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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: 242
October 29, 2011

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Domestic violence Act: Implementation challenges

Noor Jahan Punam

Photo: theayglist.wordpress.com

What can be said about the condition of domestic violence in Bangladesh where it is shameful to go out and tell people about how brutally one has been beaten up by her husband, where raising voice against the family's men is a betrayal since they pay for the woman's expenses? Until recently, there were no existing laws on domestic violence but thanks to the critics at national and international level who pushed the matter forward. The Act was passed in October 2010 but the Rules for its effective implementation have not yet been laid down. As such most cases which are covered by this Act are still brought to the Prevention of Repression against Women Cell.

The Act defines domestic violence as physical torture, mental torture, sexual torture or causing financial loss to any child or woman within the family. Among all of the heads of domestic violence, the inclusion of financial loss is quite interesting. Sometimes these losses are not even taken as a monetary loss. When a woman brings money from her father's family on being asked by her husband or when the husband seeks share in the wife's property or money which is inherited from her father, it is on most occasions not seen as financial loss. Hopefully, this law will make people aware of these kinds of losses so that women actually term these as financial 'LOSS' rather than anything else.

The Act defines the aggrieved parties as any women or children who have been affected or about to be affected by domestic violence because of staying in the same household with the defendant. The Act has also made provisions for shelter homes and safe shelter homes for aggrieved parties and covers provisions for passing compensation orders, residential orders, protection orders, and safe custody orders.

The Act promised the appointment of enforcement officers which has not yet been done. The duties and responsibilities of the enforcement officers are to assist the court in proper enforcement of the laws within the Act, making the application as to the facts of domestic violence in each case, and on being informed about any domestic violence which has taken place the enforcement officer should inform the relevant police station in each case, etc. Without appointing the enforcement officers, it would not be possible to bring out the intended impact of the Act and all the efforts of the people involved in passing the domestic violence laws will remain in vain.

The Act also puts some duties and responsibilities on the police, the shelter homes, and the medical service providers when dealing with domestic violence victims. The police among all those with the duties and responsibilities have an interesting list of duties: if any police officer gets informed about domestic violence or gets information about domestic violence due to being present at the place where the violence takes place then he is obliged to inform the aggrieved party about her right to seek redress, about getting medical care, about getting services from enforcement officers, etc. The Act provides for provisions for appeal against the orders made by the court.

The Act provides that if anyone breaches a protection order by the court then he would be punished with a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment or a fine of maximum Tk. 10, 000 and if he repeats the breach for a second time then he would be punishable with a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment or a maximum fine of Tk. 100, 000. If someone brings a false application then that person would be liable to a maximum imprisonment of 1 year or a fine of Tk. 50, 000 or both. The English version of the Act was supposed to be made available but it has not been published yet.

Even today after one year of the passing of the Act, no substantial implementation of the Act can be seen in absence of the rules and the promised appointment of the enforcement officers. It is my opinion that, the problem with getting the proper impact of this Act would be the silent nature of Bengali women due to social and emotional restrictions and as always awareness about the existence of the Act would be a restraint. For now all that can be done is hope and pray for the proper implementation of the Act in the coming years.

The writer is working with Law Desk, The Daily Star.



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