combined initial, second and third periodic report of Botswana and expressed its concern about the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes concerning women’s roles and responsibilities that discriminate against women and also expressed serious concern about the persistence of entrenched harmful traditional and cultural norms and practices, including widowhood rites and practices, the payment of bogadi (dowry).The Committee recommended continued and sustained efforts to address the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls.

The Committee is especially concerned about the situation of rural women and women heads of households, particularly of their precarious living conditions, extreme poverty and lack of access to justice, health care, ownership of land, inheritance, education, credit facilities and community services.

THEME BASED ANALYSIS OF CEDAW IMPLEMENTATION IN VARIOUS AFRICAN COUNTRIES

Violence against women in African region

According to the concluding comments of the CEDAW committee on different countries of African region, such as Congo, Malawi, Mauritania, Rwanda, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Guinea, Nigeria etc. gender based violence at home, in the work place and elsewhere is a serious problem and poses a threat to women’s human rights and gender equality. Very recently the committee issued a statement to the Government of Guinea Conakry against mass rape by armed forces. In the situation of armed conflict and civil war women are most vulnerable to rape and violence as had happened in Rwanda and other places.

Domestic violence, rape, incest, wife inheritance, Female Genital Mutilation, forced marriage, denial of rights to inherited property, traditional harmful practices such as Ukuthwala, witchcraft allegation against widows or older women, forced feeding are the different aspects of culture-based discrimination against women found (CEDAW) throughout the African region . People in traditional communities seldom recognize particular discrimination as “violence against women”

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one form of cultural violence against women which exists in many African countries such as Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Tanzania, Egypt etc., (UNICEF Child and CEDAW). These traditions contribute to stereotypes of women’s status in the community.

According to UN reports, 3 million girls worldwide still face the risk of FGM and around 120-140 million women have been subjected to the practice (UNICEF). Witch craft allegation and murder of widows and older women is another form of violence mostly by the family members in rural areas to grab their inheritance and property.
In 2007 civil society organizations in Cameroon put together a training manual for traditional leaders called “CEDAW Made Easy.” The manual gives traditional leaders the information and motivation to improve the lives of women in their communities by changing traditional practices that are harmful to women. As a result, certain harmful practices have been abolished in some regions.

The CEDAW Convention plays an important role in Africa. In many countries CEDAW has enlisted the support of governments to establish stable and effective conditions to eliminate discrimination against women. It also enlightens citizens about the negative results of violence towards women as well as women’s rights through the implementation of article 2, 5, 6 and 16 and General Recommendation 19.

Rural women

Article 14 is extremely important in Africa because the majority of women including older women and disabled women live in rural areas. In Tanzania nearly 80 Percent of women live in rural areas, where basic services, safe water, healthcare facilities and access to information are generally less available In Ethiopia nearly 90 % of the population is rural, and similarly in Malawi 9 out of 10 people live in a rural setting. The population remains predominantly rural nearly in every state in the region, these includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Togo, Sub Saharan Africa .etc.

Poor infrastructure, lack of access to education and basic healthcare, economic hardship and poverty along with the adverse effects of HIV and AIDS are among a few of the reasons why achieving the CEDAW goals has proved so challenging in rural areas of Africa.
Nearly every country report attempts to explain States party’s comprehensive plans to improve the situation of rural women through micro credit, access to capital and rural empowerment, however these plans have not always produced the desired results, often living condition in rural areas and poverty play the biggest role in women’s inability to access healthcare, education, clean water and a decent life (CEDAW).
Greater understanding of gender and empowerment would certainly help elevate the status of women in rural communities as their contribution is linked to production for consumption.

The CEDAW Committee calls upon the States Parties to intensify efforts to combat the feminization of poverty, gender based violence and sexual exploitation of women , as the root causes of discrimination, segregation, and as an impediment to the advancement of women.
The CEDAW Committee calls upon the States Parties to identify structural discriminations which is embodied in the traditional practices and social structures as well as in basic cultural values also in the discriminatory laws and practices and recommends the States Parties to apply political will and commitment to take all appropriate measures to address those issues.

Empowerment

Women in Africa face unique challenges in both the formal and the informal sectors because of lack of adequate training and educational opportunities, low skill and less job opportunities. The disparities between women and men in the workplace are significant with women being consistently underrepresented and under compensated for their efforts.

In Eritrea, more than seventy percent of the population depends on subsistence agriculture (CEDAW 2004). The same is true of many of the African countries but women’s ownership or inheritance to land is less recognized and women mostly work in the field with less or unpaid jobs. In Ethiopia, the women’s unemployment rate is much higher than the male unemployment rate.

In Eritrea, Zambia, Ethiopia the proportion of women who are employed in government sector mostly engaged in lower grade jobs instead of directors or department heads. This occurs due to inadequate training or education stemming from inequalities in the educational system.

But this is also true that because of CEDAW monitoring and Government initiatives women are receiving more and more maternity benefits, greater access to jobs, and higher quality professional training. Many countries at least address the concerns of CEDAW Article 11 on women’s employment.

Although many states in Africa have committed to work towards equality in employment for all of their citizens, there is still much to be done. Progress has been made, but it is slow and inconsistent. In order to attain the goal of equitable employment these countries need to increase their efforts in other societal realms such as education and political representation.

The CEDAW Committee in its concluding observations has urged States Parties to eliminate the structural barriers in the employment sector for women and broaden access to opportunities like education and training for greater participation of women in the labor market and more involvement of women in income and employment generation programms and paid work. States Parties also need to create awareness raising among men in respect of family responsibilities and raise maternity and paternity leave so that father also can take part in the child raising process and give women free time to build their career.

EDUCATION

Education is often used as an indicator for determining the real progress of a country.

As per Article 10 of the CEDAW the States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of education. The article also has further details including equal conditions for career, access to the same curriculum, elimination of stereotypes in education, equal benefits from scholarships and study grants, reduction of female student drop-out rates, equal opportunities to participate in sports.

The CEDAW concluding comments on African countries observe that education system of this region suffers from greatest inequality due to high dropout rates of females, violence in schools, and negative cultural norms.

High dropout rates are common and frequent among female students due to the high rates of sexual abuse in schools. This harassment comes from teachers as well as students. These negative consequences are rooted in a culture of patriarchy.

Another aspect that affects dropout rates is early marriage and/or pregnancy. Many girls in this region find themselves married, pregnant, or both at a very young age. Village women and girls are mostly facing early marriage and forced marriage at the early age which forced them to end their education and leave school.

Another threat to the female education in Africa is the continuation of stereotypes in curriculum. These curriculum inequalities only further hinder the development of equality of women within the society as they are deeply rooted into the male and female student’s minds throughout their education.

Besides these three negative aspects of education within African region, there are some positive changes which are directly related to the implementation of CEDAW. Many countries such as Burundi, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, and Kenya have made education compulsory and/or free for both sexes (CEDAW Country Reports). This has helped enrollment rates increase for both sexes in virtually every country in the region. Also, many governments are recognizing the need for Curriculum to portray women in equal positions to men thus helping eliminate female Stereotypes. Education enrollment and literacy rates have been on the rise and female students are great contributors to these improving statistics.

HEALTH

Women’s health and reproductive rights are important issues for the implementation of CEDAW convention. Health is a vital component to consider with regards to women’s rights and improving women’s lives.

In Africa, women face many health problems; such as low maternal health conditions, high maternal mortality, malnutrition, high fertility rates, diseases such as HIV/AIDS, unsafe abortion, Malaria, and Tuberculosis etc. Access to basic health needs is a problem for rural women, older women and disabled women .Shortage of health practitioners, supplies, contraceptives and health centers also pose a serious problem in the rural Africa.

Also female life expectancy declined in Kenya, Tanzania and some other countries due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS (CEDAW 2006) older women in the family are providing services as a care giver but without any support from the Government or any recognition from the family.

In Democratic Republic of the Congo maternal mortality rate was 870 per 100,000 live births in 1997 (CEDAW 2004). One of the causes of high maternal mortality rates is unsafe abortion. Women are also primary victims of malnutrition.

In general, the African governments have launched a variety of health campaigns and programs and have established organizations to deal with these issues. Governments have emphasized the primary health care including family planning, child immunization, prevention and control of endemic diseases.

In Mozambique, the government has established free health care services including prenatal and post-natal health care (CEDAW 2005). In Kenya, in its 2005-2006 estimation, the government has increased the allocation to the Ministry of Health almost four times (CEDAW 2006). Because of these governmental efforts, there is progress being made with regards to maternal health such as decreasing fertility rates, maternal mortality rates, prevalence of HIV/AIDS rates and infection from mother to child, the increase of the prevalence of contraceptives rates, and coverage of health care services.

However, there are still many challenges in the region which needs to be addressed with more budget allocation and appropriate policy measures to improve the health needs of women in Africa especially women in rural Africa.

LEGAL ISSUES

Enforcement of law in most of the African countries is very poor. Access to legal services by women and girls are inadequate. Rural women in most of the African countries face difficulties to seek justice against gender based violence, rape, trafficking and exploitation of sex. In absence of any appropriate law, women are suffering from domestic violence as this is considered as a private matter in the society. In most African countries legal system is not gender friendly. Police, Magistrate and Judges are not always trained with CEDAW jurisprudence.

One of the major points in ratifying CEDAW is implementing new laws to create a legitimate legal system that is free of gender biases and incorporates women’s rights. Article two; fifteen and sixteen pertain to the legal rights of women. In Africa there is a challenge in handling the co-existence of the statutory laws that are put in to place and the customary laws that are practiced.

In Zimbabwe—as in many other countries in Africa—while the law states that no woman can be turned down from a job due to her gender, once hired, many employers are legally allowed to provide special conditions for the female workers (CEDAW 1998). These conditions often create a harder working environment for women.

Women’s status in East Africa is heavily reliant on their roles as a mother and a wife. Before the ratification of CEDAW, women were required to have permission from their husbands to do many works outside the domestic sphere. Family planning is one of such area. For example, in Zambia, until 1990 women needed permission from their husband to attain birth control (CEDAW 2002).

While there have been many advances in the legal structures of Africa, there is still a long way to go. And initiative should come from within the society. Through ratifying CEDAW, states assign themselves to assume ways to end violence against women in all forms, including the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system. States must install institutions to protect women from discrimination and provide equal accesses to human rights as men and secure access to justice..

CONCLUSION
The CEDAW convention’s profound impact on the legal and socio political and economic development of states parties is visible in the strengthening of institutional provisions for the protection of women’s rights and efforts to bring existing legislation into conformity with convention principles, improvement in the capacity of national institutions to guarantee equality between men & women. Furthermore, increasing use of the convention, and the committee’s general recommendations by the States parties provide an important roadmap in developing its short term and long term national plan for advancement of women
However, discrimination against women still persists all over the world and in very few countries has the convention directly been applied to the courts. Also very few Judges and policy makers have knowledge about the treaty and the de facto discrimination against women remains universal.
Despite an increase in the number of women in decision making positions, there is still a persistent and glaring disparity between the numbers of women who hold decision-making positions in various levels worldwide. A pervasive patriarchal system, including customs and traditions which stereotypically confine women’s roles in the private sphere and male-dominated traditional political systems, has been largely responsible for women’s under-representation in political processes. Without women’s presence at the negotiating table, urgent concerns that impact half of the world often remains unattended.

The End

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Mainstreaming Food and Nutrition Interventions into Poverty Reduction Strategies

 

1. Introduction

Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign South Asian country in 1971 after a bloody independence war. It is a densely populated developing country with an area of 144,000 sq. kilometre deltaic land inhabited by about 135 million people. In conformity with the changes in health situation globally, the health scenario in the country has also been changing overtime. Rapid population growth, widespread poverty and malnutrition, shifts in disease pattern prevailing in the country and increasing urbanisation are the major contributing factors to these changes.

The constitution of Bangladesh mandates that, ‘it shall be a fundamental responsibility of the state to attain through planned economic growth ----- the provision of the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care.' 1 The various governments of the People's Republic that came to power since the independence, have been practising a planned development system, giving special attention to more than three-fourths of its population that resides in the rural areas. From the late seventies, the main thrust of the health and nutrition sector of the country has been the provision of Primary Health Care (PHC) services. A right-based approach has all along been followed to render the services, keeping the women and the children in the focus, as they have been the worst victims of ill-health and malnutrition. Together with all these, Bangladesh has all along been committed and one of the first few signatories to the various world summits that adopted the Child Right Convention (CRC), the Convention on Elimination Discrimination of all Types Against Women (CEDAW), World Food Summit Declaration and all other related documents.

•  Maternal & Child Health Situation

At the dawn of independence, the health and nutrition status of the population of the country was in a deplorable condition. The population growth rate as high as 2.7 percent and the life expectance at birth was as low as 45 years only.

The crude death rate and the infant mortality rate were 20.9 and 150 per 100 respectively. Health facilities and health professionals were also quite inadequate in comparison to the needs of the population. 2

For improving the overall situation, Bangladesh from its very beginning adopted a planned approach. The first five year plan of the country was therefore prepared and commenced from 1973. Continuation of similar medium term development plans was instrumental to ensure a consistent improvement of the situation. The bench-mark health and nutrition scenario before the commencement of the Fifth Five Year plan (1997-2002) is reflected in the following table: 3,4

Table 1: Health and Nutrition Status of the Population Reflected by Major Indicators

Sl No.

Indicators

Achievement 1997

Target 2002

1

Population growth rate (%)

1.75

1.32

2

Life expectancy at birth (yrs.)

58.0

60

3

Infant mortality rate/1000 (up to 01 yr. Age)

78

55

4

Child (under 5) mortality rate/1000

116

65

5

Maternal mortality rate/1000

3.6

3

6

Low birth weight of children (%)

35

15

7

Under 5 malnutrition (%)

•  Stunting

•  Wasting

 

-

-

 

40

5

8

Night blindness (%)

2.0

0

9

Iodine deficiency (visible & clinical)

47

30

10

Anaemia

•  Mother

•  Children (6-14 yrs.)

 

-

-

 

40

50

•  Objectives of the Fifth Five Year Plan:

The general objectives of the health, population and nutrition sector during the fifth five year plan were

•  to ensure universal access for the people

•  to essential health care and nutrition services of acceptable quality

•  to reduce further the fertility and population growth rates, infant and maternal mortality and morbidity rates and

•  to improve overall nutritional level of the population, particularly of the mother and the children.

4. Policies and Strategies:

•  Health & Population Policies

As has been the case with the previous five year plans, the PHC approach has also been adopted as the core policy to achieve the goals of health for all as well as demographic & MCH coverage targets during the fifth plan also. For effective implementation, PHC services were reorganized into a four-tier system as follows:

•  Community level – through community health workers and centres;

•  Union Parishad (local government unit) ward level-through satellite clinics/health posts;

•  Union level – through Union health and family welfare centres (HFWCs); and

•  Upazila (sub-district) level – through the upazila health centre.

In addition to the above core policy, the following major policy outlines were also adopted for achieving the objectives of the plan:

•  Introduction of an essential service package (ESP) including need-based reproduction health care to meet the major needs of the people with minimum required service providing facilities;

•  Introduction of an urban PFC, particularly to meet the needs of the large influx of migrants from rural to urban areas;

•  According to top priority to population and family welfare programmes, building up a national commitment and generating a social movement to promote two-child family norm;

•  Further strengthening the Expanded Programme for Immunization (EPI) with all related logistic service facilities;

•  Recruitment of more manpower for health and population services and strengthening the need-based medical and population education and research facilities for appropriate human resource development;

•  Further development and expansion of health and population infrastructure with necessary service facilities at all level of health care and population services;

•  Ensure supply and storage of essential drugs and equipment with a decentralized system for their needed utilization;

•  Special attention and preparedness to cope with the newly emerging and re-emerging diseases like STD/HIV/AIDS, malaria and mental/psychiatric problems;

•  Encourage development of indigenous and homeopathic systems of medicine to play a complementary role;

•  Involvement of the private sector and NGOs in order to promote their participation and ownership in health and population services;

•  Strengthening inter-sectoral coordination and interaction between health and population and other sector such as food assistance, income generation, nutrition and safe water supply.

•  Health & Population Strategies:

The core strategies adopted for redefining the role of the government for effective implementation of the above policies particularly with a focus on close coordination and complementarily with the nutrition interventions introduced in the country are as follows:

•  Strategic planning, programming and budgeting towards improvement of sector-wise and inter-sector management capacity;

•  Delivery of a package of essential one-stop services with particular emphasis on nutritional needs of the children and the mothers, both in rural and urban areas;

•  Delivery of increased quality hospital services at various level of PHC.

•  Achieving the demographic and MCH/FP goals by fulfilling the programme objectives;

•  Promoting the use of clinical methods of long effective type and persuing a result-oriented action plan especially in areas of lower acceptance rates;

•  Development of linkages complementarily and coordination with the inter-sectoral programmes having the objectives of health and nutrition improvement along with their sectoral objectives;

•  Popularising activities by utilising multi-sectoral workers and social/cultural institutions;

•  Enhancing collaboration and participation of the NGOs and involving local leaders and opinion makers/religious leaders for acceptance of population activities at the community level.

•  Nutrition Policies and Strategies:

Malnutrition has emerged as a serious public health problem in Bangladesh , particularly affecting the well-being of the mothers and the children in the ultra poor households. In order to arrest and reverse the situation by the year 2010, the government has adopted a National Food and Nutrition Policy 5 and a National Plan of Action on Nutrition (NPAN) 6 . The salient features of these policies and strategies for formulating and implementing a national multi-sectoral nutrition programme are as follows:

•  Incorporating nutrition considerations, objectives and components in various relevant sectoral programmes;

•  Incorporating food and nutrition improvement interventions in to poverty reduction and income earning programmes;

•  Development of human resources in nutrition by strengthening institutional capacities in the area of policy making, training, research and provision of services;

•  Empowering the communities and households to understand the nutritional problems and thereby to take appropriate measures to address the problems;

•  Ensuring food security to all household members;

•  Ensuring food safety and food quality;

•  Controlling infectious diseases and providing required environmental support;

•  Protecting, promoting and supporting breast feeding;

•  Ensuring support to socio-economically deprived and nutritionally vulnerable population;

•  Reducing micronutrient deficiencies;

•  Promoting appropriate diets and healthy life styles;

•  Promoting nutrition advocacy, education and community participation; and

•  Assessing, analysing and monitoring the nutrition situation in the country.

5. Programmes

5.1 In addition to the existing health & population infrastructure services at various levels, the Essential Service Package (ESP) has been undertaken as a key programme of the Sector. In a situation of scarcity of resources to meet the health and population control needs of all, ESP consists of a prioritised most urgently needed services particularly for the most vulnerable groups of population namely mothers and children. ESP component services are:

•  Child health care;

•  Reproductive health care;

•  Communicable diseases (including STD/HIV/AIDS) control

•  Limited curative care and

•  Behaviour change communication

The programme is supported by necessary human resource, physical facilities, logistics, necessary research back up and monitoring & evaluation.

In order to maintain priority on population control, the following population focus activities also supplement ESP:

•  MCH-based family planning service delivery;

•  Training and manpower development;

•  Infrastructural development;

•  Information, education and communication;

•  Research, monitoring and evaluation;

•  Population planning, coordination and linkages with the direct nutrition intervention introduced in the country;

5.2 Nutrition Programme:

Understanding the serious implications of widespread malnutrition on poverty reduction and socio-economic development, the Government of Bangladesh has adopted a comprehensive approach to address the problem. As a part of this approach, as has been mentioned earlier, the government adopted the National Food and Nutrition Policy (NFNP) and the National Plan of Action on Nutrition (NPAN). In conformity with these the government introduced the Bangladesh Integrated Nutrition Programme (BINP) 7 in 1997 as a six-year pilot project (after testing the idea in six upazilas for a couple of years) with assistance from the World Bank and the UNICEF. The project covered 59 upazila in phases during its operation. Based on the learning and the successes achieved, the government transformed it into the National Nutrition Programme (NNP) 8 to commence from January 2004 in 105 upazilas with the assistance of the World Bank, CIDA, Netherlands and WFP. The programme has a vision to cover the whole country by the year 2010.

The specific objectives of NNP are:

•  Reduce severe PEM<2 y children to 5%.

•  Reduce moderate PEM in <2 y to 30%.

•  Increase Wt. Gain during pregnancy to 9 kg or more in 50% of pregnant women.

•  Reduce the incidence of LBW to 30%.

•  Reduce anaemia among adolescent girls and PLW by 1/3.

•  Sustain the prevalence of night blindness among children 1 to <5y at 0.5%.

5.3.1 The components activities of NNP are: National Level Activities, e.g.

•  Behaviour Change Communication (BCC);

•  Training;

•  Vitamin ‘A' supplementation;

•  Collaborative efforts for salt iodization;

•  Support and strengthen breastfeeding activities;

•  Management Information system (MIS);

•  Independent Quality Assurance Group (IQUAG); and

•  Operation Research.

5.3.2 Area Based Community Nutrition (ABCN) Activities, e.g.

•  Behaviour Change Communication (BCC);

•  Growth Monitoring & Promotion (GMP);

•  Supplementary Feeding & Promotion (SFP);

•  Pregnancy Weight Monitoring & Promotion (PWMP);

•  Training;

•  Adolescent forum;

•  Micronutrient Supplementation;

•  Deworming;

•  Ante-natal services;

•  Post-natal services;

•  Birth Weight registration;

•  House Hold Food Security;

•  Income Generating Activities.

The programme is implemented by a Project Management Unit (PMU) located in the M/O Health and Family Welfare, with the collaboration of the M/O Agriculture, M/O Fisheries and Livestock, M/O Women and Children Affairs and the Bangladesh Bureau of statistics (BBS).

5.4 Food Assisted Development Programme

The World Food Programme is the food aid organisation of the United Nations. Bangladesh has long been considered as a country of food scarcity, though the country is at present very close to food self-sufficiency. In spite of this improvement, because of non-egalitarian nature of the society, food insecurity particularly of the ultra-poor households (who constitute about lower 25 % of the population) still persists in the country. The Government of Bangladesh implements a WFP-assisted food-aid based country programme of 05 years (2001 – 2005) duration, consisting of the following individual programmes:

•  Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) Programme,

•  Integrated Food Security (IFS) Programme, and

•  School Feeding Programme (SFP)

These programmes have been designed in conformity with the Food Aid and Development (FAAD) priorities (which includes nutritional well being of mothers and children) adopted by the World Food Summit 1996. Hence, nutrition consideration, objectives and components have been incorporated in all these programmes.

Therefore, the general objectives of these food-assisted programes are:

  • To enable the poorest and most disadvantaged sections of the population, specially women and children in rural Bangladesh to overcome food insecurity and low social status in a sustainable way;

  • To improve the nutritional status and learning capacity of these women and children.

A brief introduction together with the nutrition components of these programmes are given below:

5.4.1 VGD Programme

The VGD Programme strategy is based on the combination of three components:

•  Food aid (30 kg wheat/25 kg fortified atta per month as family ration over a period of 24 months),

•  Capacity building through provision of a “development package” consisting of group formation, awareness raising on legal, social, health and nutrition issues, functional education, training on marketable income generation skills, savings and provision of credit,

•  Graduation of women into regular NGO development programmes after the 18-month food support cycle to ensure sustainability of achievements and to enable women to further improve their socio-economic condition after termination of the food assistance.

The criteria-based selection of VGD women and major management functions are undertaken at Union Parishad (UP) level.

Together with the above interventions, the VGD also has some nutrition oriented complementary interventions called:

  • Atta Fortification in Milling and Fortification Units (MFUs)
  • VGD-National Nutrition Project NNP) Collaboration

Geographical & Beneficiary Coverage

The VGD is a nation-wide programme implemented in 467 rural Upazilas (sub-districts), covering about 500,000 ultra-poor women.

Programme Implementing Agencies

The programme executing agencies are the Department of Women Affairs (DWA) under the M/o Women and Children Affairs and the Department of Relief and Rehabilitation (DRR) of the Government of Bangladesh in partnership with NGOs.

5.4.2 IFS Programme

Major nutrition interventions under the programme are

(a) Community Nutrition Initiative (CNI)

Under this component, the community identifies a site to serve as the Village Nutrition Center (VNC) and a woman of the community to be trained as the Village Nutrition Promoter (VNP). The VNP with community support undertakes various nutrition activities focussing the poor women and the children.

(b) Training and Nutrition Centre (TNC)

Activities under this component are :

  • Training of the extreme poor women in marketable skills and awareness training in nutrition, health, social and legal issues;
  • Early childhood development (ECD) activities, including provision of on-site supplementary feeding with fortified blended food to children (6 months-6years) of the women-in-training;
  • Training of the adolescent girls in nutrition, reproductive health, social and legal issues and marketable skill;
  • Provision of on-site supplementary feeding with fortified blended food to adolescent girls.

Geographical and Beneficiary Coverage

Most food-insecure and disaster-prone areas, initially identified in 20 districts of Bangladesh , covering about 600,000 women and children.

Programme Implementing Agencies

The programme executing agencies are the Department of Women Affairs (DWA) under the M/o Women and Children Affairs and the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of the Government of Bangladesh in partnership with NGOs.

5.4.3. School Feeding Programme (SFP)

The programme has two key objectives:

•  To contribute to the GOB effort for universalizing primary education through increase enrolment, improved attendance and reduced drop-out rates in GOB and NGO primary schools, particularly in regards to children from food insecure areas;

•  To improve the attention span and learning capacity of students by alleviating short term hunger and by contributing to the alleviation of their widespread micronutrient deficiencies.

Some salient features of the programme are as follows:

  • Each primary school student receives every morning a packet of 75 gram locally made fortified biscuits, which meet about 20 % enrgy and 75 percent of the daily recommended vitamin and mineral requirements of the student (6 to 11 yrs.).
  • Safe water supply, nutrition, hygienic & environmental education are some other associated activities of the programme.

Coverage

1.2 million primary school students of 7000 schools of food insecure areas in 08 districts and some slum areas in Dhaka .

Programme Implementing Agencies

The programme executing agencies are the Department of Primary Education of the Government of Bangladesh, WFP in partnership with NGOs.

6. Investment in Health and Nutrition Focus Activities:

The annual gross public sector allocation for health, population, food assistance and nutrition services in the country is about US$ 157 million which constitutes ……….% of the GDP of the country.

7. Achievements

From the above discussion, it is apparent that Bangladesh follows a multi-sectoral approach to render the health and nutrition focus services to its population, particularly the women and the children. The impact of these is seen in the improved scenario reflected in the following table:

Table 1: Health and Nutrition Status of the Population Reflected by Major Indicators

Sl No.

Indicators

Achievement 1997

Current Achievement (with specific yrs.)

1

Population growth rate (%)

1.75

1.5 (2001)

2

Life expectancy at birth (yrs.)

58.0

60 (2003)

3

Infant mortality rate/1000 (up to 01 yr. Age)

78

60 (2003)

4

Child (under 5) mortality rate/1000

116

87 (2003)

5

Maternal mortality rate/1000

3.6

3.1 (2001)

6

Low birth weight of children (%)

35

30 (2002)

7

Under 5 malnutrition (%)

•  Stunting

•  Wasting

 

-

-

 

50 (2000)

12 (2000)

8

Night blindness (%)

2.0

0.3 (2000)

9

Iodine deficiency (visible & clinical)

47

43 (1999)

10

Anaemia

•  Mother

•  Children (6-14 yrs.)

 

-

-

 

50 (2001)

90 (2001)

8. Issue of PRSP and Mainstreaming Food And Nutrition Interventions

The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) for Bangladesh is still in a position of revision and finalization. The latest version of it emphasises on improvement of health and nutrition situation as a poverty reduction strategy. In conformity with the provision, the government has already taken the initiative to reorganise the major nutrition intervention, particularly the National Nutrition Programme (NNP). As a manifestation of this effort, the health and population sector of the country is to be renamed as Health, Nutrition and Population Service Programme (HNPSP) and NNP will be integrated in to the HNPSP from the next financial year. The process will substantially contribute to mainstream food and nutrition interventions into poverty reduction strategies.

9. Conclusion

Health and nutrition interventions in Bangladesh may be termed as a multi-sectoral one with considerable coordination among them. The Bangladesh National Nutrition Council (BNNC) has had a pioneering role to play in this coordination process. In spite of a number of loose ends, the interventions yielded some encouraging results, particularly in the area of reduction of the rate of population growth, IMR, CMR and MMR. Lessons learned from the implementation of NNP and the food-assisted nutrition interventions are that the community-based food and nutrition services can be successfully implemented through a Government-NGO partnership in which the community will have trained nutrition workers/volunteers who can play an effective role. Other developing countries can also benefit from these lesson learned by Bangladesh .

References

•  Government of Bangladesh , The Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh , Dhaka 1972

•  Planning Commission, The First Five Year Plan 1973-78, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh , Dhaka 1973

•  Planning Commission, The Fifth five year Plan 1997-2002. Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh , Dhaka 1998

•  BBS Child Nutrition Survey of Bangladesh 1995-96, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Planning, Government of Bangladesh , Dhaka 1997

•  BNNC, Bangladesh National Food and Nutrition Policy, Government of Bangladesh , Dhaka 1997

•  BNNC, Bangladesh National Plan of Action on Nutrition (NPAN), Government of Bangladesh , Dhaka 1997

•  MOHFW, Project proposal (revised) on Bangladesh Integrated Nutrition Project (BINP) M/O Health and Family Welfare, Government of Bangladesh, Dhaka 1997

•  MOHFW, Project proposal (revised) on national Nutrition Programme (NNP), M/O Health and Family Welfare, Government of Bangladesh, Dhaka 2003

 

 

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CEDAW IMPLICATIONS IN MIGRATION

 

Key Note Paper

 

Presented by

 

FERDOUS ARA BEGUM

 

Round Table

on

Gender Issues on Migration

Organized by

UNIFEM Bangladesh

28/06/07

BRAC CENTRE

 

Distinguished ladies and gentleman,

Very good morning and Assalamu Alaikum

In the beginning I would like to express my thanks to the UNIFEM Bangladesh for inviting me to this very important discussion on migrant women workers and its implications to CEDAW convention.

As a member of the UN CEDAW committee, I would like to inform you that very soon CEDAW committee will adapt a general recommendation on migrant women workers. This will strengthen women migrant workers human rights at all stages of migration process through the implementation of concluding comments by the states parties.

CEDAW, the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women, protects all women against sex and gender based discrimination, including migrant women. CEDAW is an international human rights treaty that can be effectively invoked to address the concerns of the women migrants at the place of destination, transit and origin. It is the sole international legal instrument designed to promote and protect women's rights.

The general recommendation No 27 is intended to contribute to the promotion and protection of migrant women's human rights also aims to elaborate the specific circumstances, vulnerabilities and discriminations that migrant women often face on the basis of sex and gender as well as the obligation of states parties to protect these rights at the place of origin and destination.

CEDAW's principles of substantive equality, non discrimination and state obligation, its range of articles and measures, its Jurisprudence and the optional protocol give it the widest possible applicability that can be used to address any situation of discrimination against women during the migration cycle.

Women have been migrating overseas since long, for various reasons due to the socio economic consequences and interaction of push and pull factors. But in the context of globalization the feminization of labor migration in the international arena is the emerging issue now.

At present women contribute about 50% of the overseas migrant workforce in Asia, Latin America and in other parts of the world. In countries like Philippines , Indonesia and Sri Lanka the number of women migrant workers out number men.

In some countries of Asian region migrant remittance contribute more than 10% of the GDP. According to the Bangladesh Bank statistics, in 2005, migrant remittance in Bangladesh was more than 5 billion US Dollars. This remittance flow has had significant macro economic effects in the countries of origin in coping with the trade deficits. Women migrant workers are active participants in the development process of the countries of employment too.

But despite their contribution to the economic and social development of countries of destination and origin as well as to their families and communities, poor migrant workers suffer disproportionate discrimination and human rights violation throughout the migration process.

Migration, especially poor women's overseas migration for work is a complex multi faced phenomenon. Socio economic and political discrimination against women in the public and private spheres is both the causes and consequences of rights violations at all stages of migration process.

While migration presents a new opportunities for women, their human rights and securities are also at risk. States parties are entitled to control their borders and regulate migration in accordance with their human rights obligations as parties to the treaties they have ratified.

The CEDAW committee recognized that migrant women may be classified in various categories with difference in the factors compelling migration, purpose of migration and accompanying tenure of stay, vulnerability to risk and abuse as well as the status they enjoy in the country they migrated to and eligibility for citizenship.

Majority of the migrant women are not highly skilled and have only a temporary status in the receiving countries and may never acquire eligibility for permanent stay or citizenship. As such, in most cases, they are denied the protection of the law of the countries concerned, nor are they eligible for official legal aid and assistance. Hence they are vulnerable to exploitation and violence and their access to Justice is limited. As less skilled workers they have fewer job options, have low pay and don't enjoy benefits such as housing, health insurance and protection during pregnancy.

In South Asian region the heaviest concentration of women is at the lower end of the job hierarchy in domestic work and entertainment industry including prostitution. There they suffer gross human rights violations. Many poorly documented and undocumented migrant workers or trafficked persons also face gross human rights violations at all stages of the migration process.

Migration also very closely linked with human trafficking. Trafficking of women and children occurs within the migration process. UN Researcher Ms. Radhika Kumaraswami said “Traffickers fish in the stream of migration.” The French Researcher Ms. Teres Blonche in her book “Beyond Boundaries and trafficking within” also mentioned that in many cases legally migrated women can also face a traffic like situation, if she in not trained and not familiar with the languages of the country of employment. In the Asian region majority of women mostly travel as irregular and undocumented migrant workers.

Migration for work considered as a gender, human rights, good governance and development issue. On the other hand, trafficking considered as a serious violation of human rights and modern day slavery which involves de privation of liberty through coercion and exploitation. Although the vulnerabilities of groups of people who migrate to meet survival needs and those are trafficked are largely similar.

So policy makers in the country of origin and destination need to distinguished the differences between this to separate situation and also to promote safe service labor migration and combat trafficking in person. State obligation is an important issue for the compliance of CEDAW convention. By ratifying CEDAW state parties are obliged to be held accountable to the international scrutiny for the implementation of the CEDAW convention.

However, the general recommendation of migrant women workers of the CEDAW committee is limited to address the situation of five categories, these are:

•  Women guest workers or primary migrants

•  Women guest workers who join their husbands who are also guest workers

•  Women who join male guest workers as spouses

•  Undocumented migrant workers

•  Children of migrant workers.

CEDAW convention through the application of 16 operating articles can address disproportionate discrimination and human rights violations against women migrant workers throughout the migration process, during recruitment and pre departure, in transit, onsite in countries of employment during return and resettlement.

Article 2 of CEDAW calls on government to refrain from discrimination and to take appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise.

While the CEDAW convention does not explicitly refer to race or national origin, the committee has made it clear that states have obligations under the convention to proactively prevent and redress acts of racism towards women migrant workers and asylum seekers.

Article 10 of CEDAW can address the issues of inadequate access to information, education and training than men. Economic exploitation by recruiting agents and other service providers thus violating article 5 of CEDAW on discriminatory gender role and stereotypes, article 11 on equal rights to employment and eliminating discrimination in the labor market, article 6 on Trafficking, article 16 on equal rights within the family and property rights, article 12 on equal rights to health safety and privacy are few examples where CEDAW can be effectively applicable to address human rights violations.

Some recommendations from the draft general recommendations of migrant women workers:

•  Gender sensitive rights based policy and active involvement of women's migrants

•  Lifting of discriminatory bans or restrictions on out migrants

•  Education, awareness raising and training with standardized content to be developed by the govt. and NGOs.

•  Free or affordable gender and rights based pre departure training programs for prospective migrant women that includes skill training, language training, information about food habit at the destination country, Health security including HIV/AIDS prevention.

•  Welfare policy for the families of the migrant women and secure remittance flow.

•  Facilitate the right to return and legal protection for migrant's women's rights.

•  Non-discriminatory family reunification and visa schemes.

•  Bi lateral and regional cooperation

•  Research and analysis.

 

 

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The Policy Dialogue

on

Implementation status of CEDAW in Bangladesh

 

Keynote Presentation

 

Ferdous Ara Begum

Member

UN CEDAW Committee

 

18 th September 2007

Hotel Sheraton

 

Organized by

The Directorate of Women Affairs and UNFPA.


 

Distinguished ladies & gentlemen

As-salaamu Alaikum and good Afternoon.

This is my great pleasure to present the keynote paper on the 25 years of CEDAW and its implementation status in Bangladesh .

CEDAW, the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women defines what constitute discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

CEDAW is the only legally binding international instrument to prohibit all forms of discrimination against women committed by public authorities or by any person or organization in the full range of civil, political, economic, social & cultural areas, covering both public & private life.

The convention also targets culture & tradition as the influential forces shaping gender roles.

Quarter century achievements of CEDAW

The CEDAW committee celebrated its 25 th anniversary on the 23 rd of July, 2007 at the beginning of 39 th session at the United Nations head quarters highlighting its achievements over the past quarter century and its impact all over the world on the women's advancement and main challenges lying ahead.

The committee on the elimination of discrimination against women, a 23 person expert body, was established in 1982, following the convention's entry into force in September 1981. The instrument treaty has since become part of the international human rights treaty system, aiming to secure equality for women in the enjoyment of all human rights & fundamental freedoms, without discrimination on the basis of sex.

The CEDAW convention as a land mark tool for setting out global normative standards of gender equality ensured its implementation nationally by the 185 states parties who ratified CEDAW, through the monitoring and guidance of the CEDAW committee. This has significantly enhanced states accountabilities for women's enjoyment of their human rights & shaped women's progress world wide.

The CEDAW convention aims at achieving uniform development for women all over the world using global normative standards that has been enshrined in the 16 substantive articles of CEDAW and its 25 general recommendations. But rate of progress in the advancement of women varies from country to country depending on the socio economic situation and political commitment of the state party.

The CEDAW committee has consistently voiced its concern over the reservations of states parties in respect of some vital articles of the convention, while raising awareness of the impact on women of major global trends, including women and HIV/AIDS. It has also played a crucial role in making the United Nations more gender sensitive and promoting women's universal human rights.

The CEDAW convention's profound impact on the legal and socio political development of states parties is visible in the strengthening of institutional provisions for the protection of women's rights and efforts to bring existing legislation in to conformity with convention principles, improvement in the capacity of national institutions to guarantee equality between men & women. Further more, increasing use of the convention, and the committee's general recommendations by the States parties provide an important roadmap in developing its short term and long term national plan for advancement of women.

The South African and Ugandan constitutions, for instance, contained significant provisions guaranteeing women's equality, based on the conventions principles, Nepal 's Supreme Court had relied on the convention in directing the government to address discriminatory laws, and Canada 's Supreme Court had drawn on the convention and the committee's general recommendation on violence against women.

The general recommendations of the convention provided its members collective view of appropriate measures to fulfill states' obligations under the convention. Its general recommendation on female genital mutilation was the first attempt from United Nations treaty body on that practice. Similarly the CEDAW committee also was the first to adopt a general recommendation on HIV/AIDS. Its general recommendation on violence against women provided the impetus for the adoption of the declaration on the elimination of violence against women. The establishment of a Special Rapporteur on violence against women, and various regional human rights instrument, its general recommendations on equality in marriage and family relations, women in political & public life and health, contributed significantly towards shaping the women's status.

Its expanding commitment to dialogue with civil society allowed the CEDAW committee to examine issues from a rights perspective. It's concluding comments provided a framework for monitoring states actions and showed the committee's rigorous engagement with states parties, as well as its commitment to supporting protection in the context of national realities. The committee's 25 general recommendations bore testimony to its on going commitment, increasingly being used around the world as sources of evolving standards of human rights, reflective of emerging issues and offering possibilities for overcoming obstacles to the realization of human rights.

However, discrimination against women still persists all over the world and in very few countries has the convention directly been applied to the courts. Also very few Judges and policy makers have knowledge about the treaty and the de facto discrimination against women remains universal.

The implementation status of CEDAW in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has been a steadfast supporter of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Bangladesh ratified CEDW in the year 1984 with reservations on article no. 2, article 13(a), article no. 16(1)C, 16(1)F. Subsequently in 1997 Bangladesh has withdrawn its reservations on Article no 16(I) F & article 13(a) retaining the reservations on Article No(2) & 16(I)C.

Bangladesh is one of the 1 st ten countries in the world to sign the optional protocol of CEDAW in 2000, enabling the protocol to enter into force, while keeping reservations on article no 8 & 9 of the optional protocol on inquiry procedure. Bangladesh submitted the 5 th periodic report on the implementation status of the convention to the CEDAW committee & it was reviewed most positively in July 2004.

Bangladesh received global appreciation for attaining considerable success in poverty alleviation, micro credit and women's development & promotion of girl's education.

The govt. of Bangladesh formulated national plan of action & national policy for the advancement and rights of women on the basis of Beijing PFA & CEDAW convention.

Subsequently in 2004, some changes brought in the National Women's Policy which was discriminatory to women and contrary to the spirit of CEDAW & our constitution. The present Caretaker Government has taken initiatives to correct those anomalies.

Bangladesh is fortunate to have two members in the CEDAW committee in two consecutive periods. Ms. Salma Khan served the committee for 12 years. As a new member I have started my tenure from 2007. Once elected CEDAW members are considered as independent experts and not the representative of the nominating country.

The Govt. of Bangladesh is obligated under article no. 18 of the CEDAW convention to submit its combined 6 th and 7 th periodic report by January, 2009.

Bangladesh is one of the very few states parties who are going to submit its 7 th periodic report to the CEDAW committee. However its cumulative progress towards women's advancement and rights are not that bright. Women are still subjected to various forms of discrimination. Violence against women is a major issue.

The reporting obligation to the CEDAW committee includes-

  • Implementation of the convention article by article.

  • Report to the committee under harmonized guide lines & within the time frame.

  • The report must highlight the impact of initiatives, follow up actions & statistical data.

  • Involvement of NGO & civil society members in the reporting process is very important.

  • Periodic report should not be more then 70 pages long.

  • The periodic report should focus on the period between the consideration of the previous report & presentation of the current report. In case of Bangladesh the period under consideration will be from August 2004 to December 2008.

  • The periodic report should reflect implementation of concluding comments particularly concerns and recommendations in the concluding comments of the 5 th periodic report.

  • Through this reporting process, the committee expects an honest appraisal of the obstacles that remain in the country, understanding of why the current situation prevails and how the obstacles will be removed within the time frame.

The Report Should:  

•  Highlight the country's constitutional, legislative and administrative framework for implementation of the Convention.

•  Explain the legal and practical measures adopted to give effect to the provisions of the Convention.

•  Elaborate the progress made by the state party in implementing the provisions of the Convention.

The Report should explain:

  1. Whether the convention is directly applicable in domestic law on ratification.

  2. Whether the provisions of the Convention are guaranteed in the Constitution.

  3. How the article no 2 of the Convention is applied, setting out the principal legal measures which the State party has taken to give effect to Convention rights.

  4. The report should include the information about the national or official institution or machinery, which exercises responsibility in implementing the provisions of the Convention.

  5. The report should outline any restrictions or limitations, even of a temporary nature, imposed by law, practice, or tradition on the enjoyment of each provision of the Convention

  6. The report should describe the situation of non-governmental organizations and women's associations and their participation in the implementation of the Convention and the preparation of the report.

Issues to be considered in the combined 6 & 7 th periodic report on the basis of concluding comments of 5 th periodic report.

(1) Withdrawal of the reservation under article no-2 & article no 16(I) C is very important for Bangladesh . The CEDAW committee opined that reservation on article no 2 goes against the object & purpose of the convention. Practical realization of the principle of equality can not be achieved keeping reservation on article no. 2.

Article No. (2) Says that states parties should eliminate discrimination against women in all its forms through appropriate legislation and repeal all national penal provisions which are discriminately to women.

16(I)C provides equal rights & responsibilities for marriage & dissolution of marriage.

During the constructive dialogue on 5 th periodic report, the leader of the delegation expressed state party's willingness to withdraw reservation on both the articles as saying that ``the matters of withdrawal of reservations of two articles in question, are under the active consideration of the government. The Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary affairs has opined in favor of withdrawal of reservations. ``

More than 13 Muslim Countries ratified CEDAW without any reservation who consider that there is no contradiction with Article No. 2 of the CEDAW convention and the Muslim Sharia law. More over legal system in Bangladesh is governed by civil and criminal jurisprudence. Sharia law is only applicable to personal and family matters, such as marriage, divorce, dower, maintenance and inheritance to property.

It is also pertinent to say that action proposed in article 2(a)to (e) and (g) of CEDAW is already in place in the Constitution of Bangladesh which proclaims equality of all men and women before law. However, clause 2(f) in relation to which

Personal laws of Islamic jurisprudence are in force. Our constitution in this respect says in article no 28(2) that “ women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the state and public life”.

The Islamic Law in the country has been substantially modified by the enactment of the Muslim Family Laws ordinance in 1961 , thus it proves that these religious laws are not a static one. Amendments were brought in relation to the practice of Polygamy, use of family planning methods, inheritance to grandparents property. .The law enacted in 1961 gave such children share as if the son survived the parents , thus overriding the Hanafi tradition.

In practice government of Bangladesh has enacted many women friendly laws to protect women's human rights, such as the suppression of women & children repression act 2000 as amended in 2003 , the Acid control act 2002, the Acid crime control act 2002, the Dowry prohibition act of 1980 etc. These steps are in conformity with article no. 2 of the CEDAW convention.

Article 16(I)C relates to equal rights & opportunities for marriage & dissolution of marriage. In reality Bangladeshi Muslim women are enjoying these rights in relation to marriage & divorce. The right for divorce is secured in the clause 18 of the Kabin Nama. There are legal restrictions in the practice of polygamy. The Government of Bangladesh brought legislative changes in personal and family matters such as marriage ,divorce ,inheritance etc which are considered to be the domain of religious law and tradition. Muslim family laws ordinance, Muslim Marriage Registration Act, Family court Ordinance are some instances in this area.

This is now high time for the govt. of Bangladesh to withdraw reservations on both the articles & fulfill the treaty obligations.

•  Citizenship act of 1951 is discriminatory to women in Bangladesh . According to this Law a Bangladeshi women can not transmit her nationality to her foreign husband or children. Her husband and children need to have visa to stay in Bangladesh . Her children also can not inherit her property. Her husband needs to have work permit to work in Bangladesh . On the contrary, a Bangladeshi Man can transmit his nationality to his foreign wife and children. In 1992, the Government of India brought an amendment to their nationality law, to allow equal rights to both men and women so that they can transmit their nationality to their children and spouse without any discrimination.

CEDAW committee expressed its concern on the citizenship issue and recommended that the Government of Bangladesh should also bring an amendment to the citizenship law , which is in line with article no 9 of the convention to end discrimination against women in the area of Nationality.

(3) The Government of Bangladesh has taken positive steps to address the conflicting issues introduced in 2004 in the National Policy for the Advancement of Women in consultation with the national NGOs and civil society members, so that the Policy goes in conformity with the CEDAW Convention , Beijing PFA, and MDG goals.

There should be a concrete time frame for adoption of the amended policy .

(4) Violence against women specially domestic violence is the most crucial barrier to women's advancement and rights in the country. Dowry related oppressions have escalated in recent years. The CEDAW committee calls on the State Party to ensure the effective implementation of the existing legislation to combat all forms of violence against women and to adopt specific legislation on domestic violence within a clear time frame. Women and girls who are victims of violence and sexual harassment should have access to protection and effective redress, and perpetrators of such acts should effectively be prosecuted and punished.

The suppression of women and children repression act 2000 as amended in 2003 partially addresses domestic violence in relation to dowry .But domestic violence mostly occurs in the shelter of privacy and in the culture of silence. In most cases women are oppressed by their husband or in-laws or near and dear ones. Considering the nature of the crime , most countries have separate legislation to address domestic violence.

This is very important for Bangladesh to have a separate law to address domestic violence. The Government of Bangladesh should take immediate action in this respect.

(5) The CEDAW Committee recommended to adopt a uniform family code to end unequal status of Bangladeshi women within the family ,particularly in matters related to marriage, divorce, custody, alimony and property inheritance.

In Bangladesh , Sharia laws are applicable to Muslim family matters. Similarly family and personal matters of other religious groups are governed separately by their own religious personal laws. These laws are discriminatory to women and provide unequal relationship between men and women.

Besides, the Muslim Family ordinance 1961,the Muslim Marriages and Divorce Act 1974, the Hindu Marriages Act 1946 , the Hindu widow's Remarriages Act 1856, The Christian Marriages Act 1872 are also applicable in these areas.

Unified Family code on the basis of CEDAW Convention and General recommendation 21 on equality in marriage and family relations could be applicable to all religious groups to protect the rights of all Bangladeshi women in matters related to marriage, divorce, custody, alimony and property inheritance.

The CEDAW committee recommended that the govt. of Bangladesh establishes a nation wide awareness campaign regarding the importance and usefulness of uniform family code as well as to address the stereotypical attitudes towards women in the society and take measures to eliminate polygamy.

•  The CEDAW committee voiced concern about the domestic and cross border trafficking of women and children in Bangladesh . This is the worst form of human rights abuse and it is a modern day slavery. The committee recommended for a comprehensive strategy to combat trafficking and strong enforcement of laws as well as the prosecution and punishment of offenders.

The committee also recommended to secure increased international, regional and bilateral cooperation with other countries including SAARC countries to achieve this goal. Alternative livelihood options with education and rehabilitation facilities including shelter homes also need to be provided to the vulnerable groups and survivors of trafficking harms.

CEDAW committee also recommended for training of border police and law enforcement officials in order to provide them with the requisite skills to recognize and support the victims of trafficking.

Govt. of Bangladesh should take holistic measures to combat trafficking . She should provide statistical information regarding the number of traffic victims and persons prosecuted and punished for the crime to the CEDAW Committee.

•  The CEDAW Committee expressed its Concern about the poor working conditions that women endure in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy. Bangladesh is committed to promote gender equality and empowerment of women to fulfill the MDG no #3 by 2015.Although

employment opportunities for women have increased in the last decade or so, especially in industries such as the urban based export oriented ready made garment factories, construction sites , ceramics , medicine and shoe factories; but in

absence of a uniform labor code applicable to both formal and informal sectors and lack of strict enforcement of labor laws, gender disparity persists in these areas. There are substantial wage gap between men and women in the informal sector. Women working in the private industries often do not get child care facilities and maternity leave benefits as is available in the public sector. Work place harassment is another issue both in the public and private sectors, which needs to be dealt with seriously.

The CEDAW Committee recommended that the government of Bangladesh should establish a monitoring mechanism to ensure the enforcement of legislation so that women workers get equal pay for equal work, maternity leave and childcare facilities are available to them as per ILO convention in both public and private sectors . Government should also ensure that women workers receive skills development and vocational training for employment in other existing and emerging sectors of the economy. Disparities in other areas namely access to health care services and employment opportunities as well as participation in political activities must be reduced.

•  The committee expressed its concern at arsenic poisoning of water in Bangladesh and its impact on the reproductive health of rural women. The committee recommended that State Party should launch an awareness campaign and proactive health, nutrition and social program for women and their families in the vulnerable rural areas.

Raising gender awareness , specially among adolescent girls ,is needed for breaking silence about issues like early marriage, sexual exploitation , HIV-AIDS, reproductive health needs , dowry related crime, domestic violence etc . Early marriage results in early pregnancies, increase the risk of maternal deaths . It is also responsible for poor enrolment and high female drop -outs at the higher education level.

The health nutrition and population sector program ( HNPSP) could be extended to rural areas through establishment of community clinics as well as mobile clinics. The Essential Service Care (ESC)under HNPSP which includes basic emergency obstetric care, safe delivery and clinical contraceptive services in the rural areas through Upazila Health Complex and Union Family Welfare Centers may reduce the rate of maternal mortality, infant mortality and unsafe abortions.

•  The CEDAW Committee recommended that the Government of Bangladesh should adopt a comprehensive gender- sensitive migration policy and should pursue bilateral and multilateral agreements with destination countries. The Committee also recommended that Government should strengthen its information network so that the potential women migrants become fully aware of their rights as well as of the potential risks of employment abroad.

Bangladesh has a separate ministry called the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment to oversee the issues of migrant people. This ministry should take appropriate initiatives to implement the recommendations of the CEDAW Committee.

•  The CEDAW Committee recommended that the Government of Bangladesh should adopt temporary special measures to ensure substantive equality in women's share in political affairs and also in the civil , judiciary and foreign service employment. The committee also recommended that the Government should introduce legislations for direct election of women to the parliament. Full utilization of existing quotas in different areas of employment need to be ensured by the Govt.

Reporting to the CEDAW committee is an important state obligation .Through these process states parties' political commitment and willingness to implement the issues raised in the concluding comments as well as actions to eliminate discrimination against women go under serious scrutiny by the International Treaty Body. The reporting process also include NGO Shadow report and UN Confidential Country report based on the same concluding comments. It is expected that Government report should reflect an honest appraisal of the situation of the country and government action.

 

 

 

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The Reporting Process: Its Purpose

  and Expectations of the
CEDAW Committee

Ferdous Ara Begum
Member, UN CEDAW Committee

 

South Asia Regional Peer Learning Meeting
CEDAW: Reporting & Implementation
 

4-7 April, 2007
Islamabad

 
Based on references, presentations of CEDAW Committee Members

 

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Concluding Comments: Expectations of the
CEDAW Committee

 

Ferdous Ara Begum
Member UN CEDAW Committee

 

South Asia Regional Peer Learning Meeting
CEDAW: Reporting & Implementation
 

5-6 April, 2007

Islamabad

Based on references, presentations of CEDAW Committee Members
 

Show Presentation Details

 

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The Optional Protocol
It’s Benefits & Potentials
 

Ferdous Ara Begum

Member UN CEDAW Committee
 

South Asia Regional Peer Learning Meeting
CEDAW: Reporting & Implementation
 

4-7 April, 2007
Islamabad
 

Based on references, presentations of CEDAW Committee Members
 

Show Presentation Details

 

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Poverty Reduction
For
Marginalized Women


by Ferdous Ara Begum

Member, United Nations Committee for the
Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women

Member, Board of Directors, Grameen Bank
Bangladesh





Global Consultation on HIV and Sex Work
12-14 July 2006
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Organized by UNFPA, UNAIDS and the Government of Brazil
 




Poverty Reduction for Marginalized Women

Honorable Chair, dear participants,

Good afternoon.

At first I would like to thank UNFPA, UNAIDS and the Government of Brazil for organizing this very important Global Consultation on HIV and Sex work. I believe this forum can be an effective knowledge sharing mechanism for all of us and would succeed in creating gainful opportunities out of their despair for women, and men, who are marginalized, victimized, have fallen prey to the vicious disease of HIV/AIDS, and are caught in the endless cycle of sex-trade.

First, let me introduce myself to you.

In my over 32 years of public service, I have been active in educating and creating public awareness on importance of women's rights and actively influenced women's financial independence.

As a Board Member of Grameen Bank, the organization that pioneered microcredit by providing microfinancial services to rural poor women, I have had a direct influential role in creating opportunities for the rural poor women.

I helped mainstream women’s and child rights issues in government policies, awareness for HIV/AIDS and reproductive rights. I have taken initiatives to engage NGOs as a partner for program implementation. While working at the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs as Joint Secretary. One of my important responsibilities was to oversee 34 gender-specific projects that were designed to provide social and legal protection for women and children.

Dear friends,

Today I would like to share with you some experiences from Bangladesh in creating opportunities for marginalized women. I will explain both how the Government of Bangladesh have taken various initiatives to empower women, as well as how a very thriving non-governmental sector, the NGOs, have innovated various opportunities to aid marginalized women. These marginalized women include poor, destitute, abundant and sex workers.

Dear audience,

Bangladesh is a developing country having a total area of land about 148,000 square kilometers; with a population of about 140 million; where the literacy rate is 51% and the per capita GNP is about $ 470 US Dollars. Bangladesh shares its open borders with India and Myanmar.

Bangladesh is often identified as a country wherein women and children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to poverty.

Poverty is a broad front. It is about income levels, food securities, quality of life, asset base, human resource capacities, vulnerabilities and coping. It is each of these and all of these together.

Now I will discuss the causes for vulnerabilities and opportunities for exploitation, and how they are linked to poverty.

Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and poor governance in the community as well as lure for a better life, and false promises for good marriages, good earnings are the root causes why women and girls become vulnerable to exploitation. The deep rooted racket of traffickers are involved in taking advantage of vulnerable women and children, and are engaged to cash in quickly by conducting the sex trade both inside and outside the country. The scope of these heinous exploitations is wide and varied it typically involves victims being trapped into commercial and sexual exploitation such as prostitution, pornography and labor exploitation at sweat shops, construction sites and agricultural shades.

From the Bangladesh scenario, in the recent past, an increasing trend of human trafficking combined with irregular and improper migration has already generated concern among government authorities and civil societies in Bangladesh. According to recent evidences and information, Bangladeshi trafficked women and children are found throughout Asia including India, Pakistan and the Middle Eastern countries. In fact trafficking of adolescent girls and young women is one of the major forms of sexual exploitation both within the country and across the border, since the demand for these girls are on the rise.


Here I’m trying to explain that sex work is not always a deliberate choice. This is the pattern as explained above, how an unwilling victim without her consent enters forcibly into the sex trade. Trafficking, sex trade, and HIV/AIDS are very much interlinked to each other which are also tied to poverty syndrome.

We have to keep in mind that struggle against poverty will never succeed if it does not have any sense of strategic priority. To address poverty we need to choose a few catalystic agendas built on the policy triangle of growth, human development, and governance which has ground realities. From such a perspective we may stick to the following agendas:
1. Employment
2. Nutrition
3. Maternal Health
4. Quality Education (Primary, Secondary, and Vocational level)
5. Sanitation and safe water
6. Criminal Justice
7. Good Governance

Dear friends,

Let me share with you in Bangladesh, how the Government and the NGOs are devising and implementing policies and programs to empower these vulnerable women.

Government of Bangladesh has targeted the poor through the implementation of poverty reduction, strategy policy. Women are the poorest of the poor because they are voiceless, have the highest fertility and maternal mortality rate and higher incidence of maternal and child malnutrition.


Socio Economic Approach

In Bangladesh, the poverty reduction strategy emphasizes on: education, health, agriculture, social welfare, women and youth development, physical infrastructure and institutional development in the rural areas. The government of Bangladesh and other non-government institutions like Grameen Bank and NGOs have taken poverty alleviation steps through micro-financing and micro-entrepreneurship in order to improve women’s empowerment at the grass root level so that the rural economy could come out from the clutches of poverty, the root cause of human trafficking.
Dear friends,

There has been a silent revolution in Bangladesh with regards to empowering women. As you know, Bangladesh is the birthplace of modern microfinance. Through microcredit, many vulnerable women have been empowered to be in charge of their own financial and social freedom. Implementation of successful microfinance in Bangladesh can be attributed to the thriving and innovative NGO sector of Bangladesh.

Microcredit Intervention

More than 75% of the rural poor in Bangladesh are now covered by microfinance support. Grameen Bank, BRAC, ASA, to name a few NGOs, have done an excellent job of mobilizing poverty-focused banking and empowering marginalized women.

As a Board Member of Grameen Bank, I can share with you the philosophies of the Grameen model.

Principles of the Grameen Model of Microcredit

Microcredit can be used as an effective tool to reduce poverty of marginalized women. Modern microcredit has matured over the past three decades, from Grameen in Bangladesh to ACCION and FINCA in the Americas and now around the world.

The key principles of the Grameen model of microcredit are:

• Collateral free microcredit: Microcredit is given to the borrowers collateral free. The Microfinance Institution (MFI) holds no collateral from the borrower against the small loans extended. This collateral-free nature of the credit makes an innovative opportunity for the marginalized women to at least give microcredit a theoretically “risk-free” try.

• Microcredit for Women: Grameen Bank now has more than 5.5 million members. More than 96% of the borrowers of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh are women. The recovery rate is over 98%.

• Peer Groups for Support: In Grameen Bank the members form a peer-group before they are eligible for a loan. However, in the current model of Grameen’s microcredit, there are no group guarantees, meaning that the group is not collectively responsible for defaulted loans of any of the members. Originally the Groups were created as a peer support mechanism. The Groups were formed of women who all knew each other. Since microcredit was intended to be for the very poor, the Group members also verified that each member was indeed very poor and in need of microcredit intervention.

Research has shown that the peer groups act as a support for women. It creates a team. The more successful entrepreneurs of the group act as mentor/sisters of those lagging behind. The women also share ideas for income generating activities. They also form a strong support group when a member falls into hard time, or during an emergency, providing the member-in-need with secondary loans from the group fund.

Microcredit as Catalyst for Alternative Income Generating Activities:

Let me share with you a new program from Grameen Bank: The Struggling Members Program. Through this program Grameen Bank gives microcredit to beggars in Bangladesh. This program began in 2002. The beggars are not forced or made to leave begging, they are given microcredit to try their hands at an alternative income generating activity.

Begging is not a respectable livelihood. Beggars do not have any social status or respectability. But in hard times, begging can sustain a person, and even her family. By taking a loan from the Struggling Members Program, the beggar can also try small businesses, like selling small items, such as cosmetics, jewelry, food, packet of cookies, etc. from door to door in the houses where she used to beg. Many beggars have found that they can earn sufficient money from their alternative source of income and will gradually leave begging.

Similarly, a microcredit intervention can help marginalized women in several ways, including sex workers.

A micro credit intervention can prevent marginalized women from seeking sex work as a source of income even before she becomes a sex worker. As for sex workers, a microcredit intervention through a peer-group structure can be a catalyst in identifying alternative income sources for sex workers, who may find their income from the alternative sources attractive enough, with greater social benefits, to leave sex work.

Within a comprehensive, value-based and sustainable social and economic development framework, gender-based discrimination has to be eliminated and efforts towards that end must form an integral part of poverty reduction initiatives. For micro credit to become more effective in poverty reduction, the ultra poor and marginalized women must reach micro credit through innovative approaches with respect to changes in credit delivery mechanism, diversified financial services, complimenting micro finance with non-financial interventions, in the field of education, health, nutrition, ICT and development of micro entrepreneurship, along with women-friendly marketplaces.

Since micro credit alone is not sufficient to upscale poverty reduction, micro credit institutions should integrate credit with technology, information and marketing services. To improve the risk management, micro credit institutions should improve their operational efficiencies through allowing flexibility in repayment rules, avoiding overlapping of credit disbursement, and realization of interest rates without compromising the main goal of community mobilization.

Cross-border Regional Cooperation

To reduce vulnerability we have to address trafficking and sexual exploitation both domestic and cross border. To combat the cross border trafficking, there is a compelling need for a regional co-operation that can help all the regional actors to have a strong program against trafficking. Strong political commitment is needed in this respect.

Here I am recalling my experience from the Mekong region, during my visits of study to Manila and Bangkok, where I also participated in work shops and seminars arranged by ADB on combating trafficking of women and children through regional cooperation. I have observed that both the Governments of Thailand and Cambodia are politically committed to solve the trafficking problem. This type of regional cooperation could be arranged in other places as well to find out a meaningful and effective solution the problem of trafficking and sexual exploitation. In this process the rights of the vulnerable and victims could be protected at the stage of rescue, prosecution and repatriation and sufficient opportunity could be created for their empowerment and rehabilitation.


About two years back I attended an international conference at Honolulu, Hawaii, on the human rights challenge of globalization in Asia pacific and U.S. with a focused on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. I will conclude quoting a part of the Honolulu declaration.

“We pledge ourselves to build broad coalitions that bring together the concerned agencies, organizations and individuals to effectively combat trafficking at local, national and international levels. We seek to establish a just and safe world for the entire world’s people to live together in peace and prosperity’’.

Thank you.

 

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Mandate of
UN CEDAW Committee
From the perspective of women’s advancement and implementation of CEDAW in Bangladesh




An interactive meeting with the LCG WAGE ( Local consultative group of Donors on women’s advancement and Gender equality)



4th October 2006
UNDP Conference Room
IDB Bhaban




Ferdous Ara Begum
Member, UN CEDAW Committee
Former Additional Secretary and
Director General, Bangladesh Television

 



Distinguished Ladies and Gentleman
As-salamu Alai-cum and good morning.

I thank you all for inviting me to present a paper on “Mandate of UN CEDAW Committee from the perspective of Women’s advancement and implementation of CEDAW in Bangladesh.”

I also take this opportunity to thank you again and express my gratitude personally for your support for my election to the CEDAW Committee. Your overwhelming support for my candidacy is also a reassuring support for the advancement of Bangladeshi women in achieving their rights.

Distinguished LCG WAGE Members,

As you know that, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the only bill of rights for women at the UN adopted in 1979 the UN General Assembly. It defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

The convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in political and public life as well as education, health employment and reproductive rights issues.

The convention consisting of a preamble and 30 operative articles, of which one through sixteen are substantive articles which identify the specific areas discriminations against women and provide an agenda for national action to end gender discrimination, rest of the articles related to procedural matters.

By accepting the convention, states commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all its forms including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms. States parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of trafficking in women and exploitation of women.

The 23 member expert committee represents different forms of cultural Sensitization and varied principal of legal systems. The four year term of the newly elected committee will begin on January 1, 2007.

It is very important to note that the committee members serve in their personal capacities and not as representatives of the states parties which present their candidature.

The experts are mandated to monitor the implementation of the convention by those states who have ratified or acceded to it. It does this by considering the reports both initial and periodic of states parties’ through a constructive dialogue with the representatives of states parties and adoption of concluding comments thereon. The committee also considers shadow reports from the national NGO’s to understand better the state party report.

The committee also formulates general recommendations on specific articles of the convention or issues covered by it. The committee prepares statements on various issues. It exchanges information with and contributes to the co-ordination among other human rights treaty bodies in harmonizing working methods and on issues of common interest and concern. The committee furthermore makes substantive contributions to the commission on the status of women and to world conferences and summits.

At present 183 countries that have ratified or acceded to the convention and as of 5th June 2006, there are 184 overdue reports from 104 states parties.

The committee will commence three annual sessions in 2007 and would also meet in parallel chamber to reduce the burden of pending reports. Countries that have ratified CEDAW are committed to submit national reports, at least once every four years and initial report within one year of ratification according to the guideline provided by the committee. The committee recommends that state parties consult national non government organizations in the preparation of their report.

In 2007, in 37th session, committee will consider reports of 15 state parties which, include- Tajikistan, India, Austria, Azerbaijan, Columbia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Namibia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, Suriname, and Vietnam. In the next session other 15 countries report will be considered including the report of Pakistan. In 2007, reports from 45 countries will be considered in 3 sessions, each has three weeks duration.

The committee is also mandated to consider individual complaints and to conduct inquiries, respectively, under article 2 and article 8 of the optional protocol to the convention.

The optional protocol to the convention adopted by the united Nations on 6th October 1999, contains two procedures. A communications procedure allowing individual women, or groups of women, to submit claims of violations of rights protected under the convention. The optional protocol also creates an inquiry procedure enabling the committee to initiate inquires into situations of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights. In both cases, states must be party to the convention and the optional protocol. At present about 79 states parties have acceded to the optional protocol.

To facilitate the preparations by the states parties for constructive dialogues with the committee, a pre session working group of the committee draws up short list of issues and questions with regard to reports which the committee will consider at its next session, focusing on major areas of concern in regard to the implementation of the convention by the state parties concerned. The list of issues and questions are intended to provide a focus for the dialogue with representatives of the reporting states and to improve the efficiency of the reporting system.

The UN CEDAW committee adopts concluding comments on the reports of state parties that it considers. For this purpose, the committee holds a closed meeting after the constructive dialogue with each state party to consider the main issues to be reflected in the concluding comments for that state.

Article 21 of the convention provides that the committee may make suggestions and general recommendations based on the examinations of reports and information received from the state parties. The committee has so far adopted 25 general recommendations through a consultative process with specialized agencies and other bodies of United Nations and non governmental organizations. Currently the committee is working on a general recommendation on women migrants and considered ``the gender dimensions of international migration’’ as an emerging issue.

The Commission on the Status of Women at the U.N. focuses on one priority theme per year. The priority theme for 2007 is: ``the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child’’. In 2008, the priority theme considered, ``Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women.’’

In 2009, the commission will consider as priority theme, “The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care giving in the context of HIV/AIDS”. The committee on the elimination of discrimination against women also contributes to the discussion on the priority theme of the commission.

Dear Friends,

CEDAW is very important for the people of Bangladesh, as Bangladesh is constitutionally committed to women’s advancement and rights. The development vision of Bangladesh incorporates gender mainstreaming and advancement of women in all spheres of life as an integral part of the nation building process. The government of Bangladesh has submitted the 5th periodic report on the implementation of the convention to the CEDAW committee that was reviewed most positively. The 6th and 7th periodic report of Bangladesh are due in 2009.

During the election, I ran on a positive campaign, highlighting the success and advancement of women in Bangladesh. Bangladesh received global appreciation for attaining considerable success in poverty alleviation, women’s development and promotion of girl’s education, health, nutrition and empowerment of women through micro credit.

Bangladesh is one of the first ten countries in the world to sign optional protocol to CEDAW in 2000, enabling the protocol to enter into force. Bangladesh had ratified CEDAW in 1984 with some reservations. Subsequently reservations on Article 13(a) and 16 1(f) were withdrawn. But reservation on the article no 2 and 16 (1) c is still there.

Article No. 2 involves policy measures including legislative measures for the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination. Article No 16 (1) C involves same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution. Full implementation of CEDAW can not be ensured keeping reservation on the convention. There is a continuous demand and pressure from the women leaders and activist to withdraw the reservation on CEDAW. In 2004, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs took a strong move to withdraw the reservations citing the examples of other Muslim countries, and obtained vetting from the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs on the withdrawal proposal and placed the proposal for cabinet approval. But the case is still pending at the high table.

Another important issue is the `Existing citizenship act’ that discriminates against women’s fundamental rights. The matter was taken to the NCWD committee by the Ministry in 2002. Government took a serious note on it and agreed on principle to bring an amendment on the issue so that women also can transmit her citizenship rights to her children and foreign national husband. But as on today, no news on this matter too.

Very recently government brought a change in the WID policy that contradicts the principles of equality and equal status of women as is guaranteed by our constitution. It also goes against the spirit of CEDAW, which says- any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

Distinguished members of LCG WAGE,

We must agree that the struggle to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women has been, and still is, an uphill battle. It is unfortunate that even today- in 2006, women all over the world are subject to gender discrimination. Though there have been new legislations, social measures and informal developments in the country, women in many localities are still denied their full civil, political, financial and personal rights. In theory women have `rights’ but they do not have access to their rights, thus still not free from discrimination. Women are unable to blossom to their full potentials. In Bangladesh, acute poverty, violence against women, Trafficking in person and threat of HIV/AIDS created a vulnerable situation for women in rural areas and urban slums. In Bangladesh though there have been many advances in achieving women’s human rights and empowerment of women, there is still a lot left to be done.

Dear Friends,

My most cherished goal in life is to contribute significantly towards eliminating all forms of discriminations against women. Let me introduce my vision for assuring Rights and Access for women, thus ensuring their freedom from all forms of discrimination. If you put these key elements or milestones: right, access and freedom, in order of priority in an achievement Pyramid, with the bottom being most basic rights, and then above it ensuring the enforcement of the legislated rights and universal Access to all opportunities for all women, only thus can we reach our ultimate goal of having all women free from discrimination and oppression. This Pyramid spells F-A-R from the Top. I call it a FAR sight approach.

                                 

The FAR sight platform can create an enabling environment and a road map for realizing our goal, so that gender equality and non discriminatory social system could be established and state obligation towards these ends could be ensured.

We need to ensure right based approach, promoting affirmative action as well as access to all services and opportunities for women. We need to sensitize the mass media to achieve this goal. I also firmly believe that a monitoring mechanism and indictors should be put in place to measure and guide the result based implementation of CEDAW.

Distinguished Friends,

As you know, I ran on a platform of F-A-R sight. The overwhelming number of votes cast in my favor at the CEDAW election is an endorsement for my platform. Now we must work to realize the platform.
I am proposing an action plan to implement the F-A-R sight approach. As always, I will count on your continued support to implement the action plan.

Action Plan on the basis of FAR sight approach
The initial goals of this plan are:-
To establish an Independent Rights Campaign Cell, that would -
(i) Initiate a Base line study on the implementation status of CEDAW on the basis of concluding observations of 5th periodic report.
(ii) Set a monitoring mechanism and indicator for the result based implement of CEDAW. This office will closely work with the Government and NGO’s which are related to the implementation of CEDAW.
(iii) Act as a guide and advisor to the government for the preparation of 6th and 7th periodic report to be submitted to the UN CEDAW Committee in 2009.
(iv) Disseminate the concept of CEDAW among government officials, teachers, political leaders both national and sub national level throw workshops and seminars especially those who are responsible for the implementation of CEDAW and its OPTIONAL PROTOCOL.
(v) Create public opinion through advocacy and policy dialogue for the withdrawal of reservation on CEDAW, positive change in WID policy, amendment in citizenship act under article No. 9 and to create positive opinion for the establishment of an office of the Gender Ombudsman.
(vi) Act as a lobbyist group to pursue with the Government and act as a pressure group for the withdrawal of reservation on CEDAW. Also to create awareness so that appropriate measures could be taken by the stake holders, including legislative change, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.


Dear Friends,

We live in an ever shrinking world. Today there is greater awareness among women about asserting their own Rights, striving for Access and to be Free of discrimination and exploitation. We must acknowledge the struggles and contributions of women’s rights leaders from all the nations in getting us where we are today. Since 1979, CEDAW has also been a key providing a platform and formulating a roadmap for emancipation of women.

We must recognize that, in the ultimate analysis, a person is nominated for CEDAW membership by a state party, who has a responsible track record of outstanding contribution for women.

Though the CEDAW MEMBER serves the committee in personal capacity but when seeks re-election, again the record of nominating state party is called for consideration by the world body.

So, a CEDAW member who monitors work of women’s advancement in other states Parties, is also responsible to improve status of women in his/her own country.

Thank you again for your precious time.


Name of the Committee Members:
The new Committee members included: Ferdous Ara Begum (Bangladesh), Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani (Algeria), Saisuree Chutikul (Thailand), Dorcas Ama Frema Coker-Appiah (Ghana), Cornelis Flinterman (Netherlands), Naela Gabr Mohamed Gabre Ali (Egypt), Ruth Halperin Kaddari (Israel), Violeta Neubauer (Slovenia), Pramila Patten (Mauritius), Fumiko Saiga (Japan), Hazel Gumede Shelton (South Africa) and Dubravka Simonovic (Croatia).

The Committee members who will continue to serve until their terms expire on 31 December 2008 included: Magalys Arocha Dominguez (Cuba), Mary Shanthi Dairiam (Malaysia), Francoise Gaspard (France), Tiziana Maiolo (Italy), Silvia Pimentel (Brazil), Hanna Beate Schopp-Schilling (Germany), Heisoo Shin (Republic of Korea), Glenda P. Simms (Jamaica), Anamah Tan (Singapore), Maria Regina Tavares da Silva (Portugal) and Ziaoqiao Zou (China).

 

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Country Paper on Human Trafficking Bangladesh




Presented by:

Ferdous Ara Begum
Former Additional Secretary
Government of Bangladesh

Bangladesh Candidate for UN CEDAW Committee Membership





Regional Conference on the
Development of a Conceptual Framework and
Strategies to Combat Trafficking
21-23 February 2006, Islamabad, Pakistan

 

 



Introduction
Human trafficking, particularly trafficking in women and children, is a leading international crime and the worst from of human rights abuse. Globalization and restrictive immigration policies in some countries are seen as crucial factors for the sharp rise of trafficking problem in the whole world. Human trafficking is also seen as the most prominent cause for the rapid growth of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which in turn, has a negative effect on the development process. South Asia is widely considered to be a region where human trafficking is particularly prevalent but where preventive enforcement structures and institutions, policies and programs, regional approaches that might mitigate trafficking are inadequate and rather weak.


2. Bangladesh Scenario

 

Bangladesh is often identified as a country wherein women and children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking due to poverty. Bangladesh is a developing country having a total area of land about 147,570 square kilometers; with a population of about 140 million; where the literacy rate is 51% and the per capita GNP is about $ 470 US Dollars. Bangladesh shares its open borders with India and Myanmar, which is a pressing cause for cross border trafficking in women and children.  



3. Trafficking Trends

In the recent past an increasing trend of human trafficking combined with irregular and improper migration has already generated concern among government authorities and civil societies in Bangladesh. According to recent evidences and information, Bangladeshi trafficked women and children are found in different countries of Asia including India, Pakistan and the Middle Eastern countries. In fact trafficking of adolescent girls and young women is one of the major forms of sexual exploitation both within the country and across the border, since the demand for these girls are on the rise. Boys are also trafficked to Middle Eastern countries as camel jockeys.

Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment & poor governance in the community as well as lure for a better life, better earning and false promises for good marriages are the root causes for this crime. The deep rooted racket of traffickers are involved to take advantage of vulnerable women and children and are engaged to cash in quickly by conducting the sex trade both inside & outside the country. UN scholar Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy said traffickers fish in the stream of migration. The scope of these heinous exploitations is wide and varied by typically involves victims being trapped into commercial and sexual exploitation such as prostitution, pornography and labour exploitation at sweat shops, construction sites and agricultural shades. Other forms of forced labour and abuse include domestic help, forced marriages & camel jockeys.

4. Trafficking Routs


 

  Bangladesh shares her borders with India and Myanmar with thirty bordering districts. Among them twenty eight are on the border with India and two have common borders with Myanmar. Most of the trafficking to destinations outside Bangladesh takes place over the land borders. On the Bangladesh Myanmar border. Cox’s Bazar is said to be a major transit point. Traffickers use a number of border crossing points to India. In the northern region, the districts of Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Panchagarh, Thakurgaon, Dinajpur, Naogaon, Chapai Nawabganj and Rajshahi and in the south Jessor and Satkhira are areas through which trafficked persons are moved to India. The easiest and best known land route to India is through the Benapole border crossing in Jessore, which is the south-west transit point of crossing between Bangladesh and India. This land port is well connected with the Indian city of Kolkata. Trafficked persons constantly flow into Kolkata, some to serve in the city’s flourishing sex industry while a large portion are trafficked on to other parts of India and other South Asian countries to be employed in various exploitative situations.



5. Bangladesh Thematic Group

The government of Bangladesh is highly committed to combating trafficking. That is why the initiative by the Bangladesh thematic group was very important because it demonstrates our mutual commitment to common goals and the collective search for solutions to difficult development challenge: trafficking in person.

The IOM led thematic group mentioned in its findings that despite decades of efforts by various agencies to address the problems of trafficking in persons, there seems to be crucial gaps in the common understanding and in formulating effective interventions at various levels to address the trafficking process and its outcome.

The Bangladesh thematic group exercise has brought us to a new dimension of trafficking nexus that is a ``Second Generation`` understanding of the trafficking problem. Trafficking today is compounded by the presence of well organized criminal networks that operate within and cross border which is no doubt a multi billion dollar business. The acute poverty of parents who are tricked into giving their children to traffickers or selling them to traffickers is the single most important factor in this equation. We cannot simply focus our efforts on the trafficked persons only. Our efforts must be targeted to those who are at risk and vulnerable to trafficking, to their parents, husbands as well as families and communities, as much as to the causes of poverty alleviation programs, micro credit, micro entrepreneurship and empowerment of women. And simultaneously we have to attach importance to the safe labour migration policy as against combating trafficking policy.

6. Government Initiatives

The Government of Bangladesh has a concrete action plan in the domain of policy, programs and legislation in combating trafficking of women and children on the one hand and to promote safe labour migration on the other. The government is committed to develop a safe labour migration management policy, which is aimed at providing safety and security to its migrant workers and members of their families both at the place of origin and the place of destination. Government, NGOs & INGOs also have taken different programs to address poverty and vulnerability of the people at risk as preventive measures.
The preventive activities in Bangladesh have mainly targeted four components- i) awareness raising among the community members, vulnerable groups, community leaders, government officials, police, lawyers, doctors; ii) capacity development of stakeholders at different levels through training; iii) community empowerment through social mobilization; iv) improvement of livelihood opportunities and safe migration initiatives.


Bangladesh is a country rich in human resources including skilled and unskilled labour. Realizing the needs of the expatriate Bangladeshis, the Government of Bangladesh has established a separate Ministry to provide necessary support to address the needs of the Bangladeshis working abroad. This new Ministry is called the “Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment” to facilitate safe labour migration world-wide. The Government believes that the safe and secure migration of service workers can assist equitable development in the country.

Insecurities and gaps in migration policy create spaces for a trafficker that is why the understanding of migration agenda of the poor is essential for designing anti-trafficking interventions. At this point priority of the government regarding safe migration are replacing many forms of trafficking with accessible, affordable migration and securing interregional technical assistance to help develop safe migration policies and opportunities. Also developing marketable skills and promoting pre departure preparedness programs and securing safety at the destination places as a means of accessing new labour markets.

7. Safe Migration

But trafficking of Women and children as a kind of migration makes safe labour migration issue complicated. It is much more complex in case of a women worker willing to work abroad. This issue has been described in a research work done by Ms Therese Blanchet on Bangladeshi migrant women, which called ``Beyond Boundaries-a critical look at women labour migration and the trafficking within.`` The study reveals that even legally migrated women also could face a trafficked like situation, and sexual exploitation if they are not trained and skilled. Also state and legal support are not there to protect their rights in a foreign land.

Therefore, there is a compelling need for a greater Mekong type of regional co-operation that will help Bangladesh and other regional actors to have an effective program against trafficking issue in one hand and promote accessible, affordable and safe labour migration on the other. Such migration denies traffickers opportunities for exploitation.

8. Legislative and Other Measures

On the legislative front, Government of Bangladesh has enacted `suppression of Women and Children Repression Act `2000 as amended in 2003, where death penalty is the maximum punishment provided for the trafficking offence. The Government of Bangladesh has brought relevant changes in the legislation and enactment of new law for the speedy disposal of violence related cases in the year 2002. To protect evidences against the offenders, a new rule is being framed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, so that a victim of violence can go to a government doctor first for medical examination and certification before registering the case at the police station.

Bangladesh Laws Concerning Trafficking of Women and children across borders and within countries for sexual purposes are
a. The penal code of 1860
b. The children (pledging of labour) Act 1933
c. The suppression of Immoral Traffic Act 1933
d. The Children’s Act 1974
e. The cruelty to Women (deterrent punishment) Ordinance 1983
f. Oppression against women and children Act 1995
g. Suppression of women and children repression Act 2000 as amended in 2003.

Besides government has taken initiatives to create massive awareness regarding trafficking in person. To improve juvenile justice and protection system against violence, abuse and trafficking, a new training module and guidebook are being developed for the police, magistrates and judges with the help of UNICEF. It is expected that child victim will get better judgment and protection of law for such initiative. To create a gender sensitive justice system training of officials including prosecutors, immigration officials and border security officials also has been started.

9. Socio Economic Approach

To combat trafficking socio economic initiatives are in place in Bangladesh. Poverty reduction strategy emphasizes on education, health, agriculture, social welfare, women and youth development, physical infrastructure and institutional development in the rural areas. Government of Bangladesh and other non-government institutions like Grameen Bank and NGOs have taken poverty alleviation steps through micro financing and micro entrepreneurship to improve women’s empowerment at the grass root level so that the rural economy could come out from the clutches of poverty, which is the root cause of human trafficking. Currently government is implementing poverty reduction strategy policy (PRSP) through a three years rolling plan to eradicate poverty at the grass root level.

10. Ministry of Women and children Affairs

The Ministry is implementing a multi-sectoral project called One Stop Crisis Center to provide legal and medical help & psycho social counseling to victim of violence, DNA Lab facilities also included in the program. Coordinated Project to Combat Child Trafficking was implemented by the Ministry to create awareness along the bordering districts. To create capacity building and employment, ``Empowerment & Protection of Children & Women`` project is being implemented by the Ministry.

To monitor violence related issues including trafficking, Government of Bangladesh has set up a central cell under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs which performs the follow up activities of reported cases. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has established a safe custody home for women and children, who are victims of a crime including trafficked victims. This is a temporary shelter for them during trial period. Under the Social Welfare Ministry similar shelter homes are in operation in other parts of the country.

11. National Plan of Action

The government has a national action plan against trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. The plan of action is prepared on the basis of seven themes, which include; a) prevention b) protection c) recovery and rehabilitation d) perpetrators e) child participation f) HIV/AIDS, STI and substance abuse and g) coordination and monitoring.

The National Action Plan for children 2002-2007 contains appropriate programs for children in need of special protection, which includes child victims of sexual abuse, exploitation and violence.

12. Ministry of Home Affairs

Ministry of Home Affairs has an important role in preventing trafficking incidents through strict enforcement of law against offenders. Ministry at present is implementing a project called ``Counter Trafficking Intervention in Prevention, Protection, Prosecution for victims of trafficking in person in Bangladesh``. In 2001, Home Ministry has implemented a one-year pilot project for capacity building of law enforcement officials to prevent trafficking of women and children with technical support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Additionally other border management projects also have been undertaken by the Ministry of Home Affairs and IOM that contribute to the overall counter trafficking initiatives of the government of Bangladesh.

Disposal of Selected Cases Relating to Trafficking in Women and Children Due to Monitoring (From 15 June 2004 to 15 March 2005)
 

Sl. No.  Phase

 Total No. of cases taken up for monitoring

Total No. of cases disposed Total No. of cases ending in Total No. of persons Nature of Conviction (Persons involved
 
Conviction Acquittal Conviction Acquitted Death Life Term Other Terms & Fine
    1. 1st Phase     20     19     15    04    32    26     00    27    05
    2. 2nd Phase     30     30     21    09    33    50     03    15    15
    3. 3rd Phase     36     23     11    12    20    44     00    18    02
Total     86     72     47    25    85   120     03    60    22


      
1. Total No. of Cases disposed -- 72 cases
2. Total No. of Accused Convicted -- 47 persons
3. Percentage of Conviction -- 65.28%
4. Total No. of Accused Acquitted -- 25 persons
5. Percentage of Acquittal -- 34.72%

13. Best practices for prevention of trafficking

Recently The Government of Bangladesh has taken three ground breaking initiatives to combat trafficking. These are:

i) Counter Trafficking Framework Report: Bangladesh perspective (CTFR)
ii) National Anti-Trafficking Strategic Plan for Action (NATSPA)
iii) Road March to eradicate violence against women including trafficking.

i) In February 2004 Government of Bangladesh has prepared counter trafficking framework report under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs with the technical assistance of IOM and supported by NORAD which provided a guideline to fight against this heinous crime through a multidimensional and multi-ministerial approach. This framework report has been developed to focus on how programming can be planned, implemented and monitored, who and which agency is responsible for different aspects and provides a timeframe against which concrete progress can be measured. Main issues of CTFR are prevention, interception, rescue, recovery and integration.

ii) Very recently Ministry of Women and Children Affairs with the technical assistance from IOM and supported by ADB has formulated a National Anti-trafficking Strategic Plan for Action (NATSPA) based on the findings and theme of CTFR. This is also a multidimensional and multi-sectoral initiative where different ministries and NGOs will be working together to counter this crime.

The NATSPA is presented in the form of a set of matrices which are clustered into five broad areas of interventions namely:
a. Prevention: All the strategic interventions that are aimed at protecting women and children from the risk of trafficking.
b. Rescue: All the strategic interventions targeted at rescuing the trafficking survivors both within and outside the country.
c. Repatriation: All the strategic interventions that are aimed at ensuring safe return of trafficked Bangladeshi national from abroad.
d. Prosecution: All the strategic interventions that aim at prosecuting the traffickers to ensure justice to the trafficking survivors.
e. Integration: All the strategic interventions that aim at recovery and sustainable social integration of the trafficking survivors.

iii) To Combat Violence against Women Including Trafficking, government in partnership with NGOs, civil society members and Donors led a “Road March” in 38 districts in Bangladesh.

The Road March created a massive awareness among the community people regarding domestic violence, acid throwing, dowry related crime and trafficking in women and children. This innovative program was implemented with the help of International Organization for Migration (IOM), US AID/Bangladesh and Australian High Commission.

14. NGO Initiatives

To address the trafficking harm Bangladeshi NGOs have formed local, regional, national as well as international networks. ATSEC Bangladesh Chapter maintains a list of NGOs and CBOs working on counter trafficking issues in different parts of Bangladesh. Most important NGOS are Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, INCIDIN Bangladesh, Rights Jessore, ACD, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, and CWCS etc. These NGOs are working in the field of protection, prevention, rehabilitation and rescue for many years in cooperation with the government.

15. Regional Initiatives

Trafficking both domestic and cross border considered as a modern day slavery, cannot be solved by the effort of any single country alone. To combat the cross border trafficking, there is a compelling need for a regional co-operation that will help Bangladesh and other regional actors to have a strong program against trafficking.

Here I am recalling my experience from the Mokong region, during my visits of study to Manila and Bangkok, where I also participated in work shops and seminars arranged by ADB on combating trafficking of women and children through regional cooperation, I have observed that both the Govt. of Thailand and Cambodia are politically committed to solve the trafficking problem. In this region under the SAARC umbrella, this type of regional cooperation could be arranged to find out a meaningful and effective solution of this problem. Therefore, in this process the Rights of trafficked persons could be protected at the stage of rescue, prosecution and repatriation and sufficient opportunity could be created for their empowerment and rehabilitation.

Since this is a billion dollar business, to face these challenges at the home front, civil societies, NGOs common people should stand together with the government.

16. Honolulu Declaration

About two years back I have attended an international conference at Honolulu Hawaii, on the human rights challenge of globalization in Asia pacific and U.S. about the trafficking in persons, specially women and children. I will conclude quoting a part of the Honolulu declaration.

“We pledge ourselves to build broad coalitions that bring together the concerned agencies, organizations and individuals to effectively combat trafficking at local, national and international levels. We seek to establish a just and safe world for all the world’s people to live together in peace and prosperity’’.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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WOMEN AND VIOLENCE

 

Ferdous Ara Begum

Joint Secretary (Dev. & Pl.)

Ministry of Women and Children Affairs

   

Violence against women is a significant health & social problem affecting virtually all societies. This is a global phenomenon and an alarming concern for all of us. In many countries violence often goes unrecognized and unreported, sometimes it accepted as a part of normal behavior. Especially domestic violence which occurs in the shelter of privacy in the culture of silence.

 

Violence against women affects all spheres of a women's life, her autonomy, her productivity & her capacity to care for herself and her children and subsequently also her overall health status & quality of life.

 

Beijing Platform for Action identifies it as" an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality". According to PFA " violence against women means any act of gender -based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life." Thus violence against women may arise in the family, within the community or may be perpetrated or condoned by the state. The following details gives a global overview of the nature and types of violence:

 

Violence in the family may occur in the form of physical assault & rape, acid attack, trafficking of women & children, forceful engagement of women in prostitution and other anti social activities, dowry related battering & torture and death due to violence, emotional abuse & confinement, forced marriage.

 

Community based harassment of a women includes the nature of violence as stated above and also media harassment and blackmailing, publishing half truth & distorted facts even using husband and family identity to abuse a women publicly. Commercialization of women's body for eye catching advertisement. Harassment at the workplace also fall under these category.

 

State based violence includes illegal detention, forced sterilization, custodial torture & death etc.

 

Globally violence against women has been recognized as a burning issue of international magnitude. Perhaps the most crucial consequence of violence against women & girls is the denial of their fundamental human rights. UN statistics indicates that world wide, in every 3 women one has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused. More then 20% of women are reported to have been abused by men with whom they live.

 

KOFI ANNAN, UN Secretary General said during the Special Session, in the year 2000 violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. It knows know boundaries of geography, culture or wealth as long as it continues we can not claim to be making real progress toward equality, development and peace.

 

In Bangladesh violence against women takes place both within the family and in public, taking the following forms, rape, acid burning, dowry, prostitution and trafficking, wife battering, sexual harassment and violence within the family. Domestic violence has now assumed serious problem in Bangladesh.

 

However, there is still no comprehensive official statistics on violence against women except data generated in the health related sectors and by some NGOs. Official Statistics from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) indicates that death due to unnatural causes among women is higher than deaths due to maternal complications. Demographic surveillance data of ICDDR,B reveals that over 14% maternal deaths are associated with injuries caused by various forms of violence.

 

Government of Bangladesh is very much aware of the situation and has been taking drastic measures by its own initiatives and also within the framework of CEDAW and Beijing PFA. Government under the able leadership of Honourable Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia is fully committed to eliminate all kinds of discriminations and inequalities between man and women and firmly believes in ZERO TOLLARANCE FOR VIOLENCE. Govt. has taken holistic integrated agenda of legal and policy interventions, programs, effective monitoring and allocation of resources for the realization of the goal of non discrimination against women.

 

Some of the important interventions of the govt. are as follows:

 

i) Socio-economic Interventions:

 

Women are considered as a distinct target group by the national development plans. The Fifth Five Year Plan aims at achieving the goal of equality between women and men. It has major thrust on integration of WID concerns and gender issues in the mainstream of developments. Government has initiated poverty reduction strategy policy in the planning and resource

 

allocation process where children and gender issues have been incorporated and women under poverty will be largely benefited. National Policy for the Advancement of Women was adopted with the commitment and policies for women on human rights, education and training, health and nutrition, political empowerment, administrative reforms, violence and oppression against women.

 

Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh Begum Khaleda Zia has special commitment towards women's empowerment. Her initiatives in different fields especially in education, employment and capacity building of women at grassroots have already made a difference in women's lives. Considering the fact that education contributes towards empowerment the Prime Minister has made education for females free up to secondary level and introduced special scholarship program for female students.

 

ii) Enforcement of Justice system and legal measures

 

Govt. has recently passed two laws on acid attack, ACID CRIME PREVENTION ACT 2002, ACID CONTROL ACT 2002, restricting import & sale of acid in open markets and awarding death penalty for acid throwing offence. The act contains a provision for making the accused non-bailable during the period of investigation. According to acid survivors foundation now-a-days acid crime has been coming down due to stricked application of law.

 

You know that the law entitled prevention of Women and Children Repression Act 2002 and as amended by 2003 has been enforced to deal with all sorts of Violence against Women including trafficking. It has been enacted to prevent and punish cruelty to women and children in the form of abuse injury and death caused by demand for dowry and domestic violence. The law deals with the cases of violence against women such as rape, acid attacks, forced prostitution and trafficking and dowry related crime more effectively and efficiently then previously existed provision. Death penalty is the maximum punishment provided under this provision.

 

Special Court's and speedy trial Tribunals have been set up with session judges or additional session judges in each district to deal with cases regarding violence. It provides for completion of the investigation of such offence within 60 days of the receipt of the First Information Report (FIR). To monitor the implementation of various policies, programs and laws the inter-ministerial coordination and evaluation committee provide institutional mechanism through which celebrities and leader in women's movement and representatives of various women's organizations are able to contribute.Other Important noteworthy measures towards combating violence against women are as follows:

 

1.   Special cells for women in the police head quarters and police stations have been formulated. Another special cell is working in the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to monitor and speedy disposal of the reported cases regarding violence against women. From the Ministry details of the reported cases are regularly send to the respective police station for necessary action;

 

2.   There are Committees for the prevention of violence at the national, district and upazila levels headed by DC at the District level.

 

3.    Violence prevention cells in DWA and JMS;

 

4.    To ensure juvenile justice and gender friendly justice system special training module have been developed for the police magistrate and judges and other law enforcing agencies by the MWCA with the help of UNICEF;

 

5.     Safe custody homes and shelter homes are established by the Govt. under

the MWCA and Social Welfare Ministry and also NGOs for under trial women and abused and tortured women and children. Life skill training component also incorporated in the safe home management;

 

6.     Legal aid fund lying with judges courts also are being used for the victims of violence;

 

7.    A special pilot project is being implemented by the Ministry which is called coordinated project to combat child trafficking. The project has undertaken awareness creating activities at the 25 bordering upazilas;

 

 

8.   Special violence prevention cells are working for the acid survivors which seeks to provide treatment and overall rehabilitation and legal help for acid survivors by the Department of Women Affairs & Jatiyo Mohola Sangstha;

 

9.    Safety net development of disadvantaged women and children through Social Protection project with the help of Asian Development Bank;

 

10.  Step has been taken for the rehabilitation of the displaced sex workers.MWCA, Ministry of Social welfare have set up rehabilitation centers for the displaced sex workers.

 

11.  The govt. has set up a permanent Law Commission to review all laws related to protection of women's rights and provide recommendations wherever required;

 

12.  Ministry of Women and children Affairs have undertaken multi sectoral projects to eliminate violence against women including setting up One Stop Crises Center (OCC) in Dhaka and Rajshahi Medical College Hospitals mainly to deal with acid victims and rape victims to facilitate quick investigation and other required services. From these project Medical legal and psychosocial counseling also are being provided to the victims. DNA Lab and Hot Line Services also established in the OCC center to provide instant services to be victim.

 

13.   A nation wide road march from Tetulia to Teknaf covering 18 districts was  inaugurated by the Minister of Women and Children Affairs and was successfully completed under her leadership. This campaign was under taken to create awareness regarding domestic violence, dowry related crime, acid violence and trafficking of women and children, where NGOs, civil society members, donors also participated with the govt.

 

14.   Trafficking in women and children is an issue of vital concern to the government. Bangladesh is committed to the complete eradication of this social vice. But prostitution and trafficking are international racket and it is cross border issue. Without the cooperation and commitment of the countries which are involved in this racket Bangladesh can do little to stop it. Main destinations of trafficking from Bangladesh are India, Pakistan and Middle East. Government has already initiated and signed the SAARC Convention on Prevention of Trafficking of Women and Children.

 

Ministry of Women and Children Affairs with the help of donors and NGOs and civil society members has undertaken a noteworthy the initiatives to prepare a country frame work regarding trafficking in person in Bangladesh. A National Plan of Action is under formulation with the help of IOM. It will address women, children and adolescent girls for providing protection, dealing with domestic and cross border trafficking, alleviating poverty, ensuring safe migration, organizing capacity building and creating job options by providing proper safe service of  labour migration to poor women.

 

15.   Government has enacted several laws to ensure women's security. Prevention of Dowry Act 1980 makes both giving and taking dowry criminal offence and punishable by imprisonment of not less than one year. A person assisting in dowry transactions and a person demanding dowry are equally punishable;

 

16.   The another law also prohibits identification of the victims by publishing their photographs in the newspaper;

 

17.   There is a change brought in the evidence act. Now the victim of violence can go strait to the doctor or civil surgeon to register her case, instead of going to the police station first. The doctor will notify the police station and DC's office regarding the case. The doctors certificate will be accepted in the court as evidence;

 

18.    Government is continuously reviewing the process and identifying appropriate actions. In this context, a Social policy Paper is under preparation to address the issue of children under detention with help of UNICEF. Provision of unofficial Jail Visitor has been introduced to monitor the condition of women and children in the prison. A project has been set up to build separate jail for women prisoners. Step has been taken to utilize the unspent funds lying with Judges Court for the women and children who are under detention;

 

19.   In health sector several measures have been taken towards improving child and maternal health which include child and woman friendly hospital.

 

20.    A nation wide campaign to break the silence about AIDS and to create awareness regarding the deadly diseases has been launched by the honourable Minister, Ministry of women and children affairs;

 

21.  Govt. has also taken steps for birth registration utilizing the services of Union Parishad representatives and community leaders. Ministry of Local Govt. and Rural Development has taken elaborate program with the help of UNICEF for birth  registration and marriage registration and also eliminating early marriage.

 

22.  Govt. of Bangladesh is very much committed to eradicate violence from the society and continuously working its best to bring about changes in the condition of women and is harnessing resources and efforts, as far as possible, to bring about gender equality in all spheres of life.

Bangladesh is committed to implement millennium development goal and PRSP to eliminate discrimination against women.

 

23.   But to have a violence free society it is not the responsibility of the govt. alone What is needed now is to bring home to every body the knowledge and information about these actions and awaken awareness about the need to fulfill and implement the actions. Steps taken by the government are not enough unless people rise to the occasion so that both women and men could enjoy the fruits of the changes. It is here that the journalists can play the most decisive role. It is the journalist who can make the people aware of women's issues and steps taken by the government to improve the condition of women. They can give the widest publicity of the legal and other provision made by the Government and the provisions of the international

 

Covenant like CEDAW, CRC, BPFA and bring to light cases of violence against women and create public opinion against such vices. It is the journalist who can pursue the cases and ensure that the offenders are punished. We do appreciate the role of the media in Bangladesh in Trisha and Rima murder cases. We hope the media will keep up the tradition and orient their journalism against violence.

 

24.   Unfortunately, in spite of the positive role played by the journalists there is a dark side. As the BPFA has pointed out, "the continued projection of negative and degrading images of women in media communications--- electronic, print, visual and audio-must be changed. Print and electronic media in most countries do not provide a balanced picture of women's diverse lives and contributions to society in a changing world. In addition, violent and degrading or pornographic media products are also negatively affecting women and their participation in society. Programming that reinforces women's traditional roles can be equally limiting. The world-wide trend towards consumerism has created a climate in which advertisements and commercial messages often portray women primarily as consumers and target girls and women of all ages inappropriately."

 

25. The obligation to wipe out the blemishes devolves on the conscientious section of the journalists. I am confident that journalists of the SAARC region will play a positive role. In this connection, I would remind you the actions suggested by the BPFA: "national and international media system should develop, consistent with freedom of expression, regulatory mechanism, including voluntary ones, that promote balanced and diverse portrayals of women by the media and international communication systems" and "refrain from presenting women as inferior being and exploiting them as sexual objects and commodities, rather than presenting them as creative human beings, key actors and contributors to and beneficiaries of the process of development."

 

 

Thank you all

 

Allah Hafiz.

 

 

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Combating Trafficking of Women and Chidlren: Bangladesh Perspective & Developing Partnership for a Better Future

ADB Regional Workshop

27-29 May 2002

Ferdous Ara Begum

Joint Secretary

Ministry of Women & Children Affairs

Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

 

The views expressed in this paper are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Directors or the governments they represent. ADB makes  no representation concerning and does not guarantee the source, originality, accuracy, completeness or reliability of any statement, information, data, finding, interpretation, advice, opinion, or view presented.

 

Distinguished Chairman and Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I would like to thank ADB for sponsoring the workshop and would also like to thank all of the various participants in this workshop for their time and effort in addressing the harm that trafficking of women and children is inflicting on the people of South Asia and suggestions for its remedy. We are confident that by sharing our experiences and views, we will be able to better grasp the magnitude of the challenge we face to combat the problem of trafficking.

 

2. I would like to thank ADB: RETA Bangladesh Team Leader Ms. Helen Thomas and others in her Team for the preparation of pretty comprehensive Bangladesh Country Paper on human trafficking which is indeed a very excellent one. It has touched most of the aspects of trafficking issue including prevention, rescue, recovery and rehabilitation and yet pointed out that the demand factor of the problem has not been addressed on its

right perspective due to shortage of information.

 

3. I found the country report on Bangladesh to reflect many of our Government’s concerns and I could see that it offers us an opportunity to engage with ADB and other developing partners in formulating more effective program of action to come to grips with

this compelling and daunting task.

 

4. As a signatory to SAARC convention, Bangladesh Government is already committed to fighting against trafficking. We believe there is an urgent need for us to address the forces that sustain the evil of trafficking. Furthermore, through the execution of the National Action Plan we wish to consider how we might best educate women and children from the lure of such a risky venture while offering them alternative opportunities

to participate and benefit from more safe and sustainable income generating livelihood at home.

 

5. Government of Bangladesh also committed to develop a safe service labor migration management policy which is aimed at providing safety and security to its migrant workers and members of their families both at the place of origin and place of destination. Bangladesh is a country rich with both skilled and unskilled labor. Realizing the needs of the expatriates Bangleshis, our Prime Minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, has established a new ministry to facilitate the needs of the Bangladeshis working abroad. THIS NEW ministry is called “Ministry for Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment”. We wish to reiterate the importance of relaxing immigration policies of developed countries which encourage the export of our labor. This is considered as a very important source of earning compared to foreign aid received and is an important component to assist our development program particularly those of poverty alleviations. Needless to say poverty is the most significant single factor which contributes to women and children trafficking.

 

6. But trafficking of women and children as considered a kind of migration makes safe labor migrant issue complicated. It is much more complex in case of a woman worker willing to work abroad. Therefore, trafficking could be described as an intangible obstacle to successful migration and is a threat to our economy.

 

7. But cross border trafficking can not be solves by the effort of any single country alone. Therefore, there is a compelling need for a greater Mekong Type of regional cooperation that will help Bangladesh and other regional actors to have an effective program against trafficking issue in one hand and promote accessible, affordable and safe migration on the other. Such migration opportunities fir exploitation.

 

8. Here I am recalling my newly learnt experience from Macong region. Last week, I had an opportunity to attend a study tour in Bangkok arranged by ADB on Combating Trafficking of women and children though regional co-operation. I have observed that both Thailand and Cambodia are politically committed to solve the trafficking problem. They have developed MOU for bilateral agreement for mutual cooperation in the area. Also there are internal MOU within different Government agencies for synchronized and coordinated effort to face the problem.

 

9. ADB could also help us to develop a similar program of regional cooperation among countries like India and Pakistan, two major points of destination for trafficking victims with Bangladesh and Nepal, which are considered as a sending country.

 

10. ADB needs to examine how it can ensure increased protection for migrant workers as well as integrated program against exploitative, abusive and deceptive labor trafficking within the framework of ADB funded regions. We therefore hope that ADB will engage with us and others to ensure that ADB infrastructure projects will consider the need of migrant workers protection as well as gender protection. More and more women workers should be employed in the ADB funded projects which will serve as a part of their social commitment with the region.

 

11. Now I want to react with some of the comments raised in the country paper. This says in the para 170 “the issue of trafficking is considered within the scope of Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, as most of the victim are women and children. But in realityMWCA have very little scope to work for rescue repatriation recovery and reintegration.” ADB has correctly appreciated our difficulties and limitations.

 

12. As per national action plan, women affairs ministry is working as the lead ministry on woman issues. Due to resource constraint, the ministry is working with extreme limitations. At present, the Women’s Affairs Ministry, under the able leadership of Minister Khurshid Jahan Haq, is more focused on prioritizing and maximizing the utilization of the limited funds and resources that are allocated to the ministry to benefit the women and children of Bangladesh. Women Affairs Ministry is implementing 28 projects at present, which are directly linked with poverty eradication, gender mainstreaming, micro credit policy, empowerment of women, capacity building, etc. in the rural areas. Poverty and illiteracy is considered the root cause of trafficking, both cross border and domestic. So Ministry is contributing to that direction on the preventive side.

 

13. For the recovery and re-integration of trafficking victims, Women Affairs Ministry is presently implementing 3 years pilot project called “Child Development Coordinated project to Combat Child Trafficking” supported by NORAD. The main objective of this program is to conduct motivation activities and to support the efforts or organizations working in the areas of prevention, rescue repatriation and rehabilitation of Survivors of trafficking. Ministry of Women and Children Affairs also has another project titled “Improvement and Protection of Children and Women” supported by UNICEF. The project addresses children in especially difficult circumstance including street children and trafficked children.

 

14. According to national action plan, there are many areas of women issues which need to be given attention. However, due to fund constraint the Ministry is unable to take more initiatives. We need to have shelter homes along border areas for the traffic victims, also need to build rehabilitation centers for victims both women and children. We need to train our immigration people, Police and BDR, Social Welfare Workers, NGOs working in the field, for the safe handling of traffic victims. We need to take more initiatives to combat domestic trafficking too. But all these activities needs huge amount of money. ADB is making important contribution by way of funding various studies, surveys and infrastructure building activities in the field of child and women trafficking in Bangladesh but much more of its involvement is needed within its broader framework of activities towards poverty alleviation. We urge ADB and other donors to come forward and support our causes and strengthen the ability of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs so that we can provide tangible benefit to our trafficking victims, children and women.

 

Thank you.

 

Ferdous Ara Begum

 

 

 

 

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Published in the Journal:
Orderly and Humane Migration. An Emerging Development Paradigm.

Edited by: P. K. Mitra, J. Hossain
Institute of Bangladesh Studies, University of Rajshahi, 2004


COMBATING TRAFFICKING: COMMITMENT, POLICIES AND PROGRAMS OF BANGLADESH GOVERNMENT

Ferdous Ara Begum

Human trafficking particularly trafficking of women and children is a leading international crime and worst form of human rights abuse. Globalization and free trade economy are seen as crucial factors for the sharp rise of trafficking problem in the whole world in recent years.

In the recent past an increasing trend of human trafficking combined with illegal and improper migration in Bangladesh has already generated grave concern among government authorities and national bodies. According to recent evidences and information, Bangladeshi trafficked women and children are found in different countries of Asia including India, Pakistan and the Middle East and even in Europe. In fact trafficking of adolescent girls is one of the major forms of sexual exploitations both within the country and cross border since the demand of these girls is on the rise and it is believed that they are free from HIV-AIDS diseases.

According to different estimations of NGOs and news reports, about five to seven hundred thousand children and women were trafficked out from Bangladesh to bordering India over the past two decades. Recent newspaper sources claimed that at least 2500 children and women are being trafficked out across the border every month mainly for the purpose of prostitution, sexual abuse, forced and bounded labour, camel jockey, slavery, sale of organ and forced marriages. In case of girls and women the destination is often the sex market. In case of the Middle Eastern countries the trafficked boys are engaged as camel jockeys. It is learnt from a very recent report that, in response to Bangladesh government’s recent request through International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UAE Government is in the process of taking some specific steps for prohibition of the use of young under aged boys as camel jockeys. This is, indeed, a very encouraging step towards combating trafficking problem. IOM has done a commendable job in this respect.

According to another recent report from the US State Department regarding global trafficking issue it is stated that approximately seven million people are bought, sold, transported and held in slavery for sex and exploited labour globally in a year. The scope of this heinous exploitation is wide and varied but typically involves victims being trapped into commercial and sexual exploitation at sweat shops, construction sites and agriculture. Other forms of forced labour and abuse include domestic help, forced marriage and camel jockeys. The State Department even mentioned that Bangladesh is one of the source countries.

Human trafficking today is directed through a wave of fraud, abductions, false promises of good marriages as well as lure of better earning through better jobs etc. In such cases, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and poor governance in the relevant areas are the root causes of this crime. The deeply sited racket of traffickers are involved in taking advantage of vulnerabilities of women and children and are engaged to cash in quickly from the sex trade both inside and outside the country. A recent report of IOM has reported that almost 12 billion dollars of lucrative business for the traffickers all over the world.

To understand trafficking problem better, we need to understand the meaning and scope of trafficking. As per UN Protocol 2002, “Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at the minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices, similar to slavery, or removal of organs”

As per SAARC convention 2002 “Trafficking means the moving , selling or buying of women and children for prostitution within and outside a country for monetary or other considerations with or without the consent of the person subjected to trafficking.” Both of these definitions address the issue of both domestic and cross border trafficking.

The 1st World Congress against commercial sexual exploitation of children was held at Stockholm in Sweden in 1996. According to the declaration of the 1st Congress, Governments of the representative countries including Bangladesh, together with non-government organizations and UN bodies committed themselves to a global partnerships against the commercial sexual exploitation of children. In the past five years since it has attended the First World Congress, Government of Bangladesh has taken a series of significant steps in both international and domestic arenas to address this issue.

Bangladesh Government’s commitment in protecting and upholding the rights of children which underlines all efforts in this area – has been demonstrated by its early ratification of the UN Convention of the Rights of Children, and in September 2000 of the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. In march 2001, the Government of Bangladesh made a further pledge to protect children from sexual exploitation and trafficking through its rectification of ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour. In 2002, government has ratified SAARC Convention on preventing and combating trafficking in women and children for prostitution.

The Government of Bangladesh has a concrete action plan in the domain of policy, programs & legislation in combating trafficking of woman & children on-the one hand and to promote safe labour migration on the other. The government of Bangladesh is committed to develop a safe labour migration management policy, which is aimed at providing safety and security to its migrant workers and members of their families both at the place of origin and the place of destination. Bangladesh is a country rich in human resources including skilled and unskilled labour.

Realising the needs of the expatriate Bangladeshis, the GoB has established a new Ministry to provide necessary support to address the needs of the Bangladeshis working abroad. This new Ministry is called the “Ministry of Expatriates Welfare & Overseas Employment” to facilitate safe labour Migration world-wide, it is necessary to consider the importance of relaxing immigration policies of developed countries, which will encourage legal labour migration and will discourage illegal labour migration through trafficking. Foreign remittance from expatriate workers of Bangladesh is considered to be an important source of financing our development programs particularly those of poverty alleviation. It is worthwhile to mention that Government of Bangladesh earned about $ 2 Billion dollars from migrant remittance in the year 2001. This positive approach of Bangladesh Government towards successful migration management policy surely will act as an important step to combat trafficking.

On the legislative front, Government of Bangladesh has enacted “Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act” in the year 2000 where death penalty is the maximum punishment for the trafficking offence. Important new provision include a new offence of sexual harassment and power to award any fine imposed following conviction under the act to the victim by way of compensation. This is the central piece of legislation intended to protect women and children from violence and oppression

The National Plan of Action for Children 1997-2002 contains appropriate programs for children in need of special protection, which includes child victim in sexual abuse, exploitation and violence. A separate chapter is included in the proposed sixth five year plan to address the issue of children and women. In the upcoming child rights week many activities including social awareness campaign against trafficking have been planed. Besides this, 30th September will be observed as girl child day to create positive attitude towards girl child in the society.

To improve juvenile justice and protection system against violence, abuse and trafficking, a new training module and guidebook are being developed for the police, migrates and judges with the help of UNICEF. It is expected that child victim will get better judgment and protection of law for such initiative.

The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs also adopted a separate National Plan of Action against the sexual abuse and exploitation of children including trafficking for the period 2002-2006 with the help of UNICEF. The focus of the program is to develop awareness among children, their families and communities regarding child rights and risk sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and trafficking. The plan of action is prepared on the basis of seven themes, which include; a) prevention b) protection c) recovery and rehabilitation d) perpetrators e) child participation f) HIV/AIDS , STI and substance abuse and g) co-ordination and monitoring.

The government of Bangladesh has ought relevant changes in the legislation and enactment of new law for the speedy disposal of violence related cases in the year 2002.
The protect evidences against the offenders, a new rule is being framed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, so that a victim of violence can go to a government doctor first for medical examination and certification before registering the case at the police station.

The Government of Bangladesh is committed to fight against trafficking through implementation of article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). According to the commitment of the Beijing Platform for Action and UN special session 2000, Government of Bangladesh through the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs is implementing ‘National Policy for Women and National Plan of Action for Women’s Development’. Meanwhile, Allocation of Business of the MWCA has been revised, gender analysis tools has been developed, and women friendly laws have been enacted. In order to ensure gender mainstreaming in all government policies and activities WID focal point mechanism has been set up in all implementing agencies including 4 line ministries. The following are some of the laws formulated or amended to ensure equality and protect women’s right in order to strengthen the position of women which will enable them to protect women’s rights in order to strengthen the position of women which will enable them to protect from any sorts of exploitation including.

(a) The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961
(b) The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1980
(c) The Family Court Ordinance of 1985
(d) The Child Marriage Restraint Art of 1929
(e) The Muslim Marriage an Divorce (Registration) Act of 1974

As a signatory to SAARC convention, Bangladesh Government is already committed to fight against trafficking. The Government believes there is an urgent need to address the forces that sustain the evil of trafficking. Furthermore, through the execution of the National Plan of Action we would educate and women and children from the lure of such a risky venture and create opportunities for alternative employment and make them benefited from more safe and sustainable income generating livelihood at home.

To monitor violence related issues including trafficking, Government of Bangladesh has set up a central cell under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs which performs the follow up activities of reported cases.

Beside this a special anti child trafficking call has been established in the Ministry of Home Affairs. Two other Cells are there, one in BDR and the other in Police (CID). The function of these cells is to identify those who are involved in the trafficking business and at the sane time arrest them and promptly rescue the trafficked victims.

To combat child trafficking , the Government of Bangladesh has taken a pilot project in January 2000 called Child development: Co-oriented Project to Combat Child Trafficking under Ministry of Women and Child Affairs with help of NORAD. The main activity of this Project is to develop a mass awareness campaign against trafficking in 25 sub-districts of border areas in 14 Districts through street drama, poster sticking, miking etc. 10 NGO’s have been selected to implement these activities where ACD of Rajshahi is one of those. Rescued children at the process of rehabilitation will be provided advocacy, psychosocial counseling, income generating training, entertainment, education and legal support from the project. Through this project Government of Bangladesh has set up a unique example GO-NGO collaboration. Other activities of this project such as rescue, repatriation, reintegration and rehabilitation will also be done by other sets of NGOs. BDR and CID of Police will also be included in the implementation process. The Project targets to rehabilitate and reintegrate 800 children through (a) parents (b) NGOs and (c) Foster homes.

The major activities of this project are (a) to activate multi sector institutional initiatives (b) to ensure quick disposal of trafficking cases (c) to rehabilitate and reintegrate rescued children.

The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs also implements another project called ILO-IPEC. Trafficking in children- South Asia (TICSA) project. This project has started awareness building campaign in the bordering districts through street drama based on tales of trafficking misery. Centre for Ethnic Children, an NGO is implementing this campaign.

Recently, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has established a safe custody home for women and children, who are victims of a crime including trafficked victims. This is a temporary shelter for them during trial period. Government is planning to build up similar shelter homes in other parts of country.

The above mentioned policies and programs taken by the Bangladesh government are major initiatives in relation to anti trafficking measure.

Trafficking as modern day slavery, can be solved with government initiatives alone. Since it is a billion dollar business, to face this challenge NGOs’ civil societies and common people should stand together with the government. Strict application of law is also needed to combat trafficking. Weakness and loopholes of legal procedure also helps offenders. Though, the trafficking offence is on the rise, we do not hear much about offenders getting death sentences. This is because most of the cases of trafficked women and children are not supported by proper witnesses and documentary evidences. Victims out of fear and other reasons do not normally come forward. As a result most of the cases of trafficked women and children are transferred under passport act, 1973, where punishment under 11(c) of the passport Act is Tk. 500.00 only which is very nominal. Taking advantage of this loophole of law, the traffickers do no get adequate punishment and do this crime again. So appropriate legislative changes also necessary for the effective implementation of law to punish those trafficking offenders.

But cross border trafficking can not be solved by the effort of any single country alone. Therefore there is compelling need for a regional cooperation that will help Bangladesh and other regional actors to have strong program against trafficking. In this region under SAARC umbrella regional cooperation could be arranged to find out a meaningful and effective solution of this problem. Therefore, in this process the right of trafficked persons could be protected at the satge of rescue, prosecution and repatriation and sufficient opportunity could be created for their empowerment and rehabilitation.

 

 

 

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INDEPENDENT COMMISSION FOR CHILDREN


Begum Ferdous Ara Begum
Joint Secretary (Development & Planning)
Ministry of Women and Children
Bangladesh Secretariat
Dhaka, Bangladesh



EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Bangladesh Government is strongly committed to protecting the rights and opportunities of the children of Bangladesh. The Government, led by the Honourable Prime Minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, is committed to realizing the promises made in the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children in 2002: “A World Fit for Children” and has passed through the cabinet a new National Plan for Action for Children. The Honourable Minister for Women and Children Affairs, Ms. Khurshid Zahan Haque, MP, has proposed a special commission that will oversee and defend the rights and opportunities of the children in Bangladesh. Last month a high-level government delegation went to three European countries: France, Norway and Sweden, to research their Offices of the Children’s Ombudsman, or the commissioner for children, in an effort to formulate a model for Bangladesh.

Offices of the Ombudsman were created in the Scandinavian countries in the 1800s as an agent of the public and arbitrator for citizen’s interests. Many European, North American and Asian countries now have similar offices to advocate and defend the interests of the citizens, offer equitable solutions and non-binding arbitrations.

This report details the issues and concerns studied by the delegation. It also elaborates implementation, roles, duties, authorities, funding and reporting structures of the offices of children’s Ombudsman in France, Norway and Sweden.

This report recommends that an office for children’s Ombudsman be established in Bangladesh to oversee and defend the rights and opportunities of the children of Bangladesh. Such an office for the children’s Ombudsman can be established based on the existing Ombudsman law of 1980 and Child Right Convention.

Acknowledgement
I would like to thank Ms. Khurshid Jahan Haque M.P. Honorable Minister, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs for her pro active and forward looking policy directives towards ensuring the protection of rights and opportunities of the children of Bangladesh. I would also like to thank the Governments of France, Norway and Sweden for inviting the government delegation to this Fact Finding Mission.

I would like to thank Madame Claire Brisset, Commissioner for Children and Mr. Christian Jacob, Minister of the family and his team and also Members of the Cabinet of Ministers of the France Government for their kind cooperation and sharing knowledge and experience about the Independent Commission for Children.

I would also like to thank Ms. Laila Davoy, Honorable Minister, Ministry of Children and Family Welfare, Mr. Trond Waage, Barneombud, Ombudsman for Children and Director General Ms. Arni Hole of the Government of Norway for their cooperation, warm hospitality and sharing knowledge and experience about Gender Equality and Children Ombudsman system in Norway.


I would also like to thank Mr. David Hansen, Political Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, other representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Development and Ministry of Justice and Officials from NORAD for their continued support and cooperation for coordinated approach to combat trafficking of Women and Children in Bangladesh.

I would like to thank Ms. Lena Nyberg, Ombudsman for Children of Sweden, Ms. Ewa Hollen, Children Obmud of Botkyrka Community, officials from Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, Ministry of Culture, representative from the Save the Children Alliance for their kind cooperation and sharing knowledge and experience about the Independent Commission for Children.
I also would like to thank to the Swedish Government for generous support to the Fact Finding Mission.

I would also like to express my thanks and gratitude to The UNICEF, Bangladesh specially Mr. Morten Giersing, Representative, UNICEF, Bangladesh and Ms. Lila Pieters, Chief, Child Protection Section, UNICEF, Bangladesh for providing sincere support and coordination to the whole Programme.

Finally, I would like to express my thanks to Mr. Jahangir Sadat, Honorable Ambassador of Bangladesh in France and Mr. Al- Harun, Honorable Ambassador of Bangladesh in Sweden and Mr. Piter Daae, Honorary Consul General of Bangladesh in Norway and Mr. A.K.M. Shahidul Karim, Second Secretary of the Embassy of Sweden for their kind cooperation and warm hospitality.

Lastly, I would like thank Dr. Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister for his able guidance and assistance during this Fact Finding Mission.

INTRODUCTION

The Bangladesh Government is strongly committed to safeguarding the best interest of children. The Honourable Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia has reaffirmed this commitment at various national, regional and international fora, including the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children in May 2002 at New York, where a new agenda for "A World Fit for Children" was adopted.

Following this agenda the government has secured cabinet approval in February 2003 for a National Plan for Action (NPA) against sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking of children. The NPA also calls for promoting forums to ensure that the children’s views are heard on the matters that concern them. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has undertaken programs to empower adolescent girls through development of sustainable livelihoods. The government has also taken initiative to formulate social policies on alternative models of care and protection for children in contact with the law.

To further the government’s commitment to the children, the Honorable Minister for Women and Children Affairs, Ms. Khurshid Zahan Haque, M.P, announced at the Bangladesh Development Forum in 2002 the government’s intention to establish a commission for children to monitor the implementation of the new NPA for children and to defend and promote the rights of the children. This plan for an Ombudsman for children was reaffirmed by the Honourable Minister in the report to the Committee on the Rights of Children in September 2003.

This January, I, as a part of a high-level government delegation, visited three European countries to study the implementation and operations of such offices of Ombudsman for children and research a model appropriate for Bangladesh.

AN OMBUDSMAN

An Ombudsman, a Swedish term adopted in English, is a person who investigates complaints and offers fair and equitable settlements between aggrieved parties. The first office of the Ombudsman, a commissioner for public rights, was set up in Scandinavian countries to hear, investigate and mediate complaints lodged by the citizens against the government or other state actions or inactions. In 1809 the Office of Riksdagens Justice ombudsman was created in Sweden to act as the overseer of justice, a mechanism for reevaluating fairness and equitability in the affairs between the government and the citizens. This office was the precursor to all offices of Ombudsman elsewhere in the world. Other then, various governments in Europe and North America, many universities, trade unions, business and advocacy groups have established offices of Ombudsman as a means for checks-and-balances, and non-binding arbitration.

FACT FINDING MISSION TO FRANCE, NORWAY AND SWEDEN

A high-level government delegation led by Dr. Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, visited France, Norway and Sweden during the last week of January, 2004 at the invitation of the various governments to acquaint themselves with the process of creating and running an independent commission for children. The other members of this delegation were Mr. Habibul Awal, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, and Mrs. Ferdous Ara Begum, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs.

ISSUES AND CONCERNS EXAMINED FROM A BANGLADESH PERSPECTIVE

The following issues and concerns were examined by the delegation during their tri-nation trip.

• What will be the appropriate legislation for the new office in Bangladesh?
• Independent status of the new institution: whether it will be placed under the parliament or under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs.
• Mandate of the new office: whether it should be designed to focus on individual cases or group interest.
• Staffing, recruitment pattern and size of the new institution: whether the Ombudsman for children and other officials will be recruited by selection or through advertisement and selection or to be recruited by a search committee.
• How transparency and accountability will be built into the system.
• Funding for the new office: whether fund will come from government or individuals and donors who are also privileged to participate.
• Whether the new office will be run in a decentralized manner or will it have a strong central office with control over local offices.
• Whether elected representatives at the grass root level, such as the Union Parishad (UP), will be involved in the day to day functioning of the new office.
• What will be regular work schedule and functions of the new office?
• How this office will monitor the implementation of the new NPA for children for 2002-2007 and NPA for SEACT, MDG and World Fit for Children agenda.
• How this office will monitor the implementation process of Child Right Convention (CRC) and concluding observation.
• How this office will handle public complaints regarding the violation of child rights issues in schools, hospitals, day care centers, correctional centers, safe custody homes and shelter homes, detention centers, custodial abuse etc. and abuse at home.
• How the child rights issues, complaints, and suggestions will be reflected in the different reports including but not limited to the annual reports of the commission. Whether the annual report will be submitted to the ministry or Parliament or both.
• How parental care, community care towards children could be visualized and influenced as per CRC by this new office.
• How the new office can influence the existing rules and regulations and laws regarding children for amendment if needed in accordance with the CRC and National Plan of Action for children.
• Whether the new office will be authorized to ask for information on the progress made by different ministries and institutions in implementing measures aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of children and young people.
• Whether the office of the ombudsman will be empowered to monitor international and UN Commitments and also to monitor international developments with regard to the interpretation and application of the conventions provisions.
• In case of dispute with the legal system, how the issue will be handled by the office of the Ombudsman for children.

INDEPENDENT COMMISSION FOR CHILDREN: A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE

Office of the Ombudsman for Children exists in a dozen of European countries and in as many as forty other countries. The most important reason for creating an independent office of Ombudsman for children lies in the unique vulnerability of the children worldwide. Children lack political, social and economic power to assert their rights and forwarded their interests at any stage of the political process, where legislation is framed, resources are allocated or policies implemented. They are generally ignored and are not aware their own rights.

An independent commission for children is needed both to advocate for new legislation to protect the children as well as to take action to improve enforcement of the laws already in existence in Bangladesh. The commission for children must seek greater justice for children, both by improving access to existing rights and by promoting recognition of human rights.

THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN IN FRANCE

In France the Ombudsman for children – called Defensure des Enfants, meaning the Defender of Children – is appointed by a presidential decree following the recommendation of the Council of Ministers. He or she is appointed for a non-renewable six-year term. The Ombudsman's office is entirely dedicated to the protection and promotion of children's rights.

The French Office of the Ombudsman for Children was created by law on March 6, 2000. This law also guarantees his independence. No instructions can be given to the Ombudsman. He also cannot be prosecuted for any action done by his office.

The mission of this office is to inquire into individual complaints made by children, their legal representatives or approved charities, to make recommendation on legislative consistency with children's rights, to promote children's rights by sensitization, information, training and annual report.

REGULAR ACTIVITIES AND INTERVENTIONS BY THE OMBUDSMAN


• When the complaint is made against a public authority (courts, public social services, state services, school administration), the Ombudsman on Children has to refer the case to Mediator of the Republic, a specialized independent authority.

• If the complaint is made against an individual or a private agency, he can recommend to the individual or agency any solution within existing laws that makes it possible to solve the conflict.

• However, he cannot intervene in the court of judicial proceedings and has no access to court files. He can neither criticize a court decision nor make recommendations to courts. When the case justifies a judicial protection of the child or an intervention by social services, he refers the matters to the competent authority.

STAFF


The Ombudsman for Children is assisted by a staff of 25 he personally appoints. His staff includes a Board of Directors and several support staff specialized in judicial, social and communication matters.

The Ombudsman for Children works with two consultative committees. One of them is composed of people with strong legal background and meets several times a year to assist the Ombudsman. The second committee is composed of teenagers and meet twice a year to inform the Ombudsman of children’s perspectives and suggestions.

HANDLING COMPLAINTS REGARDING VIOLATION OF CHILD RIGHT ISSUES

Children can register individual complaints to the Ombudsman's office either by letters, e-mails or meeting with a regional correspondent regarding school matters, health problem, family problem and gender discrimination.

FUNDING

The Ombudsman’s budget is voted on by the parliament as part of the state's budget. It is not submitted to administrative control. The Ombudsman gives a financial account of his work to a special court.

REPORTING

Office of the Ombudsman is required to publish an annual report about the activities and cases handled during the year which details the issues raised and suggestions made in those cases. This report is submitted to both the government and the parliament.


THE OFFICE OF OMBUDSMAN IN NORWAY

Norway was the first country in the world to establish a commissioner or Ombudsman specifically with statutory powers to protect children and their rights. Since 1981, even before Norway ratified the CRC, the Ombudsman for children has worked continuously to improve national and international legislations affecting children's welfare.

The Ombudsman for children in Norway works under the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. He is appointed for a period of four years, which can be renewed for another four-year term.

The Ombudsman serves as an independent non-partisan agent, spokesman and arbitrator of children’s rights issues. He tries to ensure that ministries, local authorities and others fulfill their legislative purpose and suggests improvements to various measures to protect the best interest of the children as a group.

The Ombudsman in Norway has the power to investigate, criticize and publicize, but not to reverses administrative action or revoke administrative decisions.

The Office of the Ombudsman is an active participant in both national and regional hearings concerning children's rights. The Ombudsman has also continued to work as an ambassador for various projects to show the media and the public a diverse picture of children's lives in Norway.

REGULAR ACTIVITIES AND INTERVENTIONS BY THE OMBUDSMAN

• The duties of the Ombudsman are to promote the interests of the children vis--vis public and private authorities and to follow up the improvement of the situation under which children grow up.

• The Ombudsman for children of his own initiative or as a hearing instance protect the interest of the children.

• Ensure that legislation relating to the protection of children's interests is in compliance of the UN convention on the rights of the children.

• Propose measures that can strengthen children's safety under the law.

• Put forward proposals for measures that can solve or prevent the conflicts between children and society.

• Ensure that sufficient information is given to the public and private sectors concerning children's rights and measures required for children.

• The Ombudsman may act on own initiative or at the request of other people. The Ombudsman for children himself decides whether an application merits sufficient grounds for action.
• The important role of the Norwegian Ombudsman is to strive for equality for all children and youth in the environment where young people live their lives. The goal is to reach optimal equality in standards of schooling, healthcare, social and leisure and cultural activities.

• Influencing and sensitizing the policy makers towards CRC is an essential task for the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is required to be present in person at the public debates and have a public media presence.

STAFF

Office of the Ombudsman consists of 15 employees. This office mostly deals with complaints regarding violation of children’s rights issues concerning group interests. The staff of the office gives more personal advice on how to take best care of children and how to highlight the best interest of the child under potentially stressful circumstances.

HANDLING COMPLAINTS REGARDING VIOLATION OF CHILD RIGHT ISSUES

Office of the Ombudsman handles inquiries regarding children's procedural rights as a group when subject to legislative matters, court or administrative decisions. Most of the inquiries are referred to relevant offices. Individual cases provide guidelines for the Ombudsman for monitoring children's rights in practice as well as highlighting areas that require change of legislation. For instance, at present the Ombudsman’s office is working to stop bullying as it causes suffering to many children, both at school and their neighborhood. In the research and campaigns focusing on bullying, the Ombudsman emphasizes the need to focus on leadership and to hold the school administrations accountable for the situation in the schools.

FUNDING

The budget for the Ombudsman's office for 2003 was 7.4 million Norwegian Kroner. The budget is allocated from the state budget and approved by the parliament.

REPORTING

Office of the Ombudsman is required to publish an annual report about the activity and cases handled during the year which details the issues raised and suggestions made. The report is submitted to the government.

THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN IN SWEDEN

The Swedish Office of the Ombudsman was set up in 1993 by an act of the Parliament following the Norwegian model. The Ombudsman is appointed for a term of six years. The Ombudsman oversees all principle issues concerning children and young people. He ensures that the rights and interests of the children, as resolved by the UNHCR, are protected.

The Ombudsman works to ensure that the Government, the central authorities, the municipalities and local councils use the UNHCR as the basis for all their activities concerning children and young people. However, issues falling outside the scope of the UNHCR can also be taken up if they involve the rights and areas of interest that the Ombudsman’s office monitors.

The Children's Ombudsman does not exercise any supervision over other authorities, but works at a strategic level to monitor complaint regarding violation of child rights issues as a group.

Individual complaints are also taken into consideration. The office provides legal advice and information over telephone and the Internet.

REGULAR ACTIVITIES AND INTERVENTIONS BY THE OMBUDSMAN

• The role of the Children's Ombudsman is to focus much more on opinion forming and defending the rights and interest of the children and young people in the public debate. Another important task of the Ombudsman is to contact the Swedish media on a daily basis on different child rights issues and participating in public debates, creating opinion in favour of important issues as well as influencing the attitudes of politicians, decision-makers and the general public on questions concerning children and young people.

• The Children's Ombudsman has the task of observing matters relating to the rights and interests of the children and young people. In particular the Ombudsman ensures the compliance of Acts of the Parliament, other statutory instruments and implementation of the same with Sweden's commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

• The office of the Children's Ombudsman collaborates with a number and variety of authorities, organizations, individuals and children themselves.

• The office of the Children's Ombudsman has a key role in the task of implementing the national strategy and is responsible for the measures of information and education addressed to local, regional and national authorities.
• The Office is also active in increasing the children's and young people's knowledge about their rights according to the UNCRC and Swedish legislation and increasing their opportunities to participate in the process.
• The Office collects data and is involved in increasing public knowledge in reference to issues concerning children and young people. It also raises awareness concerning the UNCRC.

STAFF

The Office of the Ombudsman for Children is a national office of the Swedish government under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. There are a few children's Ombudsmen in the municipal level. The Ombudsman for children is appointed by the Swedish Government for six years and renewable for another three years.

A seven-member Committee of Experts appointed by the Swedish Government assists the Office of the Children's Ombudsman. The Committee holds two meetings annually, and topics discussed have comprised of living conditions for girls and boys, children and stress, and problems and opportunities for children with functional impairment.

There is another committee, the Child and Youth Council, has about fifteen members to advise on child rights issues and to make direct contact with children and youth.

HANDLING COMPLAINTS REGARDING VIOLATION OF CHILD RIGHT ISSUES

The office of the Ombudsman in Sweden looks after the issues as follows:

• Children with disability, children and health protection, children in social services, children in the asylum process, children in the legal process, children and discrimination, children and culture, children and school and children participation.
• The CRC is an active policy instrument that permeates all child related decision made in the various ministries.
• The Government employees whose work has an impact on children and young people are offered in-service training to boost their knowledge of children and familiarity with the contents of the convention. Similarly, municipalities and local councils also offer their employees in-service training.

FUNDING

Annual expenditure of the Ombudsman's office is borne by the Swedish Government. The Swedish Children's Ombudsman also has received SIDA funding for the inauguration of a statistical project in about six countries worldwide, aimed at canvassing children's own views of their situation and compiling comparative statistics on the subject.

REPORTING

The Children's Ombudsman has the task of reporting annually to the Government. The report contains viewpoints and proposals, which the Government should consider and serves as a platform for important discussion between the Children's Ombudsman and the Government.

THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN FOR CHILDREN IN THE CONTEXT OF BANGLADESH

• Considering that a large percentage of our population are children, there is a need for an Ombudsman for children in Bangladesh, especially to safeguard the best interest of children, promote respect for views of the children and raise awareness of child right issues and above all to ensure effective means to redress when rights are violated. There is also a necessity to ensure children participation at all levels of children focused policy planning.
• This new office of Ombudsman for Children could be established by promulgation of a new law based on the Ombudsman law of 1980, Child Right Convention and the “World Fit for Children” agenda.
• It is preferable that the Office of the Ombudsman for Children be created under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs as a separate and identified independent body.

PROPOSED ROLES AND SCOPE OF ACTIVITIES FOR THE NEW OMBUDSMAN

• The new office could protect and monitor the rights of the children as a group. It could handle the violation of children's best interests at schools, hospitals, day care centres, correctional centres, safe custody homes, detention centres, custodial abuse and abuse at home. The new office can monitor the implementation process of the New NPA for children for 2002-2007 and NPA for SEACT, MDG and the “World Fit for Children” agenda. It could also monitor the implementation process of CRC and concluding observations.
• This office could influence the parental care, community care towards children as per CRC and concluding observation through media campaign and raising awareness about CRC.
• This new office can influence the existing rules and regulations and laws regarding children to make them more gender and child sensitive as per CRC and National Plan of Action through strong lobbing with lawmakers.
• The new office could be empowered by law to ask for information on the progress made by different ministries and institutions in implementing the measures aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of children and young people.
• The new office could be empowered by law to monitor international and UN commitments with regard to the interpretation and application of the convention’s provisions.
• In case of dispute with the legal system regarding custody rights, adoption or other similar issues, the new office could try to influence the legal system through lobbying on the basis of the best interest of the child.
• The proposed new office can study public opinion regarding protection of the rights and interest of the children and young people and monitor the public debates.
• The new office could take initiative to improve and promote child participation and visibility of children and young people at all levels.

STAFFING PATTERN, RECRUITMENT PROCESS AND SIZE OF THE NEW OFFICE

The proposed new office could comprise of one Ombudsman for children and a 10-member Board of Directors, which will include 3 representatives from teenagers. Besides this, officials from the various departments of the government could be posted on deputation in this office.

The Ombudsman for Children and members of the Board of Directors could be recruited by open advertisement and through a Search Committee. Most of the members including other and government officials should come from the legal and social services background. They should have sufficient knowledge about CRC and CEDAW and gender issues. The Ombudsman for children may be authorized to recruit his or her office staff as required.

FUNDING

Primary funding for this new office should come from the government. There could be provisions made to receive fund from donors, individual person or other national sources as well.

A CENTRAL OFFICE WITH INDEPENDENT STATUS

The proposed new office should be a national office with central policy making and arbitration authority. There could be smaller local offices set up in steps to extend the services locally. These local offices should report to the central office and operate under the directives of the national office. The office should have statutory independence and devoid of interference from other governmental and non-governmental agencies in regards to its day-to-day operations.

REPORTING

The office should generate an annual report explaining its operations, cases handled, arbitration resolutions, media and lobbying campaigns and educational initiatives conducted during the prior year. This report, submitted to both the minister for Women and Children Affairs and the parliament, should also include legislative and social practices recommendations to further the government’s continual commitment to defend the rights of the children and promote their opportunities.

                                                                    

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Universal Primary Education and Closing the Gender Gap
By
Ferdous Ara Begum
Additional Secretary
Ministry of Establishment
Government of Bangladesh




Date: 21, December 2004




Symposium on ICPD+10 and Bangladesh: Progress and Challenges
Organized by
Department of Population Sciences
University of Dhaka.


“Education for All” is the key Government Policy in Bangladesh that plays a vital role for establishing gender equity and equality, justice and good governance. This is also essential for sustainable economic development. Nevertheless, the Universal Primary Education is the base for such development vision.

Gender, Education and Development discourses are the recent origin. A popular discourse was first established by the highly influential World Bank statement of priorities in educational policy in which basic education especially that of girls, became the first priority. Firmly, within the framework of classical liberal economics, the Bank’s state argued that investing in the education of girls would yield externalities in reduced fertility rates and improve child health and also raising voices against violence.

In 1994, the UN Conference on Population was held in Cairo. This was a milestone in the field of population and development as well as in women’s rights history. The conference adopted a twenty-year forward looking Program of Action (PoA) on population, gender and reproductive health and reproductive rights, building on the success of the previous decades and addressing the needs of the early years of twenty-first century. This was a very difficult meeting, with strained relations caused by the issue of birth control. But girls’ education was a policy that all could support as means of reducing population. The gender, education and development discourse was increasingly dominated by this policy as a medium term economic investment to reduce fertility rates.

In March 1995, the UN Conference on Poverty convened in Copenhagen and Hillary Clinton made a widely publicized speech in support of the girls’ education as a means of reducing poverty by lowering fertility, improving child health and raising women’s income from the labour market.

At the fourth World Conference of Women held in Beijing in 1995, where the rights perspective was strongly pressed also the continuing disadvantages in women’s access to health and education services and issues of girl child were at the top of the agenda.

In the year 2000, United Nations Millennium Development Goal set eight targets for development and poverty eradication to be achieved by the year 2015, where Universal Primary Education, gender equality and empowerment of women are important issues to promote freedom, democracy and human rights in the society. The Government of Bangladesh is committed to implement those goals by the year 2015.

The Government of Bangladesh runs one of the biggest Primary Education Systems in the World. Development of Primary education poses a daunting challenge because of inaccessibility & resources constraint situation. Despite these, Bangladesh has achieved remarkable progress in primary education. The gross enrolment rate is now about 97%.

The Government of Bangladesh made substantial investment in both primary and secondary education of girls including scholarships stipend & the provision of free and compulsory primary education for girls’ up to the twelfth grade, these measures had led to gender parity and dramatic increase in the enrolment of girls in primary school. In accordance to goal no. 3 of MDG, Bangladesh has been working towards eliminating gender disparity in primary & secondary education. Keeping the goal in consistence with the national action plan towards implementation of Beijing Platform for Action.

Primary education stipend is being given to both poor girls and boys. The poor parents receive Tk. 100 per month for sending one child and Tk. 125 for two or more children. This is to encourage parents to send their girl child to school. The number of female students in primary and secondary level has been increasing gradually. Enrolment ratio of female/male student was 45:55 in 1991, which enhanced to 50:50 in 2002. Available data of (BANBEIS) reveal that dropout rates of female students at junior level (grade 6-8) & secondary level (grade 9-10) have decreased to 16.8% and 53.4% respectively in 2003 from 17.2% and 54.8% respectively in 2001.

As per World Bank report of May, 2004 published during Bangladesh Development Forum, “Bangladesh has one of the highest primary school enrolment rates in the developing world, including enrolment of poor children” The report further goes “Bangladesh has achieved gender parity in enrolment at the primary & lower secondary level”.

The Government of Bangladesh has given special emphasis on various skill developments & human resources development training for women. The rate of female teacher in government primary schools is 37%. The ratio of female /male teacher is also increasing due to implementation of teachers changed recruitment rules of appointing 60% female teacher in government schools. The percentage of female teachers was 21:09 in 1991, which has risen to 37:86 in 2001. During the same period, completion rate of the cycle of five years education increased to 67% from 40.7%. Beside these progresses, number of primary schools was 49,539 in 1991. It has increased to 62,407 in 2002, at present more than 70,000 primary schools are operating in the country.

Provision of equal opportunity, increase of enrolment and improvement of quality education and management at primary level have been ensured through implementation of various development programmes during the five year plans from 1991/92 through 2002-2003.

In fact, universal access to primary education was given emphasis from the First Five Year Plan. In the Second and Third Years Plans, there were increased allocations for the development of primary education sub-sector to enhance facilities in the schools and to provide for increased student enrolment.

The First Education Commission was set up in 1959. In 1972 the Kudrate-e-Khuda Commission was formed to recommend objectives, strategies and action plans for creating a modern education system suited to the needs of an independent Country. Both the commissions recommended that primary education should be an eight years course and liberal promotion on the basis of age should be introduced. But these recommendations could not be taken into consideration as these issues are debatable.

Bangladesh was a signatory to the Declaration of the World Conference on Education for All (WCEFA) held in March 1990 in Jomtein, Thailand. As a follow up of WCEFA Bangladesh prepared a realistic National Plan of Action for Education for All by the year 2000. Following are the important measures taken under this action plan.

• Free and Compulsory Education for All Children
• Free Education for girls up to twelve grade
• Stipend to all enrolled girls students outside Municipal Corporation (Rural area)
• An incentive (Tk. 100 & Tk 125 cash) is given for each child and more than one child if they maintain more than 80% attendance at school.
• Review and revision of the text book towards gender sensitivity
• Separate toilets for boys and girls
• Development of congenial environment in primary schools by expanding physical facilities particularly for girls students
• Upgrading professional skills of the teachers curriculum improvement and development of educational materials
• Set up department of women studies at the University of Dhaka
• Set up Asian Women’s University

The Government also has set two important targets which already have been implemented those are:

• Creation of a separate Primary and Mass Education Division in 1992, it was renamed as Ministry of Primary and Mass Education in 2003.

• Introduction of Compulsory Primary Education Programme in 68 Upazillas in 1992 and expansion of this program all over the country in 1993.

The Government of Bangladesh has not only achieved the goals set on the basis of Jomtein declaration for quantitative expansion of primary education but also set target to improve the quality of the education. In Bangladesh firm commitment of government for Universal Primary Education to eliminate gender disparity and also huge investment in the sector has already created positive impact in the society. It gave voices and choices to girls and women in Bangladesh in an attempt to understand and interpret their roles as active agents rather than passive consumers of educational development.

Number of Children Enrolment in Primary Schools and Percentage of Boys and Girls

Year                    Number of Students                  % of Students
                 Total                Boys           Girls         Boys      Girls
1991         12635419        6910092       5725327      54.7      45.3
1992         13017270        7048542       5968725      54.2      45.8
1993         14065332        7525862       6541470      58.5      46.5
1994         15180680        8048117       7132563      53.0      47.0
1995         17280416        9094489       8189668      52.6      47.4
1996         17580416        9219358       8361058      52.4      47.6
1997         18031673        9364899       8666774      51.9      48.9
1998         18360642        9576942       8783700      52.2      47.8
1999         17261713        9065019       8556712      51.4      48.6
2000         17667985        9032698       8635287      51.1      48.9
2001         17659220        8989795       8669425      51.0      49.0
2002         17561828        8841648       8720180      50.3      49.7

Sources: Primary Education Statistics in Bangladesh 2002.

 

 

 

 

 

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National Policy
for the Advancement of Women in Bangladesh




Seminar on 2nd October 2005,
Lake Castle Hotel




Ferdous Ara Begum
Additional Secretary &
DG, Bangladesh Television (On LPR)

 

 

Excellencies, Member of the parliament, Representatives from the development partners, ladies and gentlemen, Good afternoon,

I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to this important seminar.

National policy for the advancement of women was first announced on 8th March, 1997, by the then Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The National policy was formulated based on Beijing declaration and platform for action in 1995 at the conclusion of the 4th world women’s conference in Beijing. Bangladesh participated in this conference & signed the declaration. The specific guidelines of PFA focusing on 12 critical issues regarding gender mainstreaming & advancement of women & girl child were the core issue of the national policy.

The Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees the equity and equal rights for both man and woman. The contribution of women to our liberation war along with the International conventions, declarations & polices regarding women’s advancement & rights considered in the formulation of this policy.


Bangladesh achieved its independence in 1971 through a nine-month’s bloody war. Three million people were killed and 0.2 million women were dishonored or otherwise tortured in the course of this war. In the liberation war, women of Bangladesh fought side the side with men and made significant sacrifices. The experiences of liberation war and the contribution of women in it created a new longing amongst Bangladeshi women for their economic freedom, self-reliance & women’s human rights.

Bangladesh constitution gives priority to women development, as they constitute 50% of total population. Articles 27, 28, 29 & 65 recognize the equal rights of women. Articles 28(4) offers special opportunities for women considering them as a backward group.

But in all societies dominated by male, women are subject to denial of rights, discrimination, exploitation & negligence. On the top of that religious fanatism, superstition, domestic violence & oppression, societal neglect & low status of women remain a challenge for their advancement. Bangladesh is not an exception.

On the above backdrop, to ensure women’s constitutional rights & equal participation in the development process a planned policy decision for women’s progress was strongly felt. In this regard country’s development plans also carefully designed to focus on WID policy.

Significant international conventions & declarations also contributed to the formulation of NP, such as CEDAW convention. Bangladesh signed the convention to the elimination of all forms of discriminations against women (CEDAW) in 1984 though with some reservations.

Besides, Bangladesh participated in the 1st world women’s conference in Maxico in the year 1975. Which was also declared as the year of women by United Nations for development & Empowerment of women in state, society, politics & economy.


The progress of first five years of UN women decade (1976-85) was reviewed in the 2nd women conference held in 1980 at Copenhagen. The 3rd women conference was held in 1985 at Nairobi & forward looking strategy was adopted in this conference based on equality, development & peace for all.

Action plan on environment & development adopted in the earth summit held in Rio De Janirro in 1992, the Vietnam declaration on human rights in 1993, the population & Development action plan adopted in the international conference held in Cairo in 1994 put maximum importance on matters related to advancement of women & children & their rights.

Bangladesh is a signatory to all these milestone charters & action plans & is committed to implement the same. Bangladesh also a signatory to many regional declarations including SAARC. Many of these declarations noted the existence of extreme form of inequality between men & women in matters of distribution of power & decision-making. The governments of the world were reminded to take initiatives to redress these inequalities.

Formulation of national policy for women’s advancement
underwent a long consultative & interactive process started from 1995, where GO-NGO civil society collaboration & participation was ensured. Finally the policy was declared for implementation on 8th March, 1997.


Salient features of the NP for women, 1997 are as follows:-
a) Implementation of women’s human rights & basic freedom.
b) Elimination of all forms of discrimination against girl child & Enactment of necessary new laws towards that goal.
c) Elimination of all forms of oppression against women.
d) Armed violence and women’s stand.
e) Education and Training.
f) Sports & Culture
g) Ensure women’s active & equal rights in all activities of national economy.
h) Alleviation of women’s poverty.
i) Economic empowerment of women.
j) Employment of women.
k) Support services.
l) Women technology.
m) Food security of women
n) Political empowerment of women
o) Administrative empowerment of women
p) Health & nutrition
q) Housing & shelter
r) Women & environment
s) Women & Mass media
t) Specially distressed women

The policies impact on gender equality

The policy emphasizes mainstreaming of women issues at national, local & family levels. In order to implement National policy, a National Action Plan (NAP) for women’s advancement on the basis of Beijing PFA has also been formulated by MWCA. 15 ministries were identified as line or sectoral ministries. They have their respective plan of action for the implementation of NP & NAP formulated in the line of Beijing PFA. MWCA co-ordinates & monitors these activities through a monitoring & evaluation committee headed by the Minster of MWCA. The NP & NAP emphasized the strategy of mainstreaming women’s development in all governmental policies & programmes by all sectoral ministries & agencies with a view to accomplish women’s empowerment as envisaged in the PFA.





A comprehensive institutional mechanism was developed to put into operation the national policy & national action plan for the advancement of women. Its main components include-

a) National council for women’s development at the highest level with Honb. Prime Minister as chairperson was formed.
b) Parliamentary standing committee to advise the government for specific initiatives concerning women’s development was formed
c) Women in development (WID) focal points formed in different Ministries of the govt. for initiating & performing all activities relating to women’s development
d) Women’s development implementation & evaluation committee formed with representations of all focal point Ministries to oversee the WID activity, headed by the Minister, MWCA.
e) District & Upazila level co-ordination committees formed for co-ordination of WID activities at the district & Upazila level
f) GO-CS committee formed for the GO, NGO, civil society partnership regarding women’s advancement

The govt. of Bangladesh until May 2004 reiterated its commitment to implement the national policy for the advancement of women, 1997 & national action plan.





The background for and impact of adjustments made to the policy in 2004.

In 2004, it was first noticed that the national policy for the advancement of women was not approved by the cabinet. As per rules of Business, 1996, published by the cabinet division, article no 4. Sub section (ii) says” No important policy decision shall be taken except with the approval of the cabinet.” This is a mandatory condition for any policy decision.

As per cabinet division sources a high-level cabinet committee reviewed the policy & cabinet approval came in May 2004; with some changes in the policy. The present government has incorporated some of their ideology & achievements regarding advancement of women in the new policy. New phrasing & language change also could be noticed in the new policy. But what matters, a major policy shift in some areas which might have a sharp contradiction with women’s constitutional rights, CEDAW obligations, Beijing + 10 commitments, gender governance, PRSP & MDG requirements.


Major discrepancies surfaced from the latest policy may be summarized as follows:-

1) Women’s inheritance & equal rights to property has been deleted
2) Political representation of women at the parliament for reserved seats through direct vote is deleted
3) Women’s reproductive health & rights is deleted
4) Women’s equal rights in decision making as regard to child bearing is deleted
5) Equity & equal rights between man & woman has been replaced to women’s constitutional rights
6) Women’s increased quota for top administrative & cabinet positions has been omitted
7) Preferential treatment for working women for accommodation is deleted

All these above mentioned rights & power are guaranteed to women of Bangladesh by our constitution. All these rights once given to women as per previous policy. We know that natural justice demands that rights, power & benefits once given can not be withdrawn without valid ground and without consultation with the affected group.

We know that equal rights and opportunities of women considers as the basic human rights of women, in absence of which gender mainstreaming & empowerment of women can not be achieved, advancement of women in the family, society and national level can not be ensured and gender based discrimination and gender gap can not be removed from the society.

But this is also to note that despite of all these changes in the WID policy the govt. did not make any shift in implementing its pro-women-development policy in the fields. The govt. has appointed women as Ambassadors, a women chairman for PSC, DCs and SPs in the field level. Govt. has also taken initiatives to reduce maternal mortality with considerable success.

The govt. also expressed commitment for the implementation of the national policy for the advancement of women, 1997; in several international conventions, such as the 31st CEDAW committee meeting at U.N. on 9th july, 2004; Beijing +10 global review meeting at U.N. on 28th Feb., 2005, though changes in the policy took place much earlier in May 2004. In the real life situation, the changes so far could not make any noticeable impact. But no doubt about that these changes in the policy already generated frustration and hopelessness amongst women who fought long for their rights and proved worthy of those rights.

Meanwhile the Honb Minister, MOWCA has said that a committee has been formed and a meeting would be soon held to discuss the policy. If needed, she assured, it would be further reformed (Daily Star October 1, 2005).

All concerned – women rights organizations and development partners—should take this opportunity to convince the MOWCA of the possible impact and consequences of the new change. And also of the greater and real advancement likely to be made in the society if 50% of its population were given their due rights and allowed to contribute their share towards over all development.

A short overview of the major challenges & opportunities of the development of women in Bangladesh:

1. Reducing gender gap & gender based discrimination from society, state, national & family level. Ensuring formal equality & affirmative actions.
2. Eliminating violence against women: Domestic, societal, state & custodial violence including trafficking of women & children.
3. Reducing economic deprivation of women & poverty through gender based resource allocation, Empowerment policy & safety net development.
4. Enhancing human capital & capacity of women through calculated initiatives in Education, health, nutrition, livelihood skill building, sports & culture.
5. Ensure security & protection of women specially in difficult circumstances &living in a marginalized situation.
6. Protection of women & children from man made & natural disasters like STI, HIV-AIDS, Arsenic poisoning, flood, cyclone and Tsunami.
7. Ensure good governance, enforcement of law to protect women’s human rights & legal rights.
8. Enhancing women’s effective & full participation in decision making process both political & administrative.
9. Capacity building for institutions engaged in implementation, monitoring & evaluation of WID policy, gender equality issues.
10. Strong monitoring mechanism for the implementation of
concluding observations of CEDAW, CRC, Beijing + 10 declarations, PRSP & MDG issues.
11. Developing gender disaggregated data base & information.

An idea of what development partners can do to contribute to the women’s advanced & gander equality:

1) Programme based & sector wide approach for the implementation of all development programs.
2) Implementation of the recommendations by the Institutional Reorganization of women in development (IR-WID) & Institutional &Organizational assessment (IOA) study.
3) Strict implementation of PRSP & MDG goals with minimum system loss.
4) Complete eradication of human trafficking both cross boarder & domestic & promoting safe migration of women.
5) Massive awareness raising campaign to contribute HIV AIDS & protection of women & children from these deadly diseases
6) Ensure good governance, enforcement of law & legal support to women.
7) Donor based strong monitoring mechanism for the implementation of concluding observations of CEDAW, CRC, Beijing + 10 declaration, PRSP & MDG goals.

 

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