The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal


TITLE:  BANGLADESH HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                           
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy headed by Prime 
Minister Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party 
(BNP).  Her BNP attained a plurality of seats in the February 
1991 election and reached a majority through the nomination of 
female members of Parliament to reserved seats.  Opposition 
parties, including the Awami League, former President H. M. 
Ershad's Jatiya Party, and the Jamaat Islami, are represented 
in Parliament and play an active role in the political process.

The Home Affairs Ministry controls the police and paramilitary 
forces which bear primary responsibility for maintaining 
internal security.  In a particularly egregious breakdown of 
law and order in 1993, 11 people were killed, over 200 injured, 
and hundreds of shops and homes destroyed when navy personnel 
attacked a neighborhood in Chittagong.  A number of navy 
personnel were discharged from the service, and several were 
court-martialed for their role in this incident.

The army and paramilitary forces also play a significant role 
in maintaining security in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) 
where a tribal force has been waging a low-level insurgency.  
Due to a cease-fire, the CHT experienced fewer incidents of 
violence in 1993 than in 1992, although tensions remained 
high.  In November, violence erupted in the town of Naniarchar 
as security forces failed to maintain order when a 
demonstrating tribal group was attacked, apparently by a 
nontribal settler group.  The bloody clash left at least 27 
tribals dead and almost 100 injured.  

Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest countries; 
approximately 40 percent of the population of 118 million do 
not have sufficient income to meet minimum daily needs.    The 
economy is primarily agricultural, with over 60 percent of the 
work force involved in farming, which represents almost 40 
percent of the gross domestic product.  The Government has 
pledged to reform the economy and to open it to market forces.
However, the process of reform has been seriously hampered by 
resistance from those who fear losing de facto monopolies and 
guaranteed jobs or those who want protection from foreign 

There was little change in the human rights situation in 1993 
from the previous year.  Although less extensively than in 
1992, the Government continued to use national security 
legislation such as the Special Powers Act to detain citizens, 
and in some cases political opponents,  without formal 
charges.  There were credible reports of custodial abuse and 
death, and those responsible generally went unpunished.  
Violence against women is a serious problem, but much of it is 
not reported and goes unpunished.  Child labor is also common, 
with over 3 million children in the work force.  There were 
credible reports of some forced repatriation of Rohingya 
refugees to Burma, and one refugee was killed by police fire in 


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Although the January elections in Bangladesh's 89 
municipalities were relatively peaceful, sporadic interparty 
violence resulted in 1 death and over 100 injuries.  There was 
considerable violence involving university and secondary school 
students throughout the year.  Much of this violence involved 
clashes both within and between student wings of various 
political parties.  These incidents, which included 2 brutal 
gangland-style slayings, resulted in scores of injuries and at 
least 15 deaths in 1993.

In January, in a complete breakdown of the command and control 
structure, dozens of Bangladesh naval enlisted men, angered by 
alleged mistreatment of fellow troops by local residents, 
attacked a neighborhood near the Chittagong navy base.  
According to official sources, over 11 civilians were killed, 
over 200 injured, and hundreds of residential units and shops 
burned down. The Government's inquiry report into the incident 
has yet to be published, although over 20 naval personnel, 
including officers, were reportedly dismissed from the navy, 
and several have been court-martialed.

Several incidents involving shootings by security forces 
resulted in at least 17 deaths in 1993.  In April a contingent 
of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), a border security force, opened 
fire on a crowded cattle market and killed four persons during 
an attempt to confiscate cattle allegedly smuggled from India.  
In another incident in July, the BDR fired on a group of 
villagers trying to break a levee in a flooded area of Sylhet 
District, killing 4 and injuring 50 people.  At a rail station 
in Dhaka in November, parapolice forces, called Ansars, shot 
and killed two passengers, allegedly in a dispute over payment 
of extortion money for goods they were transporting.  There is 
no indication that criminal charges were brought against any of 
those involved in these incidents.  

In 1993 human rights monitors reported at least eight deaths of 
prisoners in police custody.  Most of those deaths occurred 
while accused criminals were held under police remand, the 
period between arrest and incarceration in one of the country's 
jails.  The Government stated that in 1993, according to its 
records, no prisoners died as the result of mistreatment by 
police or jail authorities.  The Government does not, however, 
routinely investigate deaths in custody.  Determinations of the 
cause of death are often based solely on the local government 
medical officer's report, a practice that human rights monitors 
claim prevents an impartial and objective review of 
questionable circumstances of death.  While there were reports 
of police transfers and suspensions pending magisterial 
investigations in 1993, no police were tried for abusing 
persons accused of crimes.

     b.   Disappearance

There were no confirmed reports of disappearance resulting from 
official actions in 1993.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution forbids torture and cruel, inhuman, and 
degrading punishment.  However, police continue to employ 
psychological and physical torture and other abusive treatment 
during interrogations, which, as indicated in Section 1.a., 
sometimes result in death.  Torture usually consists of threats 
and beatings and may include the use of electric shock.  

Most prisons in Bangladesh are overcrowded and lack adequate 
facilities for prisoners.  This is especially the case in class 
"C" cells, which generally hold common criminals and low-level 
political workers.  They often have dirt floors, no 
furnishings, and poor quality food, and the use of handcuffs 
and fetters is common.

Prisoners in these cells reportedly suffer the most abuse, such 
as beatings and being forced to kneel for long periods.  
Conditions in "B" and "A" cells are markedly better, with the 
latter reserved for prominent persons.  The Government reports 
that independent monitoring of prisons is conducted on a 
monthly basis by a government-appointed committee of private 
citizens.  The committee's findings are not made public.

Supporters of former President Ershad filed a writ of habeas 
corpus in the Bangladesh Supreme Court in 1992 asserting that 
his prison conditions are inhumane and that, among other 
things, Ershad has not been allowed to leave the jail for what 
they consider necessary medical tests.  The Court had not yet 
rendered judgment at year's end.  The Government acknowledges 
that Ershad has been denied these tests, claiming that his 
medical condition is satisfactory.  

In 1993, as in the past, a number of claims were filed with 
magistrates against jail officials involved in alleged cases of 
abuse.  However, human rights monitors report that none of the 
magistrates' reports was published and that no legal action was 
taken.  In one example reported by human rights monitors, a 
13-year-old boy was taken into custody and raped by two police 
officers.  After inquiries by human rights activists, the 
Government dismissed the two officers and reported that it 
planned to prosecute them on criminal charges.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Government continues to use national security legislation 
to detain citizens without formal charges.  The law most often 
used for arbitrary detention is the Special Powers Act of 1974 
(SPA).  Under the SPA, the Government, through the Ministry of 
Home Affairs, may detain anyone deemed "a threat to the 
security of the country."  Initially, the Government can detain 
a person for 30 days; by the end of that period, the Government 
must provide the detainee with a specific charge for his 
detention or release him.  In practice, detainees are sometimes 
held for longer periods without being charged.  From the date 
the charge is made, the Government permits the detainee 15 days 
to appeal the detention to the Home Ministry, which may grant 
early release.

After 6 months, a review panel that includes two jurists 
examines the case to determine if there is sufficient reason to 
continue the detention.  If the Government adequately defends 
its detention order, the detainee remains imprisoned.  If the 
Government fails to convince the review panel, the detainee is 
released.  Detainees are allowed to see lawyers while in 
detention, although this is not usually permitted until a 
charge is filed.  Detainees are allowed to see visitors and are 
not held incommunicado.

In September the Government reported that just under 900 people 
were currently being detained under the SPA, a decrease from 
the 3,000 level reported in 1992.  The Government also reported 
that during the first 9 months of 1993 a total of 1,690 people 
were arrested under the SPA.  Of 365 SPA cases that came before 
the High Court for review during this same period, 97 percent 
were found to be illegal.  The great majority of those detained 
were released outright without being charged with specific 
crimes.  These statistics do not support the Government's claim 
that the SPA is exclusively used against those facing 
legitimate criminal charges.  In fact, the Government has used 
the SPA to harass political opponents, including prominent 
members of Ershad's Jatiya Party as well as low-level activists 
of other parties.  For example, in April a former minister in 
Ershad's government and current Member of Parliament, Anwar 
Hussein Monju, was arrested under the SPA.  He was released in 
May after the Government failed to file any charges against 
him.  In addition, the Government uses the SPA to detain tribal 
opponents of its policies in the CHT, and human rights monitors 
assert that over 200 tribals are currently detained under the 

In 1992 the Government enacted the Suppression of Terrorist 
Offenses bill.  Under this law, commonly known as the 
"antiterrorism act," special tribunals were set up to try 
specific offenses, including extortion, destruction of 
property, hijacking, abduction, and terrorism, within specified 
and compressed time periods.  The act specifically prohibits 
bail in the first month of detention; it also provides that 
tribunal judges are chosen by the Chief Justice, that all 
sentences may be appealed to the High Court, and that 
restitution should be provided for those wrongfully convicted.

According to the Home Ministry, during the first 9 months of 
1993, 2,171 people were arrested under the antiterrorism act.  
Of those people tried during this period, approximately 42 
percent were convicted; 371 people received prison sentences, 
most for periods of less than 10 years.  The majority of the 
convictions were for extortion, hijacking, and terrorism.  In 
November the first death sentence under this law was handed 
down to a man convicted of ransacking a testing hall and 
fighting with police during a national higher secondary school 
exam.  This sentence is subject to higher review.  

When the antiterrorism law went into effect, opponents of the 
bill expressed concern that indiscriminate use of the law would 
lead to many more cases of arbitrary detention on political 
grounds.  However, the consensus among human rights monitors is 
that the antiterrorism law has so far been used to arrest 
criminals and not political activists.  Nonetheless, concerns 
remain about the potential for abuse, and opposition parties 
continue to campaign for the law's repeal.

There were no reports of persons being exiled in 1993.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The court system is divided into two levels, the Low Court and 
the Supreme Court, both of which hear civil as well as criminal 
cases in public trials.  The Low Court consists of magistrates, 
who are part of the administrative branch of government, and 
session judges, who belong to the judicial branch.  The type 
and location of a case determines which of these branches will 
hear it.  The Supreme Court has two divisions--the High Court 
division and the Appellate division.  The High Court division 
hears original cases and reviews decisions of the Low Court.  
The Appellate division has jurisdiction to hear appeals of 
judgments, decrees, orders, or sentences of the High Court 
division.  Rulings of the Appellate division are binding on all 
other courts.

The upper levels of the Bangladesh judiciary exhibit a high 
degree of independence and often rule against the Government in 
criminal, civil, and even politically sensitive cases.  For 
example, in April a High Court division bench restored the 
citizenship of jailed Jamaat Islami leader Golam Azam despite 
government arguments that he did not qualify for citizenship.  
In July another High Court bench rejected the Government's 
arguments and ordered Azam released from incarceration.

The judicial system is inefficient and has a serious backlog.  
According to Ministry of Law statistics, the lower courts have 
over 218,000 criminal and civil cases on the docket, some 
dating back over a decade.  In addition, the High Court 
division of the Supreme Court reports a backlog of over 5,000 
cases which are over 10 years old.  The Government reports that 
26,352 of those awaiting trial are currently in prison.  Over 
half have been in pretrial detention for less than 6 months, 
while 2,263 have been awaiting trial in prison for over 2 
years.  In November a man was released from the central prison 
after 21 years; for the first 13 years he was serving a 
sentence, and for the last 8 years he was awaiting trial on a 
second charge which was dismissed upon his release.  In 1993 
the Ministry of Law announced plans to hire more judges and 
streamline the legal process, but during the year only 13 new 
judges were appointed to the lower court.  

The law provides an accused with the right to be represented by 
counsel, to review accusatory material, to call witnesses, and 
to appeal a judgment.  In practice, however, these rights are 
not widely understood by a largely rural, illiterate population 
and are not always respected by the authorities, especially 
outside the main urban centers.  The law allows judges to 
release an accused person awaiting trial on petition of bail.  
If bail is not granted, however, there are no legal limits to 
pretrial detention.

The time-consuming and expensive process of pursuing cases 
discourages many from seeking redress through the courts.  
While the right to legal counsel is recognized, it is not 
guaranteed.  Courts provide state-funded defense attorneys in 
only a limited number of cases, and there are few legal aid 
programs to assist litigants.  In June former President Ershad 
was convicted of use of undue influence and corruption and 
sentenced to 7 years' imprisonment.  In 1991 and 1992, he was 
convicted on two other charges and sentenced to 13 years in 
prison.  Ershad is appealing all of these convictions.  He is 
now in prison, and a number of other cases are pending against 
him.  He has been represented by counsel throughout the 
proceedings.  His trials have been open to the press and public 
and conform to standard Bangladesh legal practice.  

The Government claims to hold no political prisoners.  However, 
some arrests under the SPA were for essentially political 
reasons, including those of members of Ershad's Jatiya Party 
and tribals arrested for allegedly aiding and abetting the 
insurgent group Shanti Bahini in the CHT.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

Bangladesh legal procedure requires a judicial warrant before 
authorities may enter a home, and the courts may only issue 
this warrant if the Government provides evidence of reasonable 
suspicion that a crime has been committed or is being 
contemplated.  In practice, human rights monitors assert that 
warrants are rarely obtained and there are no sanctions applied 
against officers violating the stipulated procedure.  The SPA 
permits authorities to search premises without a warrant.  

Some opposition and CHT tribal leaders maintain that their 
telephones and mail are monitored by the Government's civilian 
and military intelligence services.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

Since the early 1970's, the Shanti Bahini, a tribal insurgent 
group, have waged a low-level conflict in the CHT.  The 
insurgency grew out of a conflict between the tribal people, 
who sought to maintain their traditional way of life and 
special status in the hill areas, and Bengali settlers from the 
lowlands who sought to exploit the CHT's fertile and relatively 
unpopulated land.  In the 1960's and 1970's, large-scale 
government settlement programs rapidly increased the number of 
Bengali inhabitants in the CHT from only 3 percent in 1947 to 
an estimated 45 percent.  In response to tribal grievances, the 
Government in 1985 began to discourage and eventually 
prohibited further settlement by nontribals in the CHT.  
Despite this, some settlers continue to move into the area. 

In a further attempt to end the insurgency, the Government 
established elected district councils in 1990 which assumed 
control of local government affairs in June 1991.  However, the 
military remains in place and continues to exercise veto power 
over any matter that could affect security.  Law and order 
matters and control over land, two fundamental issues for the 
tribal people, have not yet been placed in the hands of the 
district councils.

Throughout the conflict, all sides--tribals, nontribal 
settlers, and security forces--have accused each other of 
numerous human rights violations.  The details of specific 
incidents have been difficult to verify because of limited 
access to the area caused by government travel restrictions, 
tight security, difficult terrain, and unsafe conditions linked 
to the insurgency.  In November, after over 1 year of relative 
quiet, violence erupted in the remote town of Naniarchar when a 
tribal group demonstrated for removal of a security 
checkpoint.  A group of Bengali settlers reportedly attacked 
the demonstrators as well as other tribals in the town and 
looted and burned tribal homes.  Army and police security 
forces present failed to stop the clash until at least 27 
tribals had been killed and as many as 100 injured.  The 
Government immediately appointed a one-man judicial inquiry 
commission to investigate.

A similar incident in April 1992 in the village of Logong, 
remains a contentious issue because of the Government's failure 
to take more than limited administrative action against those 
involved, as well as complaints about the accuracy of the 
government commission's inquiry report.  According to that 
report, security forces and Bengali settlers killed 13 tribals 
(a number disputed by human rights monitors, who claim many 
more died), injured 13 others, and burned 550 huts in 
retaliation for the killing of a Bengali settler by the Shanti 
Bahini.  There is no indication that the Government imposed or 
plans to impose any criminal sanctions on any of those 
responsible for the attack.  The Government reports that one 
junior officer was dismissed from the border security forces, 
and disciplinary actions are pending against two paramilitary 

The Government continues to maintain a highly visible presence 
in the CHT.  However, a series of short-term cease-fires, 
initiated by the Shanti Bahini in August 1992 and formally 
joined by the Government in May 1993, brought a decrease in 
violence and claims of human rights abuses in 1993.  A 
government-appointed Parliamentary Committee held six meetings 
with representatives of the Jana Sanghati Samity (JSS), the 
political wing of the Shanti Bahini, to seek a solution to the 
conflict.  The JSS has demanded removal of all Bengali 
settlers, withdrawal of the military, and regional autonomy, 
conditions which the Government has rejected.  The sixth round 
of talks on November 24 resulted in little more than an 
agreement to meet for round seven and to extend the cease-fire 
until January 31, 1994. 

In connection with efforts to stem the pattern of violence in 
the CHT, the Government sought to facilitate the repatriation 
of tribal refugees from the conflict who have sought shelter in 
India.  Concerns about security and return of land were 
reportedly the primary issues that stalled these efforts (see 
also Section 2.d.).  Despite the cease-fire and government-JSS 
talks, the situation remained fluid and tensions were high in 
the Hill Tracts throughout the year.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, 
subject only to "reasonable restrictions."  In practice, the 
Government generally respects freedom of speech and tolerates 
open criticism of the Government.  Public rallies and speeches 
are frequent and often in opposition to government policies or 
actions.  The Government sought to impose no new restrictions 
on speech or publications in 1993, although it continued to 
limit equal access to broadcast media and discussed imposing 
regulations on journalists.  Several attacks on newspaper 
offices by unknown assailants occurred during the year.

Bangladesh has a large number of publications containing a wide 
variety of editorial views.  Newspaper ownership and content 
are not subject to government restriction.  Despite frequent 
government statements, particularly by the Minister of 
Information, regarding a code of ethics for journalists and 
required qualifications for the position of editor, no actions 
were taken to impose such restrictions.

The Government continues to own BSS, one of two national news 
services, and to control a large advertising budget, which 
reportedly accounts for as much as 75 percent of all newspaper 
advertising revenues.  Some editors complain that the 
Government uses its advertising budget to punish newspapers 
that criticize it, leading to self-censorship.  This 
self-censorship may take the form of muted criticism of the 
Government.  In general, however, newspapers publish a wide 
variety of viewpoints and opinions.

The Government provides some advertising to all newspapers but 
continues to favor some over others.  The Information Minister 
has publicly stated on several occasions that one of the 
criteria for the distribution of government advertising is the 
degree of objectivity in the paper's reporting.  This is a 
difficult standard to judge and is potentially subject to 
abuse.  In addition, government advertising allotments are not 
distributed in direct proportion to circulation.  The two 
papers owned by a government-controlled trust receive the 
greatest share, while others with higher circulations lag 
behind.  The ruling party BNP newspaper, Dinkal, receives more 
government advertising than its circulation would appear to 
justify, while opposition papers receive less.  For a period in 
early 1993, the left-leaning Bhorer Kagoj received no 
government advertising.  

There were several attacks on newspaper offices in 1993.  In 
February the office of the daily Banglabazar Patrika was 
ransacked.  The police investigation turned up no clues or 
suspects.  The paper had published several stories unfavorable 
to the ruling party, but no link between those stories and the 
attack was established.  Also in February, the offices of the 
private news service, United News of Bangladesh, were attacked 
after the agency reported the winner of a parliamentary 
by-election before the election commission had officially 
released the results.  In June unknown assailants broke into 
the offices of The Morning Sun and did extensive damage to 
computers and other equipment, while in September a bomb attack 
on the office of Ajker Kagoj resulted in injury to seven staff 

The broadcast media remain under government control and 
ownership.  Broadcast news provides noticeably more extensive 
and favorable coverage of the Government than of the 
opposition.  Failure to provide coverage of events unfavorable 
to the Government is sometimes striking.  In May this practice 
was evident in the coverage of a serious accident at Dhaka's 
airport involving an airplane of the government-owned Biman 
Bangladesh airlines.  Bangladesh Television (BTV) failed to 
report the early morning accident, a major news story, in its 
evening broadcasts, reportedly because the Government had not 
yet issued an official statement.  In another example, BTV 
coverage of a strike called by the National Trade Union 
Federation in May to protest the Government's refusal of 
concessions failed to mention widespread closures of factories 
and showed only footage of those that remained open.

In late 1992, the Government began to broadcast Cable News 
Network and British Broadcasting Corporation international news 
for several hours each day on the single Bangladesh television 
station.  The Government continued this practice during 1993, 
thereby permitting considerably increased access to 
international news.  The direct reception of international 
satellite telecasting services is becoming increasingly popular 
in Bangladesh and has not been regulated by the Government.

Issues of staffing and general programming tend to be 
politicized at BTV.  During 1993, some BTV employees were 
reportedly transferred to other positions in the Ministry of 
Information after allegedly failing to respond to requests for 
coverage from ministries and high-ranking members of Parliament 
belonging to the ruling BNP party.  Some critics claim that the 
Government removed the Director-General of BTV in June because 
he backed his staff on such questions.  

The Government's Film Censor Board continues to exercise 
control over the screening of films in Bangladesh.  It 
initially banned a film about the war of liberation on grounds 
that it distorted the nation's ideals.  In response to a public 
outcry, the censors reversed their decision and allowed the 
film to be shown.  The Censor Board also bans films it finds 
pornographic, and the Government continues to ban films from 
South Africa and Israel.

Foreign publications are generally available in Bangladesh.  No 
foreign journalists were arrested, barred from entry, or 
expelled in 1993.  No arrests were reported under the clause of 
the 1991 Penal Code prohibiting the publication or circulation 
of any statement "prejudicial to the interest of security of 
Bangladesh or public order."

Academic freedoms are respected by the Government.  However, 
faculty and student bodies are deeply politicized, sometimes 
inhibiting freedom of expression on campus.  Teachers complain 
that verbal and physical assaults by students are politically 
motivated.  Drama groups need permission--routinely granted--to 
perform plays.  In 1993 the Government banned performance of 
"jatras"--bawdy village operas--on the grounds of obscenity.  
While the ban is enforced in the rural areas, 
government-sanctioned performances are permitted at a 
government-run academy in Dhaka. 

A book entitled "Lajjya" ("Shame"), a fictional account of the 
plight of a Hindu family forced to leave Bangladesh by Muslim 
neighbors following the destruction of the Babri mosque in 
India, was banned by the Government a few months after its 
release in February.  The Government justified the ban as 
necessary to avoid communal misunderstandings and violence, 
describing the book as "tantamount to blasphemy" and offensive 
to the "religious sentiment" of the majority of the 
population.  A little known fundamentalist Islamic group from 
the northeast city of Sylhet issued a death threat against the 
book's author, Taslima Nasreen.  Although it later retracted 
the death threat, the group continued to organize 
demonstrations against Ms. Nasreen's writings and to demand 
that the Government prosecute her for them.  In response to the 
death threat and verbal attacks, the author sought and obtained 
court-ordered police protection.  The Government took no action 
against the group that issued the death threat.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right of every citizen to 
form associations, subject to "reasonable restrictions" in the 
interest of morality or public order.  In practice, individuals 
are free to join private organizations and associations.  
Public meetings require a permit from a local district 
magistrate.  Occasionally, the Government prohibits rallies in 
certain areas for security reasons.  Sit-ins, hunger strikes, 
marches, and rallies are common forms of political expression 
in Bangladesh.  These occasionally lead to violence, sometimes 
involving the police.  In March the police attempted to stop a 
rally in downtown Dhaka by the Nirmul Committee, a group 
dedicated to prosecuting alleged collaborators for atrocities 
committed during the war of liberation.  In breaking up the 
gathering, the police beat a number of the leaders, including 
Jahanara Iman, a nationally known writer and mother of a 
freedom fighter killed in the independence struggle.  The 
Government received much public criticism for its heavy-handed 
tactics.  The authorities frequently prohibited or harassed  
Jatiya Party meetings.  Jatiya Party members who attempted to 
hold marches in Dhaka were forcibly prevented from doing so by 
the police.  In some cases this led to minor violence between 
police and demonstrators.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Islam is the dominant religion in Bangladesh, practiced by an 
estimated 87 percent of the population.  The Eighth Amendment 
to the Constitution, passed in 1988, recognized it as the state 
religion.  Although it also assures the freedom to practice 
other religions, this constitutional change continues to cause 
concern among Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist minorities.  Some 
minority citizens believe it has encouraged hostility toward 
them and contributed to heightened communal tensions.

Following the destruction by Hindu radicals of the Babri mosque 
in Ayodhya, India in December 1992, a backlash occurred in many 
parts of Bangladesh.  Some Hindu temples were reportedly looted 
and destroyed. The Government reacted quickly and successfully 
contained most public demonstrations in the major cities, 
keeping violent actions against Hindu communities and property 
to a minimum.  In many rural areas, however, Hindu communities 
received less effective police protection.  Human rights 
monitors and Hindu organizations reported some deaths, hundreds 
of beatings, and significant property damage.  The Government 
later offered to provide approximately $38,000 for the 
reconstruction of destroyed Hindu temples.

Proselytizing by Bangladeshi citizens is permitted by the 
Constitution, although in practice it is generally directed 
only toward such minority groups as Hindus and tribal people.  
There is strong social resistance to conversion from Islam.

Government policy continues to permit various religions to 
establish places of worship, train clergy, travel for religious 
purposes, and maintain links with coreligionists abroad.  
Foreign missionaries may work in Bangladesh, but, unlike 
citizens, their right to proselytize is not protected by the 
Constitution, and the issue is extremely sensitive.  An example 
of this sensitivity occurred in late 1992 when allegations of 
proselytizing and conversions from Islam provoked an attack by 
local Muslim residents on the largely Christian village of 
Chabagan in the Chittagong district.  An angry mob attacked 
villagers, destroyed some homes, and threatened a nearby 
foreign Christian missionary-run hospital.  Local authorities 
successfully defused tensions without further loss of property.

Some missionaries and Christian nongovernmental organizations 
report facing bureaucratic obstacles in carrying out their 
activities, including the threatened withdrawal of their 
government registrations along with lengthy delays in obtaining 
or renewing security clearances and visas for foreign 
personnel.  Appeals to the Government have sometimes been 
successful in removing such obstacles.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Except in designated areas of the CHT, Bangladeshi citizens are 
free to move about within the country.  Travel by foreigners is 
also restricted in the CHT and some other border areas.  
Bangladeshis are generally free to visit abroad and emigrate, 
subject to foreign exchange controls.  Civil servants must 
first obtain clearance from the Prime Minister's office.  In 
some instances, persons considered to be security risks are 
barred from traveling abroad.  The right of repatriation is 

After the fall of the Ershad regime, the former President 
(currently imprisoned) and some of his family, as well as 
several senior members of his regime and political party 
(Jatiya Party), were prevented from leaving the country, and 
their passports were seized.  This occurred even though the 
Supreme Court in July 1990 had declared illegal the seizure in 
1986 of a former Member of Parliament's passport.  The Acting 
Secretary General of the Jatiya Party and another party 
official were prevented from traveling to Saudi Arabia in 1993, 
when government officials charged they were carrying a letter 
from jailed former President Ershad to King Fahd.  Some of 
those affected by such restrictions have challenged them in the 
courts and have received rulings allowing them to travel.  

Approximately 238,000 non-Bengali Muslims, known as Biharis, 
remain in Bangladesh pending resettlement in Pakistan.  After 
independence in 1971, these persons opted for Pakistani 
citizenship, and Pakistan agreed in principle to accept them.  
Despite Pakistani assurances to Prime Minister Zia, during her 
visit to Pakistan in August 1992, that 3,000 Biharis would soon 
be accepted, only one small transfer of 325 refugees took place 
in January.

The Biharis, most of whom still reside in 66 camps throughout 
Bangladesh, may seek employment and conduct other activities, 
but as noncitizens they do not vote, hold seats in Parliament, 
or hold passports.  Biharis may apply for Bangladeshi 
citizenship at any time, and those who do are granted full 
rights of citizenship.  

At the end of 1993, approximately 200,000 Rohingyas, Muslims 
from Burma's Arakan Province, remained refugees in southeastern 
Bangladesh.  Fleeing repression of the Burmese security forces, 
250,000 Rohingyas crossed the border into Bangladesh, largely 
in late 1991 and early 1992.  With international assistance, 
they are being housed in 19 camps in the area of Cox's Bazar.  
The Government restricts their movements and frequently arrests 
those who venture outside the camps.  The Government is under 
domestic pressure to repatriate the refugees quickly. 

The presence of the Rohingya refugees continues to spark 
occasional public protests and violent incidents involving 
security personnel, local residents, and refugees.  There were 
credible reports that local government authorities abused 
refugees in order to force repatriation at various times during 
1993, especially in August and September.  The United Nations 
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in addition to 
providing relief services, has worked to protect the refugees 
from abuses and to ensure that repatriation is voluntary.  The 
repatriation process, which began in September 1992, has been 
slow, sporadic, and marred by government efforts to coerce 
refugees into returning to Burma.  In December 1992, UNHCR 
announced that the Government was preventing it from carrying 
out its protection mandate, and credible reports of forced 
repatriation by the Government prompted international 
criticism.  After extensive negotiations, the Government and 
UNHCR signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in May that 
permits UNHCR to conduct private interviews of returning 
refugees to determine if their decision is voluntary.  It also 
allows UNHCR access to all the refugee camps during daylight 

Due to uncertainty about the life they would face after 
returning to Burma, most Rohingyas were unwilling to volunteer 
for repatriation in the absence of international monitoring in 
Burma.  By the end of 1993, 16 months after the process began, 
only about 50,000 had returned.  However, the Government of 
Burma and UNHCR reached an agreement in November that, when 
implemented, will permit a UNHCR presence in Burma to protect 
the returning refugees and to provide relief and rehabilitation 

Between 30,000 and 50,000 Bangladesh tribal refugees from the 
CHT are residing in the Indian state of Tripura.  It is 
believed that up to 15,000 may have returned to Bangladesh in 
the last several years.  Bangladesh and India reached agreement 
on plans for full repatriation and announced the agreement with 
promises of the return of land to the refugees and extensive 
resettlement assistance.  However, no refugees returned on the 
first scheduled date in June.  The Government continues to 
attempt to reassure the refugees of a receptive climate for 
their return.  Despite repeated visits to the camps in India by 
government representatives and a refugee delegation visit to 
Bangladesh for first-hand observation in September, there was 
no official repatriation of tribal refugees in 1993.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

With the fall of the Ershad regime and the holding of free and 
fair elections in 1991, Bangladesh's citizens began to enjoy 
the right to change their government through democratic means.  
Bangladesh has a multiparty parliamentary system in which 
elections by secret ballot are held on the basis of universal 

Members of Parliament are to be elected at least every 5 
years.  The Parliament has 300 elected members, with 30 
additional seats reserved for women who are chosen after the 
election by the seated Parliament.  Candidates may contest a 
maximum of five seats in any one election but may hold only 
one.  Parliament elects Bangladesh's president to a 5-year 
term.  The President's duties are largely ceremonial.  

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, headed by Khaleda Zia, 
emerged from the election in 1991 with a plurality of seats and 
formed a government.  It currently holds a slim majority in 
Parliament.  The parliamentary opposition is led by Sheikh 
Hasina Wajed and her party, the Awami League.  While there are 
a number of minor parties, the only other major opposition 
parties are former President Ershad's Jatiya Party and the 
Islamic-oriented party, the Jamaat Islami.

Municipal elections were held in January throughout the 
country, and in February a by-election was held to fill a 
vacant parliamentary seat.  The by-election was won by the 
ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party, but the opposition Awami 
League claimed there were irregularities in the vote counting.  
The independent Chief Election Commissioner ordered a 
recount--the first in Bangladesh's history--which confirmed the 
original results.  Outside observers found the election process 
to be free and fair.  In the municipal elections, nominally 
nonpartisan, the right to vote was openly, freely, and fairly 
exercised.  Although some scattered violence occurred, its 
incidence was greatly reduced from elections held under the 
previous regime. 

Tribals in the CHT have full national voting rights and are 
represented in the Parliament by three members.  A majority of 
the seats on the three local district councils in the CHT is 
reserved for tribals.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

A number of domestic human rights nongovernmental organizations 
operate openly, actively conducting investigations into 
allegations of possible human rights violations.  During 1993, 
some of these organizations published extensive reports of 
their findings, held press conferences, and issued appeals to 
the Government to take action in specific cases.  Local 
organizations regularly communicated with government officials 
as well as representatives of international human rights 
organizations and foreign governments.  They also implemented 
programs promoting human and legal rights awareness among the 
country's largely uneducated and rural majority.  In 1993 there 
were no reports of arrests of human rights monitors, 
confiscation of publications, or forced suspension of an 
organization's activities.

The Government continues to be sensitive to international 
opinion regarding human rights issues.  On occasion during 
1993, the Government restricted access to some Rohingya refugee 
camps by nongovernmental relief organizations and UNHCR 
representatives.  However, in the May agreement with UNHCR, the 
Government guaranteed UNHCR access to all camps during daylight 
hours.  Since then, access to the camps has been greatly 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Bangladesh is a largely rural and culturally homogeneous 
society, with deeply ingrained cultural and religious 
traditions.  It is also one of the most densely populated 
countries in the world with a developing economy that is barely 
able to keep pace with population growth.  In this context, 
women, children, minority groups, and the disabled often 
confront social and economic disadvantages that the society is 
unable or unwilling to eliminate.  Article 27 of the 
Constitution states that "all citizens are equal before the 
law, and are entitled to equal protection by the law."  In 
practice, legal provisions aimed at eliminating discrimination 
are not strongly enforced.  Social programs designed to help 
disadvantaged groups are often insufficient or not fully 


Women continue to hold a subordinate place in Bangladesh 
society.  While their position has improved in the last decade, 
progress has been slow.  Even though some 80 percent of the  
population lives in rural areas where women's traditional role 
is crucial to the well-being and success of the family and 
community, women are nevertheless generally considered an 
economic liability and receive inferior treatment.  Most 
nutrition, health, and educational indicators show that 
Bangladeshi women fare worse than men.

Article 28 of the Constitution specifically prohibits 
government discrimination against any citizen on grounds of 
sex.  Despite this provision, women do not enjoy equal status 
with men under the law.  The 1961 Muslim Family Ordinance, for 
example, provides for less inheritance for women than for male 
family members and more limited divorce rights.  Men are 
permitted to have up to four wives.  Under criminal and civil 
law, women are granted equal status.  In practice, however, 
high illiteracy rates (greater among women than men) and 
unequal educational opportunities often mean that women are 
unaware of their rights.  Strong social stigmas and lack of 
economic means to obtain legal assistance frequently prevent 
women from seeking redress in the courts, which are in any 
event heavily backlogged (see Section 1.e.).  A small number of 
legal awareness programs targeted at women have had limited 
impact.  Women enjoy full voting rights which they exercise 
openly in at least equal numbers with men.  

In education and employment women occupy a measurably weaker 
position.  By tradition, and perhaps in response to women's 
lack of economic opportunities (which tends to perpetuate the 
cycle), families tend to invest more in male than female 
education.  Among the majority rural population, only 30 
percent of primary school students are female.  This figure 
drops to below 25 percent at the secondary level and below 15 
percent at the college and university level.  While economic 
opportunities for women have grown faster than those for men in 
the last decade, women still occupy only a small fraction of 
the wage-earning jobs, except in the garment industry.  Less 
than 5 percent of all government jobs are held by women.  A 
policy of ensuring more women among new hires has had limited 
effect as the Government has been unable to reach its stated 
goal of 15 percent.

Violence against women is part of, and at the same time 
overshadowed by, the general repression of women in society.  
Specific acts of violence are difficult to quantify because of 
unreliable statistics.  Due to the second-class status of women 
in society, most incidents go unreported because they are 
either ignored by the authorities or suppressed by the family 
or community.  An indication of the level of violence against 
women was revealed in the statistics released by the Government 
in October on recorded cases of suicide in the country for the 
previous 22 months.  According to these figures, women had a 
considerably higher suicide rate (57 versus 42 percent) than 
the majority male population.  In 1993 human rights monitors 
reported five incidents in which unofficial community councils 
carried out judgments, usually floggings, against women accused 
of various moral offenses.  One woman was reportedly stoned to 
death, and another was burned.  The Government, which 
recognizes the role of traditional village councils in 
resolving local disputes, has said that it is seeking criminal 
prosecution of those involved in the death cases.

The Government has enacted laws specifically prohibiting 
certain forms of discrimination against women, including the 
Anti-Dowry Prohibition Act of 1980 and the Cruelty to Women Law 
of 1983.  Enforcement is weak, especially in the rural areas 
where most of the population resides, and the Government 
usually does not vigorously prosecute cases which are filed.  
While it is clear that dowry deaths do occur, there are no 
reliable statistics on their number or on the prosecution of 
perpetrators.  The Government reports that under the Cruelty to 
Women Law 1,108 cases were filed in the 12-month period ending 
in July 1993.  By the end of 1993, only 14 of those cases had 
been prosecuted, and in only one case was a conviction obtained.


The Government undertakes programs in the areas of primary 
education, health, family planning, and nutrition which target 
directly or have a direct impact on the welfare of children.  
Some programs have been quite successful.  For instance, the 
Government's immunization program has raised childhood 
immunization rates in the urban areas from 3 percent to 82 
percent.  However, although reliable expenditure figures are 
not available, it is clear that current resources are 
inadequate to meet the needs of this vulnerable and major 
segment of the population.  General health and social 
indicators clearly show that most children face difficult odds 
in obtaining adequate health care and education.  Despite 
improvements made in the last decade, indicators such as infant 
mortality and child morbidity rates remain relatively high.

The Government in 1991 made universal primary education 
mandatory but stated that it could not implement the law in the 
foreseeable future.  Pilot programs in one small area of each 
of Bangladesh's 64 districts were begun.  In practice, among 
children 6 to 10 years of age, only about 50 percent are in 
school.  Of those, approximately 65 percent drop out before the 
age of 10. 

Primary education is currently underfunded in comparison with 
secondary schools and universities, which together receive 
about 70 percent of the Government's expenditures on 
education.  Recognizing the importance of primary education, 
the Government in 1993 created a Division of Primary Education, 
separate from the Ministry of Education and reporting directly 
to the Prime Minister's office.

Human rights monitors have reported problems of children being 
abandoned, kidnaped, and sold into bondage, as well as a 
growing problem of child trafficking and prostitution schemes.  
When uncovered by the authorities, these have received wide 
public attention and condemnation.  Police and border security 
forces are alert to and routinely check for signs of child 
trafficking.  Government officials acknowledge, however, that a 
lack of resources and training limits their ability to tackle 
these problems.

     Indigenous People

The issue of property rights for land traditionally held by the 
tribal people of Bangladesh, particularly those of the CHT, 
continues to cause claims of discrimination and to provoke acts 
of violence.  Until 1985 the land of CHT tribal peoples, who 
frequently lacked proof of ownership, was regularly parceled 
out by the Government to Bengali settlers.  There were also 
complaints of false deeds, physical attacks, unannounced 
mortgage foreclosures, and outright confiscation of land from 
suspected tribal insurgents.  No reports of similar violations 
have been received in recent years, but longstanding complaints 
continue to be a fundamental factor underlying the insurgency 
in the CHT (see Section l.g.).  The Government has moved toward 
granting more authority over local matters to the tribal people 
in the CHT.  In July 1991, tribal-dominated local government 
councils assumed control over primary education, health, family 
welfare, and agricultural extension.  Government security 
forces, however, continue to control issues of law and order as 
well as land use.

Tribal peoples in other areas of Bangladesh in the past have 
also reported loss of land to Bengali Muslims through 
questionable legal practices and other means.

     Religious Minorities

Religious minorities, principally Hindu, Christian, and 
Buddhist, make up an estimated 13 percent of the population.  
Although equal under the law, these minorities are, in 
practice, disadvantaged in such areas as access to government 
jobs and political office.  Selection boards in the government 
services are often without minority group representation.  In 
the current Parliament there are 12 members from minority 
groups, out of a total of 330.  

Property ownership, particularly for Hindus, has been a 
contentious issue since independence, when many Hindus lost 
land holdings due to unequal application of the law.  Reported 
cases of violence directed against religious minority 
communities has resulted in loss of property, most recently in 
the aftermath of the destruction of the Babri mosque in India 
in December 1992.  These actions are a symptom of the communal 
tensions that have prompted some people belonging to minority 
groups to leave Bangladesh, causing a slow but steady decline 
in the relative size of the country's minority population, 
especially Hindus.

     People with Disabilities

According to government figures, there are approximately 3 
million disabled people in the country.  Bangladesh's laws 
provide for equal treatment and freedom from discrimination for 
the disabled.  The Government has not yet enacted specific 
legislation or otherwise mandated accessibility for the 
disabled.  It has announced, however, that it is developing a 
national plan of action to address this and other ways of 
promoting the rights of disabled people.  

In 1993 the Ministry of Social Welfare reported that in the 
last year approximately 100,000 disabled people benefited from 
programs to teach technical skills.  An overall lack of 
resources directed toward the disabled, however, leaves them 
disadvantaged and unable to benefit fully from legally 
prescribed rights.  The disabled are particularly vulnerable to 
the problems of insufficient employment opportunities and 
inadequate health, education, and social services that affect 
the society as a whole.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Bangladesh Constitution guarantees freedom of association, 
the right to join unions, and, with government approval, the 
right to form a union.  With the exception of workers in the 
railway, postal, telegraph, and telephone departments, 
government civil servants are forbidden to join unions.  This 
ban also applies to security-related government employees, such 
as the military and police.  Bangladeshi civil servants 
forbidden to join unions, such as teachers or nurses, have 
joined associations that perform functions similar to labor 
unions, i.e., providing for members' welfare, offering legal 
services, and airing grievances.  Collective bargaining, 
however, is prohibited.  Some workers have formed unregistered 
unions.  Current law also prohibits professional and 
industry-based unions in Bangladesh's two export processing 
zones (EPZ's).  

Workers in the two EPZ's have also skirted prohibitions on 
forming unions by setting up associations.  The Government has 
stated that labor law restrictions on freedom of association 
and formation of unions in the EPZ's will be lifted by 1997.  
In the burgeoning garment industry, there have been numerous 
complaints of workers being harassed and fired in some 
factories for trying to organize workers.

Approximately 1.6 million members of the country's total work 
force of about 45 to 50 million workers belong to unions.  Only 
about 3 million workers are involved in the formal industrial 
sector.  (There is a large unreported informal sector, and 
labor statistics are unreliable.)  

Ten to 15 percent of Bangladesh's approximately 4,200 labor 
unions are affiliated with 23 officially registered National 
Trade Union (NTU) centers (there are also several unregistered 
NTU's).  There are no legal restrictions on political 
activities by labor unions, though the calling of nationwide 
general strikes or transportation blockades by unions is 
considered a criminal rather than political act and thus 
forbidden.  Some unions have complained that the Government is 
using its antiterrorism law as a means to suppress both 
opposition political workers and union members, rather than 
bona fide terrorists.  

Unions are not part of the government structure.  They are 
highly politicized, however, and virtually all the NTU centers 
are affiliated with political parties, including one with the 
ruling BNP.  Some unions are militant and engage in 
intimidation and vandalism.  Illegal blockades of public 
transportation routes by strikers occurred several times in 
1993, with scattered violence.  Clashes between members of 
rival labor unions occurred in 1993, and at least two union 
leaders died in such incidents.   On September 13, 25 workers 
were injured in clashes between armed Awami League and BNP 
labor front members at the large Adamjee jute mill.

For a union to obtain and maintain its registration, 30 percent 
employee participation is required.  Workers are eligible for 
membership on the unions' executive staff, the size of which is 
set by law in proportion to the number of union members.  
Registration of a union may only be canceled by the Registrar 
of Trade Unions with the concurrence of the Labor Court, but no 
such actions were known to have been taken in 1993.  There are 
no restrictions on affiliation with international labor 
organizations, and Bangladeshi unions and federations maintain 
a variety of such links.  Trade unionists are required to 
obtain government clearance to travel to International Labor 
Organization (ILO) meetings, but no clearances were reported 
denied in 1993.

The right to strike is not specifically recognized in the law, 
but strikes are a common form of protest.  In 1993 university 
teachers struck over the issue of campus violence.  Jute, 
textile, and sugar workers struck over the issues of minimum 
wages, privatization of industry, retrenchment of workers, and 
the detention of labor officials.  

General strikes continue to be used by the political opposition 
to pressure the Government on political demands, causing 
significant economic and social disruption through loss of work 
hours and production.  Wildcat strikes are illegal but occur 
frequently, with varying government response.

The Essential Services Ordinance permits the Government to bar 
strikes for 3 months in any sector it decides is "essential."  
This ban, which is generally obeyed, was applied in 1993 to 
national airline pilots and water supply workers and previously 
has been applied to shipping operations and electricity supply 
workers.  The Government is empowered to prohibit a strike or 
lockout at any time before or after the strike or lockout 
begins and to refer the dispute to the Labor Court.  Mechanisms 
for conciliation, arbitration, and Labor Court dispute 
resolutions were established under the Industrial Relations 
Ordinance of 1969.  Workers have the right to strike in the 
event of a failure to achieve a bipartite settlement.  If a 
strike lasts 30 days or longer, the Government may prohibit the 
strike and refer the dispute to the Labor Court for 
adjudication.  This took place in several cases in 1993, but no 
decisions were reached by the court.  Such delayed decisions 
are frequent, usually due to nonattendance by employers or the 
union.  Both sides use the tactic of delay, employers 
attempting to keep workers on the job, and union leaders, short 
of strike funds, allowing workers to return to work without 
calling off the strike.

There are provisions in the Bangladesh Industrial Relations 
Ordinance for the immunity of registered unions or officers 
from civil liability.  Enforcement of these provisions is 
uneven.  In the case of illegal work actions, such as 
transportation blockades, police arrest union members under 
either the Special Powers Act, the Antiterrorism Law, or 
regular criminal codes.  

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Free collective bargaining is legal only for private sector 
workers in Bangladesh, on condition that the workers are 
represented by unions legally registered as collective 
bargaining agents by the Registrar of Trade Unions.  Collective 
bargaining occurs on occasion in large private enterprises, 
but, with unemployment in the 30 percent range, workers' 
concerns with job security often outweigh wage and other 
issues.  During three major strike calls in 1993, worker 
attendance at private factories remained high.  Collective 
bargaining generally does not occur in small private 

Public sector workers' pay levels and other benefits are 
recommended by the National Pay and Wages Commission.  The 
Commission's recommendations are binding and may not be 
disputed except on the issue of implementation.  

Under the Industrial Relations Ordinance, there is considerable 
leeway for discrimination against union members and organizers 
by employers.  For example, the Ordinance allows arbitrary 
transfer of workers suspected of union activities.  Complaints 
that employers routinely engage in antiunion discrimination are 
particularly high in the garment industry.  In practice, 
private sector employers tend to discourage any union 
activity.  The Registrar of Trade Unions rules on 
discrimination complaints.  In a number of cases, the court has 
ordered the reinstatement of workers fired for union 
activities.  However, the Labor Court's overall effectiveness 
is damaged by a serious case backlog, and there have also been 
allegations that some of its deliberations have been corrupted 
by employers.  Unions are prohibited and no collective 
bargaining takes place in the export processing zones.  The 
Government has stated that restrictions on unions in these 
zones will be lifted by 1997.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor.  The 
Factories Act and Shops and Establishment Act, 1965, set up 
inspection mechanisms to enforce laws against forced labor, but 
resources for enforcement are few.  These laws are not 
rigorously enforced.  While Bangladesh does not experience 
large-scale, bonded labor, there is forced labor to the extent 
that workers are often required to work later than stipulated 
by law.  This is the case in the garment industry, which 
operates in high-volume, short-deadline modes of production.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Bangladesh has laws that prohibit labor by children.  The 
Factories Act of 1965 bars children under the age of 15 from 
working in factories.  This law also stipulates that young 
workers (i.e., children and adolescents) are only allowed to 
work a maximum 5-hour day and only between the hours of 7 a.m. 
and 7 p.m.

In reality, enforcement of these rules is inadequate.  
According to United Nations estimates, about one-third of 
Bangladesh's population under the age of 18 is working.  
Children are commonly seen driving rickshaws, breaking bricks 
at construction sites, and working at tea stalls.  Children 
also routinely perform domestic work.  Cases of children being 
physically abused and occasionally killed by the head of 
households where they work are reported in the press.  Under 
the law, each child must attend school through the fifth 
grade.  However, the Government continues to maintain that it 
does not have the resources to implement this law immediately 
in the entire country.

In anticipation of possible U.S. legislation prohibiting the 
import of products made by child labor, thousands of underage 
children employed in Bangladesh's garment industry were fired 
in 1993.  A cooperative effort to rehabilitate the estimated 
70,000 children who will ultimately lose their jobs in the 
garment industry is being mounted by the Bangladesh Government, 
the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the ILO, and 
nongovernmental organizations.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage.  Instead, the wage 
commission sets wages industry by industry.  In most cases, 
private sector employers ignore this wage structure, arguing 
that low labor productivity vitiates any argument for a set 
wage.  In 1993 the Confederation of Labor Unions (SKOP) won a 
minimum wage agreement for public sector factory workers that 
fell slightly short of the level recommended by the wage 
commission.  According to the agreement, government factory 
workers will receive about $24 a month (950 taka) plus 
benefits, effective in July 1993.  Private sector wages tend to 
fall below the total government wage and benefits package.  The 
average wage of private sector workers in similar industries is 
several hundred taka less.

The law sets a standard 48-hour workweek with 1 day off 
mandated.  A 60-hour workweek, inclusive of a maximum 12 hours 
of overtime, is allowed.  The law is poorly enforced in 
industries such as hosiery and ready-made garments.  Relative 
to the average standard of living in Bangladesh, the average 
monthly wage could be described as sufficient to support life 
but not by any means a good wage for a family.  

The Factories Act of 1965 nominally sets occupational health 
and safety standards.  The law is comprehensive but appears to 
be largely ignored by many Bangladeshi employers.  Workers may 
resort to legal action for enforcement of the law's provisions, 
but few cases are actually prosecuted.  Enforcement by the 
Labor Ministry's industrial inspectorate is weak.  Due to high 
unemployment and inadequate enforcement of the laws, workers 
demanding correction of dangerous working conditions, or 
refusing to participate in perceived dangerous activities, risk 
losing their jobs.  (###)

[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.