Establishing Right’s of the Hindu Women in Bangladesh: High Court’s Ruling

A petition was submitted by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), and several other rights organizations, including Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Naripokkho, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP), Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), Supreme Court lawyer Ujjal Paul, and other individuals seeking necessary orders to address the issues faced by Hindu women in Bangladesh relating to their rights to divorce, marriage registration, maintenance, guardianship, adoption, and equal inheritance. The High Court bench consisting of  Honorable Justice Muhammad Mahbub Ul Islam and Honorable Justice Farah Mahbub issued a rule where they ordered the respondents to explain about their inaction regarding the matter within four-week.

The petition claims that Bangladesh is still subject to the British regime’s 1946 Hindu Marriage Women’s Right to Separation and Maintenance Act. However, this law does not grant Hindu women the right to divorce, maintenance, or ownership of conjugal assets regardless of the duration of a marriage. The petitioners contend that the statute is insufficient and does not uphold all of the constitutionally guaranteed rights.The petition also draws attention to Bangladesh’s biased Dayabhaga system of Hindu inheritance law, which bars the women from accessing their rights. The petitioners claim that this kind of practice lacks legal legitimacy and breaches various provisions of the constitution, specifically in Article Nnos. 27, 28, 31, 42, and 19(2).

The petitioners were represented at the court by Senior Adv. ZI Khan Panna, Dr. Syeda Nasrin, Adv. SM Rezaul Karim, and Adv. Md Shahinuzzaman, who argued for the recognition and protection of Hindu women’s rights.

On May 14, a ruling concerning this petition was issued by the High Court Division of Bangladesh. During the hearing, it was questioned why the government was inactive and not taking any action to protect Hindu women’s rights to divorce, marriage registration, maintenance, guardianship, adoption, and equal inheritance. An order was passed requesting an explanation from the cabinet division, the Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs regarding why they failed to establish guidelines or policies to safeguard Hindu women’s fundamental rights.

Due to the sensitivity and plight of Hindu women in Bangladesh, this case has garnered a lot of attention. It also serves as a reminder of the urgent need for legal changes in laws, policies and practices of the people and safeguarding fundamental rights as guaranteed under our constitution.