Law Desk (LD): Are there adequate laws to combat violence against woman in Bangladesh?
Taslima Yasmin (TY): Compared to the other countries, good number of laws exist in Bangladesh, specifically addressing violence against woman . Creation of special laws are more often results of prolonged movements and struggles of civil society and reflect popular demands. However, after creating these special laws, our priority should be on the implementation of such laws and building mass awareness on the provisions and their applications. Promulgating a law, although very significant, is only the first step of the ladder. Struggle for ensuring that the benefits of making such laws reach to real people, only begins from there.
LD: Do you think that women are sufficiently aware of the fact that they have the right to fight against violence they often face?
TY: I think there is generally a lack of adequate access to legal information, and that is true for any other laws as well. To take the example of the recent law on domestic violence, its innovative provisions and remedies are still unknown to many and without mass awareness on any law, successful implementation cannot be expected. I have always advocated for a Public Legal Education scheme and I believe giving wider access to legal information and knowledge is absolutely essential to create greater awareness on the rights of women.
LD: Talking about domestic violence, what are the crucial factors that work behind it?
TY: The Domestic Violence Act gives women victims of domestic violence a number of civil remedies like entering the matrimonial house of a woman to take back her belongings and valuables (with the help of police and district women affairs officer) if she is thrown out of it by husband or in-laws. It protects women not only against physical abuses but also against mental, verbal, sexual or economic abuses committed by any family member, not only by the husband or in-laws. It is an extremely important legislation to address violence in home, but awareness of its existence needs to be created to increase its use by the victims. Creating awareness of a law would also, I believe, help change the common social perception that abuse within home is acceptable and should remain private.
LD: How would you find the justification of government of Bangladesh regarding the reservation of CEDAW provisions?
TY: Withdrawal of the reservations from CEDAW would certainly be an ideal goal to achieve equal status for women in Bangladesh. However I believe we should also draw our focus on the existing avenues of laws - in particular of the personal laws and seek how they can be applied or moulded in a way which would assure greater equality for women within the existing legal parameters .
LD: How can we address the issue of dowry that is prevalent even in the modern days?
TY: Despite of legal intervention in prohibiting dowry, demand for dowry is still an existing phenomenon that we need to battle against. In addition to ensuring stricter implementation of the existing dowry prohibition law, I think a change in the deep rooted patriarchal ideology, where marriage is viewed as the only goal to achieve for a woman, needs to be addressed strongly. Again economic empowerment of women is important to enable them to take a strong stand against such practices on individual levels.
LD: Even though the empowerment of women increased but do you think women are also contributing towards decision making in their professional spheres?
TY:These days we do see women achieving success in professional careers and reaching up to important positions . However, we also need to be aware that they represent a very small section of women, mostly based in the urban areas. We also need to be thoughtful of the women in rural Bangladesh, who in fact comprises the majority of the women population, when we talk about 'empowerment'. All interventions and struggles for ensuring women empowerment must be inclusive of this majority women and must address their vulnerabilities.
LD: Being a professional do you feel any sense of fear and insecurity to flourish your career as a woman?
TY: Being in an academic profession I am fortunate that I personally never felt challenged being a woman. But from my personal experiences as an activist in rights issues, I am aware that it is much more difficult for a woman to achieve success professionally. It is important that a woman, both in professional life and personal life should always speak against any abuse how small it may be and respect her own identity as a woman.
LD: Thank you so much.