Legal reform needed to ensure gender equality

Dr Kamal Hossain on Sunday said our legal system does not meet the demands of the complex realities of the 21st century.

He was speaking launching the book, Revisiting Personal Laws in Bangladesh: Proposals for Reform. The book explores the South Asian Institute of Legal and Human Rights Studies’s (SAILS) research, “Combating Gender Injustice,” which investigates how Christian, Hindu, and Muslim communities in Bangladesh are affected by the laws and customs governing their personal lives.

The aim was to engage in a dialogue with stakeholders, the results of which would provide a basis to formulate recommendations for law, policy, and procedural reform.

Dr Kamal Hossain at the EMK center said: “The scope for reform is limited and the opportunities for reform are also circumscribed by political experience. The absence of needed research of  facts on the ground, and researching the legal development of comparable laws in other countries needs to be addressed, to assimilate all this into a proposal for reform that finds acceptance in society.

“We realize how difficult this task is, because within our society we are multi -religious, we have people with attitudes that are backward looking, with sentiments rooted in the past, ‘saying this is our tradition, we cannot move away from it,’ and also those who are impatient to see change.”

He suggested it requires a creative effort on the part of all concerned to change these laws.

He went on to say: “This book is on a sensitive topic because when you move into this or try to be involved with this process through a law institute and also as a practicing lawyer, then you have to face all kinds of objections. You must respect the traditions, you must respect the values that the people entertain about some of these issues. You cannot deprive the people of their traditional rights and so on. Therefore, to find a path through this reform is a tremendous challenge and I must congratulate those who worked on this.”

The book was jointly edited by International Human Rights Lawyer, and Gender and Development Specialist, Faustina Pereira, Professor Shahnaz Huda, and Barrister Sara Hossain.

Syed Refaat Ahmed, Justice of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court and Dr Meghna Guhathakurta, executive director of Research Initiatives Bangladesh, spoke at the event.

Former Justice A F M Abdur Rahman, and Chakma Queen, Yan Yan, were present at the program among others.