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breaking through: Mahera Khaleque, 2003



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Violence Against Women in Bangladesh:

Year 2005:

Violence against women was widely reported, including acid attacks and cases of women killed in dowry disputes. Women accounted for the large majority of acid attack victims. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation, at least 153 women were attacked between January and October, and in cases that went before the courts, only one in nine ended in successful prosecution. In some cases the matter was reportedly “settled” out of court between the families of the victim and the perpetrator. Reasons for most attacks were reportedly disputes between families or refusal by women of marriage or sex. (source: Amnesty International: Report 2005 > Bangladesh )

Year 2004:

Reports of rape were widespread, including of young children. There were frequent reports of women being beaten by their husbands, sometimes with fatal results. The perpetrators were often husbands whose demands for dowry had not been met. Scores of women were victims of acid attacks, usually by rejected partners or people settling scores with the victims’ families. Some 20,000 women and children were reportedly trafficked to other countries, usually after abduction from rural areas.

Women’s rights groups blamed the low rate of convictions for violence against women on a lack of government institutions to support the victims and a lack of trained police officers to investigate the cases.

  • On 26 August, nine women from tribal communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts were reported to have been sexually assaulted by Bengali settlers who attacked Jumma villages and set fire to hundreds of homes. One of them was reportedly gang-raped. Army connivance in the attacks was suspected. Attempts by the tribal people to file a complaint with the police against the attacks were not successful, while police filed a complaint on behalf of Bengali settlers against 4,000 tribal people, accusing them of attacking the settlers (source: Amnesty International: Report 2004 > Bangladesh )

Year 2003:

There were frequent reports of violent attacks against women in their homes and communities, including rape, murder and acid throwing. At least six women committed suicide following rape.

  • Mahima, a young woman, was raped by three youth activists of the BNP and one youth activist of Jamaat-e-Islam (Islamic society), part of the ruling coalition, in what was suspected to be a politically motivated action against her father, an Awami League worker in a village in Rajshahi Division. The rapists took photographs of the rape scene and told the family they would be distributed if a complaint was made. Following Mahima’s suicide on 19 February, police brought charges against the four culprits. A court sentenced them to death in October. Their appeal against the death sentence was pending.

  • On 24 July, police raided Shamsunnahar hall of residence at Dhaka University and subjected dozens of female students to brutal beatings. More than 50 students were reportedly injured. Following widespread condemnation of the action, the authorities ordered a judicial inquiry. The inquiry confirmed police brutality and recommended punishment of the perpetrators. The report was not made public and by the end of the year no action had apparently been taken against the police involved in the attack. (source: Amnesty International: Report 2003 > Bangladesh )

Year 2002:

  • Women's rights
    Women continued to be subjected to violent attacks, including rape. Dozens reportedly died in dowry-related murders. Acid attacks left many severely scarred. The authorities rarely provided adequate protection or means of redress. The failure of the police to investigate and take legal action against perpetrators of violence against women engendered a climate of impunity.
    By launching an appeal to the Supreme Court, religious groups sought to overturn a landmark High Court judgment in January which banned fatwas, which were often used to repress women's rights. (source:
    Amnesty International: Report 2002 > Bangladesh )


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