Bangladesh: Discriminatory Family Laws Leave Divorced Women in Poverty and Discourage Women from Leaving Violent Marriages
Friday, September 21, 2012 3:50 PM

A new Human Rights Watch report details the toll that discriminatory family laws take on women in Bangladesh. These laws contribute to homelessness, hunger and poor health for divorced or separated women and their children. The country’s discriminatory and archaic personal laws not only leave women in poverty when they separate or divorce, they trap some women in violent marriages because they fear destitution. Under current laws women do not have an equal right to marital property when they divorce. The limited entitlements that they do have are poorly enforced by family courts and local arbitration councils. It is difficult for female-headed households and women struggling with domestic violence to access state support and social services.
Separate personal laws for Muslims, Hindus, and Christians all discriminate against women. None of them have been reformed in decades, with reform attempts blocked by opponents who invoke discriminatory interpretations of religion. These laws ignore the extensive contribution that women make to their marital homes and fail to give them equal right to marital property on divorce. Bangladesh has established specialized family courts to deal with separation, divorce and maintenance cases. However, instead of providing relief for women they create an obstacle course. The report includes several recommendations for government reform of these discriminatory features.