Domestic violence against women is the major social problems which is common across the country, especially on the northern region of Bangladesh. Patriarchy is old aged and deep-rooted from the cultural context and causes gender based violence in all spheres of community. Domestic violence severely affects the women such as doing conflict in family, and in laws side pressures for dowry demand from women, women are tortured and divorced if she responses against their wills and demand. ACD’s programming aspect to combat gender based violence and domestic violence mainly aims to promote gender and social justice for marginalized and downtrodden segment of population. ACD has developed member of women circle through awareness building training for reducing the social dimension of poverty which includes legal literacy and training programs that assist women in productive activity. In addition, the formal judiciary system is very expensive which refrain poor people living in the rural area from using this formal legal system to get justice remedies as the poor people have to bear the costs of engaging a lawyer, the time and the related cost spent in court, and other logistic costs. Moreover, the level of skill, education and expertise are required to go to formal court that serves as barriers in access to justice. Therefore, two- thirds of the disputes do not enter into the formal court process; instead, they are either settled at the local level through informal judicial practice like salish by local leaders or they remain unsettled.
Local Level Arbitration and Litigation (Salish): Salish (alternative dispute resolution) is a very informal form of local judicial system which is very much influenced by the people who belong to the power structure in rural society. ACD has promoted local level arbitration through developing Salish Committees at village levels. In a Salish Committee, participation of women in the whole process and hearing their voices are extremely important to ensure justice.
Legal Support and Awareness: ACD has organized awareness campaign on human rights and constitutional laws, family laws, women rights and violence against women and children, legal rights and remedies involving participants from grassroots communities to state institutions such as youth, community leaders, cultural activists, journalists, teachers and students. In most of the cases, women victims do not seek justice due to the fear of losing their social status. Women have very little or no voices to raise or speak in public spheres. ACD provided legal aid in different forms e.g., legal counseling, legal assistance, financial assistance to the poor litigants/victims, enhancing legal awareness, supplementary support services such as emergency temporary shelter and psycho-social help. If the person fell within the criteria for receiving legal representation, ACD proceeded to provide further support; ACD Social Workers accompanied clients to police stations, the marriage registrar’s offices and the courts, as when needed. ACD assisted the victims in getting assistance from District Legal Aid Committee. To ensure security of the victims and witnesses, ACD has developed a community care and support system with the support of Women Support Group and People’s Organizations. In one way, Women’s Support group is continuing their work to combat all forms of violence against women and on the other, ensure security of victims and witnesses. In 2013, ACD filed 35 cases related to trafficking, rape, murder, acid throwing, dowry, suicide, and attempt to rape.
Village Court: Activating village courts is one of the effective ways to improve the village salish system. Village court works under the aegis of a Union Parishad, the lowest level of elected administrative body for rural administrative unit called Union. Village Court was established with the objective of enabling rural people to settle their disputes and to offer justice within a relatively shorter period of time with a minimum cost. The latest legal framework ‘The Village Courts Act, 2006’ upgraded from the Village Courts Ordinance, 1976, addressed the access to justice issue for the village poor, marginalized, women, children and the vulnerable groups and thus, reducing the pressure from the formal courts, ensuring rule of-law and eventually establish good governance. ACD has activated the work of village court by providing training to the members on child marriage in relation to child sexual abuse, sexual gender based violence and Domestic Violence Act 2010 and they organized a public hearing to sensitize people to hold perpetrators accountable for the violence against women and children as village courts have other major positive and differentiating traits like its re-conciliatory power, transparency and availability of evidence and proximity to the place of occurrence.
|Name of Act||The Village Court Act, 2006|
|Location of Village Court||Union Parishad Complex|
|Offense Types||Both Civil and Criminal|
|Jurisdiction||Fine up to BDT 75,000|
|Panel Members of Village Court||Union Parishad Chairman, two Union Parishad Members, two persons from each parties- complainant and disputant|
|Appellate Authority||First Class Magistrate/Assistant Judge|
On registration of the application, the UP Chairman issues summons to the respondent stating the date and time of his appearance before the Chairman. If the judgment of the court is made unanimously or (4:1) majority or out of four members appeared 3:1 majority then the decision of the court is binding upon the parties. The decision is signed by the Chairman of the village court and documented afterwards. If the decision is made by simple majority i.e., 3:2 then the aggrieved party may appeal to the Court of First Class Magistrate having such jurisdiction in case of criminal matter or to the Court of Assistant Judge having such jurisdiction in case of civil matter within 30 days from the date of decision. As per the Village Court Act, 2006, the Village Court is given the power to impose compensation or fine with respect of an offense specified and may order the accused to pay compensation of an amount not exceeding BDT 75,000. The court can penalize any party up to BDT 500 for contempt of court. ACD has been advocating with the village court to have improved human rights situation, protecting the rights of women and children in rural Bangladesh.
The empowerment of women especially in the developing countries like Bangladesh has gained prominence with a view to ensure gender equity among men and women. ACD is addressing the issue in right earnest and emphasis. ACD contemplates to expand and strengthen its activities to address the issue of gender equity vis-à-vis man-woman parity in the upcoming days. In patriarchal social system and cultural practices impede women’s movement, advancement and recognition their roles and contributions to social development. ACD is promoting three dimensions – a) Empowerment, b) Participation and c) Women Leadership. ACD developed women groups, namely Women Community Support Group, Violence Protection Committee, Women Circles, and Girls & Young Women Forum at the grassroots levels for the development of women leadership in governance system and women representation in decision making process for equal rights and status for women. ACD facilitated the women groups to organize the community mobilization program reclaiming their rights and promoted as key actors at the grassroots level linking with CBOs, POs, and Salish Committee. The women groups enacted to take initiative against domestic violence and dealt with different issues on human rights, gender, land related complications, ownership, possession of land, etc. in an organized manner.
Interventions on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights: ACD works to improve the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and young women aged from 10-24 who are most at risk and/or are living with HIV to integrate sexual rights and health into existing HIV services, and vice versa. The majority of young people are highly vulnerable to HIV – especially girls with HIV prevalence between 3-4% and high rates of unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions. ACD works with youth as a way to reach young people most in need i.e. adolescent girls and boys and young women living with HIV, young married women, adolescents and young men and women with multiple concurrent partners, girls and boys who are sexually exploited, and hotel, residence and street based sex female workers. ACD provides information and services to address issues such as Family Planning, Maternal Newborn and Child Health, STI and Gender Based Violence based on age, gender, and occupation.
Trafficking of human being is both accuse and consequence of the violation of human rights. Human trafficking is not only a heinous and inhuman offence, it is also phenomenon which undermines the value, worth, and dignity of the persons trafficked. Although trafficking is often identified as a part of organized and/or cross border crime, it also occurs within national boundaries. In whatever format may happen ,it is in extricable linked with forced, fraudulent or in voluntary migration/movement of people, and the end object of this crimes commercial sexual work, forced labor, prostitution, or other forms of exploitation. As such, unsafe/irregular migration always runs the risk of human trafficking. Although mainly a source country for human trafficking, Bangladesh in recent years has turned out to be a country of both transit and destination. In recent times, a long side intra-country and cross-border trafficking in women and children, trafficking of men for the purpose of labor-exploitation has been on the rise on northern part of the country. A significant number of men are recruited for work overseas with fraudulent employment promise; but later they face of exploitative and inhuman conditions of labor in the form of forced labor or debt bondage. Many trafficked persons are lured and deceived by false promises of good jobs or marriage while others are bought, abducted, kidnapped, coerced, threatened or used as debt bondage. Some of the women and children are trafficked with the tacit consent of their impoverished families. Various factors lead to vulnerability of men, women and children to trafficking such as poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, lack of awareness, gender discrimination , gender-based violence, natural disasters, and lack of proper implementation of the laws. ACD works through prevention, protection and prosecution approaches:
ACD’s sensitization interventions and vigilance campaigns reached out to many unmarked routes where migration and trafficking is taking place. The interventions takes a four-part approach namely outreach and public education; media campaign; dissemination of information, education and communication materials; and formation of community based organizations. The awareness programs are done using mediums like video shows, wall writings, street drama, Gomvira (local music with humour), Potgan (traditional music), public meetings, coordination meetings, networking and advocacy. Youth Facilitators and Peer Volunteers campaign in schools, colleges and madrassa (religious institutions). In order to promote broader coverage of all forms of human traffic kin g in the electronic and print media, ACD organized two training for journalists.
ACD has formed POs, CTCs and Domestic Association of Migrants to facilitate safe migration, protection, rescue and playing supportive role in social integration of victims. CTCs are consisted of local elected bodies, social leaders, local elites and key informer groups in the community and they themselves organized rallies, street drama, meeting with different professionals such as teachers, journalists, law enforcing agencies, boatmen, rickshaw pullers and van pullers to raise awareness on issues related to human trafficking. ACD organized community mobilization programs on safe migration, causes and consequences of trafficking, safe jobs process in overseas with the collaboration of CTC and POs. POs were encouraged to form Violence Protection Committee to promote collective tolerance, restraint and capacity building of the member for protection at-risk children and young women including girls individually and in groups.
ACD provided care and support services to the victims of trafficking through Shelter Home and Drop-in-Centre. The comprehensive package of survive or services included rescue , safe accommodation and food, medical and health care, mental health counseling ,legal aid,education, life-skill sand vocational training, internship and job opportunities. The approach aimed to restore the survivors’full well-being,including mental stability and confidence,physical health and energy, literacy and learning skills, social interaction and decision-making and economic security and independence.
The Government of Bangladesh has enacted Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act 2012. The mass public, at-risk groups and victims are unaware about this law, since lack of awareness of the law and the absence of adequate procedures to implement the law leave them more vulnerable to further exploitation. ACD organized mixed group training for law enforcement personnel, public prosecutors, lawyers, and para-legal staff of NGOs; this helped ACD to file cases under trafficking act.
With the mission to establish democracy and strengthen local level good governance, ACD worked to promote civic and human rights for the downtrodden people, and women. Accountability and transparency of local government is not only a demand for democracy but also necessarily important for women’s rights to information, representation in power structure and decision making process. There are still some problems where women’s participation and representation in the decision-making positions andcontrolling power; the status is negligible. On the other hand, civic education and rights for women are not going forward due to the lack of education on their civic rights, and necessity of voter registration. The country’s governance is patriarchal and men possess the power structure and development activities at all levels of country’s governance. Due to patriarchal structure of the governance, women’s important issues do not get the mainstreaming position nationally, such as discriminatory rules and regulations, and political practices towards women. Importance is not given to the supports for women victims of violence, pregnant services, legal protection of divorced women, and women’s problems and security etc. ACD is advocating with the local and national government and administration for women’s human rights and for creating the women’s issues and positions at the level of national policy practices. ACD also has given attention to strengthen women’s participation and leadership positions at local government and administration to enhance women’s civic rights, rights for voting and institutional care. ACD developed a Citizens’ Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (CAPTA) consisted of civil society groups in City Corporation areas. As primary mandate in this regard, ACD has been working for enhancing women’s political representation and participation in power structure, development activities, and decision making process for justice and mainstreaming positions of marginalized.