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Bangladesh: Hindu Men May Marry 4 Wives, Personal Laws Discriminate Against Women

Friday 25 August 2017, by siawi3

Source: https://sabrangindia.in/article/hindu-men-may-marry-4-wives-personal-laws-discriminate-against-women-bangladesh

Hindu Men May Marry 4 Wives, Personal Laws Discriminate Against Women: Bangladesh

Written by Sabrangindia Staff

Published on: August 23, 2017

Last year, a survey by two NGOs found 26.7 per cent of Hindu men and 29.2 percent of Hindu women wanted to obtain a divorce, but did not do so because of existing laws. And, Hindu Women are also prohibited from inheriting property under the civil laws for Hindus, the report added.

A traditional Hindu wedding in Dhaka. The U.S. report on religious freedom 2016 says some aspects of Hindu family laws are discriminatory toward women. (Photo by Piyas Biswas)

Crucial aspects of Hindu family law in Bangladesh discriminate against Hindu women, according to a report on religious rights, which is released annually by the United States.The International Religious Freedom Report 2016 — made public on August 15, 2017— notes that polygamy is permitted for Bangladeshi Hindu men.

A Muslim man may have as many as four wives, but must obtain written consent of from his existing wife or wives before marrying again. A Christian man may marry only one woman in Bangladesh. "Under Hindu (civil) law, men may have multiple wives, but there are officially no options for divorce," the U.S. report said. "Buddhists are covered under Hindu law and divorced Hindus and Buddhists may not legally remarry."

There is further inequality suffered by Hindu women in Bangladesh: Women are also prohibited from inheriting property under the civil laws for Hindus, the report added.

Rita Roselin Costa, convener of the women’s desk at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh, called for equality and justice for all women. "Marriage registration must be mandatory, and women, regardless of religion, must be entitled to equal rights to everything, including property," she added.

Divorced men and women of other religions and widowed individuals of any religion may remarry, given the marriage is registered with the state or a religious authority.

Bangladesh passed the Hindu Marriage Act in 2012, with optional registration provisions, amid opposition from conservative Hindus.Last year, a survey by two NGOs found 26.7 per cent of Hindu men and 29.2 percent of Hindu women wanted to obtain a divorce, but did not do so because of existing laws.

Nina Goswami, a Hindu and senior deputy director of the Dhaka-based rights group Ain-O-Salish Kendra, said the report shines light on "unpleasant truths."

Unfair inheritance provisions contributed to women being dependent and subjugated throughout their lives, she said. Goswami told ucanews.com that often women could not escape broken relationships because they could not divorce, or demand alimony, as they had no documentation to prove their marriage.

Govinda Chandra Pramanik, a lawyer and secretary of National Hindu Grand Alliance, criticized the report, stating that it failed to explore cultural and traditional contexts.

The reactions of the Hindu male patriarchy was predictable when the report apepared:
"Marriage is a scared union, not a contract with conditions," Pramanik said. He expressed concern that marriage registration and changing inheritance laws would result in family breakdowns. Mutual understanding was needed to deal with family problems, rather than long-running legal battles."We believe property belongs to a family and the family must ensure the well-being of children before and after marriage," Pramanik said.

(This report is based on a report in UCAN, http://www.ucanindia.in/news/report-on-hindu-polygamy-draws-mixed-reaction-in-bangladesh/35395/daily)