Bangladesh Must Take Action to Protect Women Against Fatwa Violence

Human Rights Watch has released a statement insisting that the Bangladeshi government take action without delay to enforce the orders from the Supreme Court to stop illegal punishments such as whipping, lashing, or public humiliations of women.

The issue became especially urgent when a local self-appointed group in Shariatpur district in the Dhaka division ordered 100 lashes in January 2011 for Hena Akhter, an adolescent girl, for an alleged affair, though by most accounts she had reported being sexually abused instead. She collapsed during the lashing and ultimately died. Since Akhter’s death, the local media has reported at least three suicides of girls following similar punishments.

The High Court division of the Supreme Court issued its judgment in the case on July 8, 2010, criticizing the Bangladesh government for not protecting its citizens, especially women, from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment. Saying that the punishments contravened constitutional guarantees of the rights to life and liberty, the court directed the government to investigate and prosecute those responsible and to take preventive steps with awareness campaigns in schools, colleges, and madrasas. It instructed the Ministry of Local Government to inform all law enforcement and local government officials that extrajudicial punishments are criminal offenses.


UN Women: Ruling Women In!

Yesterday I attended the launch of UN Women’s new report: “Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice.” Launched on January 1, 2011, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, known as UN Women, works to integrate gender into the UN and global foreign policy.

UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Michele Bachelet addressed a crowd of more than a hundred human right defenders, advocates and UN officials in New York detailing the findings of the new report.

“Progress of the World’s Women” focuses on women’s access to justice and the existing barriers, both legal and social, that keep women from exercising their rights. The report shows that while significant legal reforms have been made, women still face persistent discrimination that hinders our, and the world’s, ability to make progress. As Under Secretary Bachelet declared: “In too many countries the rule of law rules women out.”


Welcome UN Women!

Today, we have great cause for celebration because February 24th, marks the official inauguration of UN Women. Launched on January 1, 2011, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, to be known as UN Women, began its work to integrate gender into the UN and global foreign policy.

UN Women is headed by Under-Secretary-General Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile, who has years of experience both as a pediatrician and  former Chilean Minister of Health. Bachelet has a strong commitment to women and women’s health and we look forward to her leadership in ensuring and overseeing comprehensive gender integration into UN policy.
Initially, the focus of UN Women will be:

  • To support inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms;
  • To help Member States to implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it, and to forge effective partnerships with civil society, and;
  • To hold the UN system accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.

The UN General Assembly’s establishment of UN Women is a huge step forward globally for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The importance of integrating women and gender into all aspects of the United Nations will help ensure women’s voices are heard in all arenas and fulfill our human rights. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST