women in Bangladesh
for absence of marriage registration
Karmakar in her 20s suffers at her huband's house for inability to bring
dowry. Minati's husband tortures her, as she cannot bring dowry money
for him. Fed up, one day she leaves her husband's house and returns
to her parents. The husband is still after her and insists to return
to him with dowry money.
The harassment is
too much for her to bear. Minati wants to terminate the marriage. She
goes to court and finds to her surprise that the Hindu law does not
help her much.
In Bangladesh, Hindu
marriages differ from caste to caste. The Hindu marriage rituals have
often no lawful ground. So, when the Hindu women want to come out of
bad marriages they are in trouble because there is no marriage registration
system in the Hindu society in Bangladesh.
Consider the case
of Kazali Rani Das, 23. She works as a day-labourer at her village.
Her neighbour, Sanjoy Madhu, lured Kazali with a marriage proposal and
convinced her. Then they got married and began their conjugal life at
the house of Kazali's parents. Before long, Kazali becomes pregnant
and Sanjoy is asked to take Kazali to his own house.
trouble begins here. It does take long for Kazali to understand that
she has fallen into a trap. Sanjoy delays to take Kazali to his house
by making false excuses and later disclaims his marriage with her. Kazali
is now too helpless to express her plight. Society does not want to
believe what she says. She has no official document, as her marriage
was not registered.
This is no exception.
It happens to thousands of Hindu women in Bangladesh.
According to Hindu
social customs, Hindu marriages are solemnised merely through some religious
rituals. There is no marriage registration system for Hindu people in
Bangladesh. It is surprising that there is also no Hindu marriage law
or Hindu marriage register in the country. So, if any Hindu woman suffers
in the hands of her in-laws, she does not get legal help.
As per a 1946 law,
Hindu women can file cases with courts to only regain the rights to
conjugal life. Besides, the Hindu women can file cases under Family
Court Ordinance 1985, Dowry Act 1980 and Women and Children Repression
Act 2003. But these laws are too inadequate to protect the Hindu women's
A total of 926 marriage
cases were received by Ain O Shalish Kendra during July 2003 to February
2004 period. Of them, only 17 cases were related to Hindu women.
Says lawyer Nina
Goswami, "Hindu women do not complain much fearing the marriage
will break. That fear grips them because divorced Hindu women find it
hard to get new husbands. There is no law allowing Hindu widows to remarry."
But the situation
is very different in neighbouring India. There are laws in that country
to protect the rights of Hindu women such as Widow Marriage Act 1856,
Racial Inability Remission Act 1850, Child Marriage Prevention Act 1929
(Amendment 1938), Earned Property Affairs Act 1930, Inheritance Act
1925 and Hindu Women's Rights to Lands Act 1937.
Besides, new laws
have been made in India after independence in 1947. These include Hindu
Marriage Act 1955, Immature Children's Property Act 1956, Hindu Adoption
and Maintenance Act 1956, Hindu Inheritance Act 1956 and Special Marriage
Efforts to enact
laws to protect Hindu women's rights in Bangladesh are thwarted by conservatives.
There are Hindu men who leave their first wives and take second ones,
but the same people resist changes for the better.
Although the clauses
No 19 (1) and 19 (2) of the constitution carry clear provisions that
the state will ensure equal rights to all citizens and remove social
and economic disparities, no government came up with steps to reform
Hindu laws for protecting Hindu women's rights.
Awami League presidium
member Surajit Sen Gupta says, "Hindu laws need to be reformed
in our country. But the free democratic environment that is needed for
the reforms has not properly developed yet."
and Professor of Culture and Pali Department of Dhaka University Dr
Niranjan Odhikari says, "Marriage registration is as necessary
as the babies' birth registration. It will be helpful if Parliament
makes laws in this regard."
President of Metropolitan
City Universal Puja Committee Swapan Shaha says: "There should
be laws to guide Hindu marriage, including rights to divorce because
Hindu women are sometimes forced to leave their husbands' houses. In
such a case, a woman should be able to obtain legal divorce and take
of Bangladesh Mohila Parisad Rakhi Das Purkaistha says, "Marriage
registration is a legal right of women. Marriage registration needs
to be obligatory to all people irrespective of religion, cast and creed
because marriage registration does not disregard religion."
But leaders of Hindu,
Buddhist, Christian Oikya Parishad have different views. They think
marriage registration is unnecessary for Hindu people. They think Hindu
boys believe in single marriage and the number of those who go for polygamy
is very few. The leaders say Hindu women will be repressed more if marriage
registration and divorce laws are enacted.
A Hindu woman social
worker, preferring anonymity, regrets, "People in our country only
think of the society. They forget that marriage registration is a right
of women". Advocate Nina Goswami also says, "In fact, the
Hindu women have no right in our country. But we have nothing to do."