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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 192
June 4, 2005

This week's issue:
Star Law analysis
Human rights advocacy
Law Opinion
Star Law Vision
Fact File
Law Week

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Fact File

Re-education through Labour

"Re-education through Labour" (RTL) has been used in China since the mid-1950s as an extra-judicial form of detention.

People receiving RTL terms have no access to a lawyer, there is no court hearing, and "sentencing" is usually decided by the police alone. Under the current system, people can be detained in an RTL facility for up to four years.

Those serving terms of RTL are at high risk of being beaten or subjected to other forms of torture or ill-treatment, particularly if they refuse to recant their "crimes".

Mao Hengfeng is currently held in an RTL facility in Shanghai. She has petitioned the state authorities for many years over her coerced abortion, her right to work, and other basic rights. In April 2004 she was sentenced to 18 months RTL by the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau.

Mao Hengfeng has reportedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment in the labour camp. In October 2004, she was suspended from a ceiling and severely beaten. In November 2004 her wrists and ankles were bound with leather straps and her limbs pulled in opposite directions. This continued for two days, during which time she was also denied food.

Her refusal to confess to any "wrongdoing", even under torture, appears to have influenced a decision in December 2004 to increase her original sentence by three months.

Subsequently she has reportedly been held in solitary confinement for short periods, and strapped down on her bed for hours on end. It is also reported that she has been force-fed with an unidentified substance that is turning her mouth black.

Source: Amnesty International.

Plight of female prisoners in Bangladesh

Rita Bhowmick

Amiddle-aged woman from Noakhali has recently been released from jail after serving years of sentence in a murder case.

Explaining her experience in jail, the woman says, "The jail authorities behanvict who served his term at Dhaka Central Jail, "Male and female prisoners live in separate wards here. However, there is a door connecting male wards with those for the female prisoners.

Veteran male prisoners often bribe guards of the female wards and coerce them to have sex with them. Some female prisoners opt for sexual contact with the men in the hope of getting other facilities.

Jails in the country are overcrowded. Three hundred to three hundred fifty female prisoners live in each room, many times higher than the capacity. While many spend time outside their rooms, the real problem occurs when they come back at night to sleep.

A 2004 report says more than 74,000 prisoners are kept in the country's 64 jails, including more than 2,000 female inmates. At Dhaka Central Jail were lodged more than 11,000 inmates and over 300 of them women.

In many police stations of Dhaka city there is no separate hajat for women and children. In some cases, female detainees are kept in the offices of male police officers. Women are subjected to various types of abuse."

In Dhaka, there are fewer female police officers than their male counterparts. A police station has only two or three female officers that is not enough. Some police stations have to do without female officers. So, male police officers deal with the female detainees, including arrests, interrogation and investigation.

Says Dr. Halida Hanum Khondaker, Executive Director at Confidential to AIDS Prevention: "There are separate wards or cells for female inmates in jails. Yet the female inmates are not safe there. They are victimised by male officials and supervisors. Such female inmates do not get justice because of abuses by the law enforcers."

Says Farida Akhtar, Executive Director at Nari Grantha Prabartana, "Women are arrested also under Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance. A female detainee is supposed to be taken care of by a female police officer. But this rule is violated, as there is shortage of female police officers. As a result, female detainees are subjected to abuses and maltreatment. We have asked the government to appoint female police officers in police stations. The demand came especially after the rape and killing of Yasmin by police in Dinajpur. But our demand has not yet been met.

Says Law Minister Moudud Ahmed, "There are about 5.50 lakh cases pending in the courts. The process of trial is slow. There are at least 30 hajatis in a room which is good for only two female hajatis. At night, the women just remain standing on their feet as there is no room for sleeping. But we should not blame only one institution for this. There are provisions of punishment for violation of laws."

Most women held in Dhaka Central Jail had been involved in crimes like theft, robbery, kidnapping, murder, child abuse, sex trade, and drug abuse or drug trade. They are mostly from poor families living in slums.

Says Moudud Ahmed, "Any abuse of female prisoners in jail is to be condemned. It is not desirable even though it happens," he says urging the media to create awareness against such maltreatment.

Source: NewsNetwork.


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