We live in an era where
relativism and humanism affect almost every facet of our lives. Not least among
these facets is the discourse of Islam vis a vis women’s human rights. The
importance of such factors as relativism, humanism and gender sensitivity has
not come about in a vacuum.
Dominating the courtyard of
the homestead of Abdul Hossain is a large and ostentatious shrine. Decorated
with Arabic designs and words, and surrounded by flags, the shrine (mazaar) is
similar to hundreds of similarly venerated graves scattered over the landscape
of rural Sylhet, in north-east Bangladesh. It proclaims for all to see that the
late Abdul Hossain is a pir.
Farida Rahman MP’s Private Member’s
Bill on a proposed amendment to section V1 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance
1961 has become a much-talked-about subject because of its unconventional and
contentious nature. Particularly, various women’s activist groups have shown
tremendous interest in it. The subject of the bill raises the whole issue of
women’s rights of general interests.
On 7th June 1988, the members of
the controversially elected parliament of Bangladesh passed the Constitution
(8th Amendment) Bill imposing Islam as the state religion of the country which
broke away from another religious-based country - Pakistan - only 17 years ago.
The four pillars of the Constitution of Bangladesh originally were nationalism,
democracy, secularism and socialism. Secularism and socialism were dropped from
the Constitution in 1977 to be replaced by ‘total faith in Allah’ and ‘social
The legal status of the Muslim women (1) in Bangladesh is defined by the principles
of Sharia through Muslim Personal Law along with the general law which is
non-religious and secular in its character. The Muslim personal law covers the
field of marriage, divorce, maintenance, guardianship of children and
inheritance whereas the general law covers the rights under the Constitution,
penal codes, the civil and criminal procedure codes, evidence act etc.