Year

2004

Degree Name

Doctor of Philsophy

Department

Faculty of Law

Abstract

Women’s legal rights are one of the most significant determinants of their status. In Bangladesh, a series of laws ensuring women’s rights have proven largely ineffective in promoting their positions. The prime reasons for this are: the shortcomings and ineffectiveness of laws, women’s inability to access legal proceedings, the traditional and cultural negative views about women’s rights, the absence of an accountable and transparent government, the expensive and time consuming judicial process, the lack of an efficient judiciary, and other socio-ecomic reasons. The core theme of the thesis concentrates on the shortcomings and ineffectiveness of laws, although viewing them within the context of those other factors. To signify the ‘ineffectiveness of laws’, emphasis is basically placed on the administrative and judicial approaches in the country to achieve the underlying objectives of law concerning women’s rights in pertinent areas.

This study aims to promote protection of women’s rights by recommending remedies to flaws in prevailing laws in Bangladesh in four areas. Recommendations are made by reference to comparative and international practices. The primary arguments developed and maintained throughout the thesis are: (i) the protection of women’s rights is imperative to improve their status and law is an essential instrument to ensure these rights; (ii) the legislative, administrative and judicial efforts in Bangladesh are not appropriate and conducive to dealing with women’s rights; and (iii improvements in those efforts can better protect women’s rights.

This study critically examines laws regarding women’s employment and political participation and the laws on dowry and rape. It also explores the ways laws have been structured and enforced in Bangladesh, and how law can be an effective means of women’s pursuit of rights. In so doing, this thesis analyses and compares a range of legislation and judicial decisions of a number of selected common law jurisdictions. Findings of the research demonstrate that the legal efforts of those countries resulted in significant improvements in traditional laws and enforcement procedures regarding employment, dowry as a form of domestic violence, and rape.

Conversely, in Bangladesh, the age-old common-law grown formalities continue to dominate the legal and judicial proceedings and therefore fail to provide remedies to the contemporary needs of women. The present legal regime also suffers from an important flaw with regard to the scope and extent of liabilities for the violation of laws designed to protect women’s equal and special rights. The absence of any independent administrative body to monitor the compliance of laws presents another serious flaw in the current legal regime of the country. Such shortcomings eventually encourage and favour the wrongdoer, worsening the vulnerability of already disadvantaged women in the traditional culture of Bangladesh. In responding to such a situation, the present study recommends the reconceptualisation of laws to accommodate women’s unique experiences in Bangladesh. The study ends with a number of specific recommendations for ensuring women’s rights through strengthening the legal and enforcement mechanisms in Bangladesh.

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