Vol. 5 Num 322 Sun. April 24, 2005  

Reform discriminatory laws against women
Speakers tell workshop

Gender discrimination in the existing laws and lack of women's political empowerment are major obstacles to ensuring women's participation in development decisions at all levels, speakers at a workshop said yesterday.

Women are trapped in a cycle of poverty because of these factors, they said and called for reforms of the discriminatory laws.

Women today have achieved successes in many spheres of life, including education and income-generation, but have very limited access to the decision-making process, they observed.

The NGO Coalition on Cedaw and Beijing Process (NCBP), Bangladesh organised the workshop in the city to share the experience and outcome of the 49th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on Beijing+10 held at the UN Headquarters in New York from February 28 to March 11.

A state delegation led by Khurshid Jahan Haque, minister for women and children affairs, attended the session in New York while another group comprised of NGO representatives was present as an observer and submitted a shadow report on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) alongside the state delegation's report.

The Beijing Platform for Action was adopted by the 23rd special session of the General Assembly (Beijing+5) in 2000 to establish gender equality, development and peace for the 21st century.

Speaking as the chairperson at the workshop, women's rights leader Salma Khan said a lack of women's participation in the policy-making process at the state level and the government's reluctance to amend the discriminatory laws were identified as major obstacles to this goal.

The laws on marriage, divorce, guardianship and inheritance are highly discriminatory against women, said Mahmuda Islam, president of Women for Women.

Ferdous Ara Begum, director general of Bangladesh Television, who was a member of the state delegation, underscored the need for incorporating the NGO's experience into women's development policy.

Md Abdur Rashid Sarker, secretary, ministry of women and children affairs, said the ministry has taken an initiative to develop strategies for eliminating gender discrimination in the laws.

Ayesha Khanam, general secretary of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, also spoke.