Revisiting domestic violence as a gross violation of women’s fundamental right to freedom from torture
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Domestic violence in its serious manifestation with dowry is one of the leading causes of torture to women in Bangladesh. Women's dignity as core value of human rights law is deeply entrenched in numerous international instruments under which Bangladesh assumes affirmative obligations to respect and ensure this right. Quite consistent with these obligations, safeguard from torture is repeatedly affirmed in a series of legislations in Bangladesh. The Dowry Prohibition Act, for example, was enacted in 1980 to exclusively deal with dowry and to outlaw dowry with a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. Despite the fact, dowry-related cruelty becomes endemic in the country. In 2006, dowry violence alone resulted in altogether 300 violent incidents, while in 2005, 227 women were murdered and 114 suffered torture in connection with dowry. This number, however, represents only a fraction of total dowry-victims since women are very reluctant to unearth their 'hidden wounds' before the public for several reasons. The prominent reasons are; the loss of family honour and privacy; the fear of reprisals of their in-laws and the unresponsive legal remedies. Also, in a substantial number of cases, the perpetrators enjoy political impunity and. victims are left with virtually no legal recourse. This short note, however, does not address these issues; I argued elsewhere how the socio-legal approach in Bangladesh became inept to capture or ineffective in capturing women's unique experiences and needs. This paper therefore looks at a different context, proposing to reconceptualising the concept of domestic violence to provide appropriate values and respect to women.