Combating domestic violence
The way forward
Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association (BNWLA) organised the national discussion titled “combating domestic violence: the way forward” on July 07, 2007 to share the experiences of fighting against domestic violence in the last three years and the strategic ideas of policy reform and community interventions to address domestic violence.
BNWLA has been striving for setting up a framework to provide integrated legal aid and rehabilitation services to vulnerable, disadvantaged women and children facing violence in Bangladesh. The association is dedicated to establishing their rightful legal status and mainstreaming them in the society. Over the period of time, BNWLA has adopted various strategies and implemented various activities. The organization helped create new horizon in addressing some of the issues like violence against women and children, including sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, trafficking, acid violence, reformation of various laws relating to the rights of women and children.
BNWLA, along with other program interventions, has been implementing an advocacy campaign in thirty-six Union Parisads under nine districts of the country recognising Domestic Violence as offence. An independent Domestic Violence Act has bee drafted under the program following the consultations with different professional groups including legal experts, judges, journalists and grass roots people.
Advocate Fawzia Karim Firoze, Acting President and Sadrul Hasan Mazumder Program Manager of BNWLA jointly presented the keynote paper that include both legal and community interventions to address domestic violence. BNWLA strongly believes that Domestic Violence cannot be rooted out from the society if the attitude of the society cannot be changed, which is only possible throught rigorous campaign at grass roots level. BNWLA is keen to create a social mechanism to address domestic violence through community interventions to be supported by the community for the community themselves. Such intensions make BNWLA unique and committed to develop the mechanism very much accessible to the ordinary citizenry.
This was the essence that drive BNWLA in drafting the Domestic Violence Law that includes clear indications how the law will be enforced and who will be the stakeholder.
BNWLA has engaged the respective component of the local government institutions to create Community Counselling Centre (CCC) for addressing Domestic Violence at community level.
BNWLA has planned to establish CCC at thirty-six Union Parisad under the working area during the next three years and will be advocating for enacting the proposed law on Domestic Violence drafted by BNWLA having specific guidance of establishing such CCC in every Union of the country. BNWLA has been planning to legalise the entity of the Vigilance Teams registering as Community Based Organisation (CBO), which will be the driving force of the CCCs.
In addition to that out of the direct program intervention BNWLA has planned to create a Victim Trust Fund (VTF) mobilsed at community for supporting the possible victims having no financial space to breath of their own. The VTF will be operated following a pre-designed guideline developed by BNWLA and managed by the Vigilance Team. If this mechanism can be developed BNWLA strongly believe that even after the completion of the project the interventions will sustain for a long time.
Advocate Salma Ali, Executive Director of BNWLA in her welcome speech states that like so many countries of the world, women in Bangladesh also face violence at home, which is not possible to address within the existing legal framework. The recent statistics collected from various courts of the country shows that in the year 2006 a total of 23457 cases have been filed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Court and 25956 cases have been filed under the Family Court. Although, we know that all the incidences of Violence against Women are not reported or properly documented, just these figures give us the atrocious situation the women of Bangladesh have been facing in their daily life.
BNWLA strongly believes that enacting a law and ensuring its strict enforcement is not enough to address Domestic Violence. Rather we need to change the whole attitude of the society for which we have been implementing a comprehensive program at community level involving the specific component of the Local Government Institution-the Union Parisad.
BNWLA has prepared a comprehensive critic on the Bill on Domestic Violence drafted by the Bangladesh Law Commission and we have also drafted a separate “Bill on Domestic Violence”, which has been submitted to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs & the Bangladesh Law Commission.
MJF Director, Rights Ms. Rina Roy called for ensuring accountability at all levels along with the enactment of a legislative framework to combat domestic violence.
Rangita de Silva, senior adviser to International Programmes of Wellesley Centre for Women, USA said the definition of domestic violence is no longer confined to physical violence, now the term incorporates mental, verbal and sexual torture of women.
She also suggested that the language of the law should be reader-friendly so that all can understand the law easily.
Ferdous Ara, member of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee, said special act should be enacted to eliminate violence against women at all levels.
She urged the authorities concerned to take strong stance against domestic violence like the ongoing anti-corruption drive.
She also called for taking initiatives to train up other stakeholders to combat domestic violence.
Nasrin Begum, joint secretary to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Maleka Begum, visiting professor of women studies department, and Prof Sadeka Halim of social science department at Dhaka University also spoke on the occasion.