A significant number of civil laws promulgated during the British colonial years which are still in force, offer women few legal protections throughout Bangladesh’s legal system. Throughout Bangladesh in the last century, women across all socio-economic fields have made advances.
However, despite these advances they still face structural inequalities. Although there are laws that afford women some legal protections, they fail to address daily instances of discrimination that have in some cases increased. If efforts are made in the short-term to reform Bangladesh’s legal system then it will be easier to offer women greater legal protections. Despite efforts by Bangladesh’s government to portray its legal system as fair, this is often not the reality. In spite of the abolition of the system of self-immolation of a Hindu wife on her dead husband’s pyre and child-marriage, the rights of women have not been established fully under the Bangladeshi legal system.
Women, even today, are afraid of various social curses like dowry related murder and abduction. With a relative decline of law and order throughout Bangladesh, oppression of women is mounting. However, in the face of the demands spearheaded by women groups, the government instituted the Family Court Ordinance on June 17, 1985. It was presumed at the time that this effort would play an epoch-making role in maintaining the rights of women, but unfortunately after 25 years, it has done very little in this respect. The reasons for Bangladeshi women continually facing discrimination varies. Despite the existence of the Family Courts Ordinance, some barriers exist for women that continue to hamper their efforts to achieve equal protections. Some of the more outstanding issues are, the exclusion of the districts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bandarban and Rangamati from the Ordinance.
Family courts have been empowered to deal with civil suits. It is not possible to file cases against criminal offences committed within families. Although provisions for fixed court fees have been set, there are many other expenses which have not been set resulting in problems facing rural women seeking redress. To insure women equal protections, it is necessary for courts to approach cases on a case-by-case basis. It must be acknowledged that women and men are not opponents of one another.