Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and physical spousal abuse but makes no specific provision for spousal rape. Gender-based violence remains a serious challenge. ASK reported 527 rape cases, including 72 attempted rapes, filed with police during the first nine months of the year. Of the women, 43 were killed after being raped and 166 were victims of gang rape. Seven women committed suicide after being raped. Of the rapes and attempted rapes, 42 victims were ages 13 to 18, 76 were ages seven to 12, and 24 were six or younger. According to human rights monitors, the actual number of rape cases was higher because many rape victims did not report the incidents due to social stigma or fear of further harassment and prosecution of rapists was weak and inconsistent. The Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) reported some perpetrators distributed photographs and videos of the rapes via cell phones and the internet to humiliate victims and their families. Two Hindu women were gang-raped on January 8 in Monirampur, Jessore; arrested suspects told police the rapes were retaliation for the Hindu community’s voting in the January 5 parliamentary elections.
A UN multi-agency study on violence against women, released in 2013, surveyed almost 2,400 men between the ages of 18 and 49 in one urban and one rural area of the country. According to the study, 55 percent of urban male respondents and 57 percent of rural respondents reported they themselves had perpetrated physical and/or sexual violence against women. The study concluded the low prosecution rate of rapists supported a culture of impunity and encouraged further criminal acts of respondents who admitted to perpetrating rape. In total 88 percent of rural respondents and 95 percent of urban respondents reported they faced no legal consequences for rape charges.
The law criminalizes domestic violence. The government operated a confidential hotline and several crisis centers for victims of domestic violence. According to the BNWLA, from January through July, the crisis centers served 20,103 women, mostly physical assault victims, resulting in 4,542 legal actions and 96 cases resulting in penalties. Women’s rights groups criticized the government for its overall inaction on domestic violence, and data were difficult to obtain. From January through September 24, the BNWLA reported more than 188 cases of violence against women, 60 of which resulted in the victim’s suicide. ASK reported 235 cases of domestic violence and 54 suicides in the first six months of the year, compared with 385 cases and 51 suicides in all of 2013. NGOs, with little assistance from the government, funded most efforts to combat domestic violence. Courts sent most victims of domestic violence to shelter homes, such as those run by the BNWLA. In a few cases, the BNWLA sent victims to prison as a transitory destination for short periods. There were some support groups for victims of domestic violence. According to a 2013 survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 87 percent of married women were abused by their husbands, with 50 percent reporting serious injuries. In two separate incidents in January, Joya Pal of Chittagong and Afia Zaman Mita of Dinajpur were burned alive by their respective husbands and in-laws.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No law specifically prohibits FGM/C. There were no reports of the practice in the country.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Some NGOs reported violence against women related to disputes over dowries. The BNWLA reported 1,208 cases of dowry-related violence from January through March. Of this number, 130 cases involved victims who were killed and eight involved victims who committed suicide. ASK reported 140 cases of dowry-related violence through June. Of this number, 83 cases involved victims who were killed and four involved victims who committed suicide.
A Supreme Court Appellate Division ruling allows the use of fatwas (religious edicts) only to settle religious matters; fatwas may not be invoked to justify meting out punishment, nor may they supersede existing secular law. Islamic tradition dictates that only those religious scholars with expertise in Islamic law may declare a fatwa. Despite these restrictions village religious leaders sometimes made such declarations. The declarations resulted in extrajudicial punishments, often against women, for perceived moral transgressions. The BNWLA reported 12 fatwas, including four for extramarital affairs, four for other sexual relationships, and two due to rapes.
Incidents of vigilantism against women occurred, sometimes led by religious leaders enforcing fatwas. The incidents included whipping, beating, and other forms of physical violence.
Acid attacks, although less common than in the past, remained a serious problem. Assailants threw acid in the faces of victims--usually women--leaving them disfigured and often blind. Acid attacks often related to a woman’s refusal to accept a marriage proposal or to land disputes.
The BNWLA reported acid attacks on 34 women through September 24. ASK reported nine acid attacks in the first three months of the year, compared with 44 in 2013. The law seeks to control the availability of acid and reduce acid-related violence directed toward women, but lack of awareness of the law and poor enforcement limited its effect. The government made efforts to punish offenders and reduce the availability of acid to the general public. The Commerce Ministry restricted acid sales to buyers registered with relevant trade organizations; however, the government did not enforce the restrictions universally. The law provides for speedier prosecutions of acid-throwing cases in special tribunals and generally does not allow bail. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation, the special tribunals were not effective, and conviction rates remained low.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in public and private, including in educational institutions and workplaces, is prohibited by a High Court guideline. Monitoring and enforcement of the guideline were poor; harassment remained a problem and sometimes prevented girls from attending school or work. The BNWLA reported 197 cases of harassment against women as of September 24, although many incidents went unreported. Twenty-two cases resulted in suicides of the harassed women. On September 13, a professor at Dhaka University asked a student for sexual favors in return for a midterm grade. The professor resigned two days later after other students confined him to his classroom for more than an hour.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the information and means to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children, and the right to attain the highest standard of reproductive health free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Couples and individuals had access to a full range of contraceptive methods, including long-acting reversible contraception and permanent methods. Pharmacies carried a wide range of family planning options and sold 33 percent of family planning supplies distributed, according to the 2011 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey. While low levels of income and education and traditional family roles sometimes served as barriers to access, and most low-income families relied on public family planning services offered free of cost, the survey showed no link between socioeconomic status and the use of family planning.
According to the 2010 Bangladesh Maternal Mortality Survey, the maternal mortality ratio declined by 40 percent during the preceding nine years, from 322 to 194 deaths per 100,000 live births. Approximately half of the maternal deaths were due to postpartum hemorrhage and eclampsia, with 7 percent attributed to obstructed or prolonged labor. According to the 2013 Utilization of Essential Service Delivery (UESD) survey, a skilled birth attendant delivered 34 percent of births, and 32.7 percent of the deliveries occurred at a health facility, compared with 31.7 and 29 percent, respectively, in 2011. Although 54.6 percent of women received at least one antenatal checkup from a medically trained provider, only 25.5 percent of women received the recommended four checkups following live births. Only 27 percent of the mothers received a postnatal checkup from a trained provider within two days of delivery.
Discrimination: The constitution declares all citizens equal before the law, with entitlement to equal protection of the law. It also explicitly recognizes the equal rights of women “in all spheres of the state and of public life.” Nevertheless, women do not enjoy the same legal status and rights as men in family, property, and inheritance law. Under traditional Islamic inheritance law, daughters inherit only half of what sons do, and in the absence of sons, they may inherit only what remains after settling all debts and other obligations. Under Hindu inheritance law, a widow’s rights to her deceased husband’s property are limited to her lifetime and revert to the male heirs upon her death.
Employment opportunities increased for women especially in the lower-wage garment sector. Women represented 80 percent of garment sector workers, but their workforce participation remained low in other parts of the formal economy. Women were sometimes subjected to abuse in factories, including sexual harassment. There were some gender-based wage disparities in the overall economy, but wages of women and men were comparable in the garment sector (see section 7.d.). Women faced difficulty obtaining access to credit and other economic opportunities, but the government’s National Women’s Development Policy included commitments to provide opportunities for women in employment and business.