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TITLE: BANGLADESH HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995









                           BANGLADESH


Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy headed by Prime 
Minister Khaleda Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist 
Party (BNP).  Opposition parties include the Awami League, the 
Jatiyo Party, the Jamaat-E-Islami, and several smaller 
parties.  The opposition began to boycott Parliament in March, 
demanding that the Government establish a caretaker government 
to conduct national elections in early 1996.

The Home Affairs Ministry controls the police and paramilitary 
forces which bear primary responsibility for maintaining 
internal security.  The army and paramilitary forces are 
responsible for security in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), 
where a tribal force has waged a low-level insurgency for 20 
years.  There were fewer violent incidents in the CHT in 1994 
than in the past.  A cease-fire between government forces and 
insurgents generally held throughout the year.  Because the 
Government strictly controls access to the CHT, it is not known 
whether security forces there committed abuses in 1994.

Bangladesh is a poor country; approximately 40 percent of its 
122 million people exist on incomes insufficient to meet 
minimum daily needs.  Sixty percent of the work force is 
involved in farming, which accounts for approximately
40 percent of the gross domestic product.  Efforts to reform 
the economy have been stymied by political stalemate, public 
sector enterprises, and other entrenched interests.

The Government continues to restrict or deny many fundamental 
rights.  The Government's issuance of a warrant for the arrest 
of Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreem for insulting religious 
beliefs, and its failure to prosecute those who made death 
threats against her, drew international attention and raised 
questions about the Government's commitment to freedom of 
expression.  The Government continued to use national security 
laws to detain political opponents and other citizens without 
formal charge, although the Government allowed the 
Antiterrorism Act to expire on November 5.  Police routinely 
use torture and other abuse in interrogating suspects.  Some 
victims died in police custody.  The Government rarely convicts 
and punishes those responsible for torture or causing unlawful 
deaths.  Violence against women remained a serious problem.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

According to government figures, 64 persons died while in 
custody.  In cases where post mortems were performed, there was 
no evidence that any prisoner died from maltreatment.  However, 
continual reports of police abuse and deaths of prisoners 
indicate that this claim is deceptive and masks serious abuse.  
For example, on March 4, police arrested a truck driver in 
Nishindara and reportedly beat him to death.  Eight police 
officers were suspended as a result of this incident; however, 
there is no indication of further punishment.  On November 27, 
a 21-year-old man died while in police custody (see Section 
1.c.).

Violence, often resulting in killings, is a feature of the 
political process.  Demonstrators from all parties, and even 
within parties, often clash during rallies and demonstrations.  
Violence among student political groups reportedly resulted in 
27 deaths, 1,500 injuries, and the closure of 45 educational 
institutions.  On July 26, 4 people were killed and over 100 
injured at a rally in Chittagong when forces of Jamaat-e-Islami 
clashed with supporters of the All Party Students Unity.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances resulting from 
government actions.

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

Although the Constitution prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, 
or degrading punishment, police systematically employ 
psychological and physical torture and other abuse during 
arrests and interrogations.  Torture may consist of threats, 
beatings, and, occasionally, the use of electric shock.  On 
November 27, the police reportedly beat to death a 21-year-old 
male detainee; but official sources alleged that the man died 
of cardiac arrest.  The Goverment has ordered a second autopsy 
and an investigation is under way.  In the past, some police 
officers have been suspended for abusing detainees.  
Nonetheless, a climate of impunity remains a major obstacle to 
ending torture and abuse.

Most prisons are overcrowded and lack adequate facilities.  
There are three classes of cells:  A, B, and C.  Common 
criminals and low-level political workers are generally held in 
C cells which often have dirt floors, no furnishings, and poor 
quality food.  The use of restraining devices on prisoners in 
these cells is common.  Prisoners in the C cells reportedly 
suffer the worst abuses, including beatings or being forced to 
kneel for long periods.  Conditions in B and A cells are 
markedly better; A cells are reserved for prominent prisoners 
(including former President Ershad).  A government-appointed 
committee of private citizens monitors prisons monthly but does 
not release its findings.

Former President Ershad is serving a 20-year sentence.  In 1992 
his supporters filed a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme 
Court asserting that his living conditions were inhumane and 
that he has been denied proper medical care.  The Court has not 
yet rendered judgment.  The Government maintains that Ershad 
receives competent medical care and that his condition has 
improved and is satisfactory.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Government continued to use national security legislation 
to detain citizens without formal charges, though to a lesser 
extent than the past.  The two most widely used statutes are 
the Special Powers Act of 1974 (SPA) and the Suppression of 
Terrorist Offenses Bill of 1992, often called the Antiterrorism 
Act.  The Government allowed the Antiterrorism Act to expire in 
November, claiming that the law had achieved its purpose.

Under the SPA, the Government may detain anyone deemed "a 
threat to the security of the country" for 30 days.  At the end 
of that time, it must either charge or release the detainee.  
In practice, detainees are sometimes held for longer periods 
without charge.  If the Government files charges, detainees 
have 15 days to appeal the detention order to the Home 
Ministry, which may grant early release.

After 6 months, a review panel examines detainees.  If the 
Government adequately defends its detention order, the detainee 
remains imprisoned; if not, the detainee is released.  
Detainees are allowed to consult with lawyers while in 
detention, although usually not until a charge is filed.  
Detainees may receive visitors, and incommunicado detention is 
not practiced.

From January to September, the authorities detained 1,498 
persons under the SPA.  As of October, the courts reviewed 
1,100 cases and ordered 789 detainees released.  The courts 
upheld the detention orders in the other cases.

In the first 9 months of 1994, the authorities arrested
856 persons under the Antiterrorism Act and filed charges in 
289 cases.  However, the courts adjudicated only 14 cases, 7 of 
which ended in conviction.  Between its inception in 1992 and 
September 15, the authorities arrested 3,358 persons under the 
Antiterrorism Act, and filed 1,394 cases.  On November 5, the 
date on which the Antiterrorism Act expired, 489 cases were  
pending.  The Government has introduced legislation to dispose 
of those cases.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The court system has two levels, the Low Court and the Supreme 
Court.  Both hear civil and criminal cases.  Trials are 
public.  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 Supreme Court is 
divided into two sections, the High Court  and the Appellate 
Court.  The High Court hears original cases and also reviews 
cases from the Low Court.  The Appellate Court has jurisdiction 
to hear appeals of judgments, decrees, orders, or sentences of 
the High Court.  Rulings of the Appellate Court are binding on 
all other courts.

The judiciary displays a high degree of independence, 
especially at the higher levels.  It often rules against the 
Government in criminal, civil, and even politically 
controversial cases.  In one politically sensitive case, an 
appellate court in June upheld the April 1993 High Court 
decision to restore the citizenship of Jamaat-E-Islami leader 
Golam Azam.  The Government argued that Azam did not qualify 
for full citizenship because he allegedly committed or condoned 
war crimes while fighting on the side of Pakistan during the 
war of independence.

The law provides the accused with the right to be represented 
by counsel, to review accusatory material, to call witnesses, 
and to appeal verdicts.  In practice, the largely rural, 
illiterate population does not always understand these rights, 
nor do the authorities always respect them.  There is a system 
of bail.  However, if bail is not granted, the law does not 
specify a time limit on pretrial detention.  State-funded 
defense attorneys are provided in only a limited number of 
cases, and there are few legal aid programs to offer financial 
assistance.

The largest problem of the court system is the overwhelming 
backlog of cases.  As of September, over 500,000 cases were 
pending in criminal and metropolitan courts; in Dhaka alone, 
approximately 25,000 cases were pending trial.

The Government claims that it holds no political prisoners.  
However, it has arrested some opponents under the SPA for 
political reasons.

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

The law requires authorities to obtain a judicial warrant 
before entering a home.  However, human rights monitors assert 
that the police rarely obtain warrants and officers violating 
the procedure are not punished.

In addition, the SPA permits searches without a warrant.  Some 
opposition members and CHT tribal leaders maintain that the 
intelligence services illegally monitor their telephones and 
mail.  Sheikh Hasina, leader of the opposition Awami League, 
charged that the Government taps her telephones and has her 
under surveillance.  The Government denied tapping her 
telephone, but admitted that the "surveillance" was provided 
for her protection.

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

The Shanti Bahini, a tribal group, has waged a low-level 
conflict in the CHT since the early 1970's to deter Bengali 
settlers who seek to exploit the Tract's fertile and 
unpopulated land.  Government settlement programs increased the 
number of Bengali inhabitants in the CHT from 3 percent in 1947 
to an estimated 45 percent in 1994.  Although the Government 
prohibits further settlement of the area, some settlers 
continue to move in.

All sides--indigenous tribes, settlers, and security 
forces--have accused each other of human rights violations.  It 
is difficult to verify facts in specific incidents because 
government travel restrictions, tight security, difficult 
terrain, and unsafe conditions created by the insurgency limit 
access to the area.

In November 1993, 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 and other persons in the town and 
looted and burned tribal homes.  At least 27 people were killed 
and 100 injured before the police and army restored order.  At 
the end of 1994, a government commission which investigated the 
violence had not issued an official finding.

There were no major violent incidents in the CHT in 1994.  The 
Government continued its talks with Shanti Bahini's political 
wing, the Jana Sanghati Samiti (JSS), and the two sides agreed 
on December 26 to extend their cease-fire until March 31, 1995, 
when talks between the two groups are scheduled to resume.  The 
Government also extended the amnesty for insurgents until March 
31, 1995.

The Government facilitated the return of Chakma members who had 
fled the conflict in the CHT and sought shelter in refugee 
camps in India.  More than 2,000 refugees had returned by 
midyear.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech, expression, 
and press, subject to "reasonable restrictions" in the interest 
of security, friendly relations with foreign states, public 
order, decency, or morality, or to prohibit defamation or 
incitement to an offense.  The Government generally respects 
freedom of speech, with the exception of perceived criticism of 
Islam (see below).

There are frequent public rallies and speeches in opposition to 
government policies.  Opposition political parties used public 
rallies as the main venue to express their views after they 
walked out of the Parliament in early 1994.

Newspaper ownership and content are not subject to government 
restriction.  The press, numbering hundreds of daily and weekly 
publications, is a forum for a wide range of views.

The Government seeks to influence newspapers by the placement 
of advertising.  The Information Minister has publicly stated 
that one criterion for the placement of government advertising 
is the "objectivity" of a newspaper's reporting.  Some editors 
complain that the Government's use of its advertising budget to 
punish critical newspapers leads to self-censorship.

The Government also owns the only newsprint mill in the 
country, giving it the power to shut down a newspaper by 
denying it newsprint.  It determines how newsprint is 
allocated, and, until recently, prohibited its import.

Foreign publications are subject to censorship.  An issue of 
Time magazine was banned in January, reportedly for publishing 
a photo of a model wearing a dress with verses from the Koran 
embroidered on it.  On the other hand, the authorities 
permitted entry of foreign newspapers carrying editorials 
critical of the Government's handling of the Taslima Nasreen 
case (see below).

The Government arrested several journalists for "offending the 
religious sentiments of the people"--a violation of Section 
295(a) of the Penal Code.  Three editors of the daily 
Janakantha were arrested for printing a satirical fable mocking 
Islamic clerics who misinterpret the Koran.  One editor was 
granted bail; the others were imprisoned for several weeks.  
Their case is still pending.  The authorities issued warrants 
for the arrest of a reporter and editor of Ajke Kagoj and sued 
the editor for publishing an article critical of the 
Jamaat-i-Islami, an Islamist political party.

Two editors were threatened with legal action.  In one case the 
editor of Bangla Bazaar Patrika, Motiur Rahman Chowdhury, wrote 
a story about the alleged involvement of Special Advisor to the 
Prime Minister Morshed Khan in a banking scandal.  Khan brought 
a case against Chowdhury, who was arrested and released on 
bail.  The case has not yet come to trial.  In the second case, 
the editor of Ajker Kagoj, Kazi Shahed Ahmed, wrote stories on 
the alleged role of leaders of the Jamaat-i-Islami Party as 
collaborators with the Pakistanis during Bangladesh's 1971 war 
for independence.  Charges brought by Jamaat partisans resulted 
in warrants for Ahmed's arrest.  He surrendered to the court 
and was granted bail.  The case remains in the court system.

Several media organizations and bookstores were attacked with 
stones and Molotov cocktails by groups of Islamic 
fundamentalists because they were allegedly "against 
religion."  The Information Minister condemned the attacks, but 
the Government took no legal action against the instigators.

Some fundamentalist groups threatened a number of journalists, 
set fire to newspaper offices, intimidated newspaper sellers, 
and offered rewards for the murder of well-known writers and 
editors.  The Government did not fully investigate such 
incidents and failed to prosecute the perpetrators.

In May, while visiting India, author Taslima Nasreen became the 
target of Islamists' ire after the Indian newspaper, The 
Statesman, quoted her as saying that the Koran should be 
revised.  Nasreen had gained prominence in 1993 when the 
Government banned her book "Lajjya" ("Shame"), a fictional 
account of atrocities committed against a Hindu family by 
Muslim neighbors, for inciting communal misunderstanding and 
violence.

After The Statesman interview, Nasreen claimed that she had 
stated only that Islamic law should be changed to improve the 
lot of women, and that the Koran was "out of place and out of 
time"--rather than in need of revision.  Nonetheless, Nasreen 
became the object of death threats and protests staged by 
fundamentalist groups.  In June the Government issued a warrant 
for her arrest, citing the section of the Penal Code which 
stipulates punishment of anyone who intentionally insults 
religious beliefs.  As a result of the arrest warrant and death 
threats, Nasreen went into hiding.

International media, human rights groups, and foreign 
governments criticized the Government for failing to take 
action against those calling--and offering money--for Nasreen's 
death.  The Government finally warned the public against making 
death threats.  On August 3, Nasreen appeared under heavy guard 
before the High Court which granted her bail and police 
protection.  Following a court order voiding her arrest 
warrant, Nasreen departed Bangladesh on August 9 for Sweden and 
did not return to Bangladesh in 1994.  Nasreen's trial 
continues, although in January 1995 the High Court ruled that 
the Government must provide a special sanction for the charges 
because Nasreen's acts allegedly took place in a foreign 
country.  The Government has not yet responded to this order.  
By law, Nasreen may be tried in absentia.

The Government owns and controls all the broadcast media which 
provide more favorable coverage of the Government than of the 
opposition.  This was particularly true of government 
television's very slanted coverage of January mayoral elections 
in Dhaka and three other major cities.

The availability of Cable News Network (CNN) and the British 
Broadcasting Company's (BBC) international news and features 
for several hours a day on government television has 
considerably increased the public's access to international 
news.

The Government's film censor board continues to exercise 
control over films.  In May it banned a locally produced 
documentary on Chinese prodemocracy movements because the film 
would injure the "susceptibilities of foreign nations."

     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 groups, but a local magistrate must 
approve public meetings.  Occasionally, the Government 
prohibits rallies for security reasons.

The Government frequently interferes with opposition rallies 
and public meetings.  Police in Dhaka broke up a planned Jatiyo 
Party rally on August 23 on the grounds that the organizers did 
not have a permit.  Government officials also often cite a 
statute which allows public assemblies to be prohibited--to 
prevent possible violence--if two or more parties have 
scheduled rallies for the same time and place.  Opposition 
leaders claim that the ruling party, after learning of planned 
opposition public gatherings, frequently schedules other 
rallies for the same time and place.  Government authorities 
then cancel both events, effectively thwarting the opposition's 
right to free public assembly.

The Government and the opposition in October entered into a 
political dialog in which one agenda item was agreement on a 
code of conduct that would address issues such as public 
assemblies.  The dialog failed when the opposition refused to 
compromise on its demand for a caretaker government to 
supervise the next national elections.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Approximately 90 percent of Bangladesh's 122 million people are 
Muslim.  The Constitution establishes Islam as the state 
religion but also stipulates the right to practice the religion 
of one's choice.  However, some members of the Hindu, 
Christian, and Buddhist minorities believe the establishment of 
Islam has led to hostility toward them and increased religious 
tension (see Section 5).

The law permits citizens to proselytize.  However, strong 
social resistance to conversion from Islam means that much of 
the non-Muslim missionary effort is aimed at Hindus and tribal 
groups.  The Government allows 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 their right to 
proselytize is not protected by the Constitution.  Some 
missionaries have encountered difficulties in obtaining 
residence permits or reentry visas from the Government.

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

Except for certain areas within the CHT, citizens are able to 
move freely within the country.  Travel by foreigners is also 
restricted in the CHT and some other border areas.  
Bangladeshis are generally free to travel abroad and emigrate.  
In some instances the Government prohibits persons considered 
to be security risks from traveling abroad.  The right of 
repatriation is observed.

Approximately 250,000 Rohingyas (Muslims from Burma's Arakan 
province) crossed into southeastern Bangladesh in late 1991 and 
early 1992, fleeing Burmese repression.  Approximately 120,000 
Rohingyas remain in 17 camps in the area of Cox's Bazar.  Camp 
security officials subjected refugees in the camps to 
intimidation and physical abuse in attempts to coerce the 
Rohingyas to return to Burma.  The Government took substantial 
steps to curb these abuses in mid-1994 at the urging of the 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and some 
foreign governments.  Efforts to repatriate the refugees gained 
momentum due to a new willingness of the Burma Government 
during the second half of 1994 to accept the refugees.  In 
November alone, almost 20,000 refugees were repatriated and the 
UNHCR indicated it hopes to continue to repatriate about 5,000 
refugees per week.

There are about 238,000 non-Bengali Muslims, known as Biharis, 
who remain in Bangladesh pending resettlement to Pakistan  (see 
Pakistan report).

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

Bangladesh is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy in which 
elections by secret ballot are held on the basis of universal 
suffrage.  Members of Parliament are elected at least every 5 
years.  The Parliament has 300 elected members, with 30 
additional seats reserved for women who are chosen by 
Parliament.  Women are free to contest any seat in Parliament, 
and some were elected in their own right in the last national 
election, so there are more than 30 women members.  While seats 
are not specifically reserved for them, other minority groups, 
such as tribal peoples, are represented in the legislature.  In 
the current Parliament there are 12 members from minority 
groups out of a total of 330.

The last national elections were held in 1991 after the fall of 
the government of H.R. Ershad.  The BNP won a plurality of 
seats.  It cooperated with the Jamaat-i-Islami party to elect 
enough women legislators to give the BNP a slim majority and 
enable it to form a government.  The opposition is led by 
Sheikh Hasina Wajed and her Awami League party.  While there 
are a large number of minor parties, the most significant 
opposition parties are the Awami League, the Jatiyo Party 
(former President Ershad's party), and the Jamaat-i-Islami, the 
major Islamic political party which holds 20 seats.

The Awami League and other opposition groups charged the BNP 
with intimidation and vote-rigging in a parliamentary 
by-election in the district of Magura, which the BNP won.  They 
began a boycott of Parliament and have tried, thus far 
unsuccessfully, to force the Government to resign in favor of a 
caretaker government, which would oversee new elections.  The 
opposition Members of Parliament resigned en masse on December 
28.

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

The Government generally permits human rights groups to conduct 
their activities.  In 1994 such groups published reports, held 
press conferences, and issued appeals to the Government in 
regard to specific cases.

The Government is sensitive to international opinion regarding 
human rights issues.  It sought to defend its handling of the 
Taslima Nasreen case but was open to dialog with international 
organizations and foreign diplomatic missions.

The Government has put pressure on individual human rights 
advocates.  The Government did not issue a reentry visa to 
Father Richard Timm, a Catholic priest and human rights 
advocate who has worked in Bangladesh for over 40 years.  
Father Timm had applied for the visa to travel abroad for 
needed medical care.  Government sources indicated that they 
are still considering Father Timm's case, but the Government 
has taken no action for over a year.  In a similar case, the 
Government took no action on the application for a visa 
extension by Father Eugene Homrich, a long time resident 
American priest.  This appears to be a result of his activities 
in the Madhupur Forest region, where he works to promote the 
rights of the Garos, a minority group.

The Government continues to deny registration to the Bangladesh 
Human Rights Commission's Treatment Center for Trauma Victims, 
making it impossible for the center to receive funds from 
foreign donor organizations.  Many representatives of local 
human rights groups were physically attacked by religious 
extremists who considered their activities "un-Islamic."  The 
Government failed to bring to justice those who engaged in such 
violence.

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

The Constitution states that "all citizens are equal before the 
law and are entitled to equal protection by the law."  In 
practice, laws aimed at eliminating discrimination are not 
strongly enforced.  In this context, women, children, minority 
groups, and the disabled often confront social and economic 
disadvantages.

     Women

Although there has been slow improvement over the last few 
years, women remain in a subordinate position in Bangladesh 
society, and the Government has not acted to protect their 
basic freedoms.  Only 20 percent of women are literate, 
compared to 35 to 40 percent of the general population.  In 
rural areas, only 30 percent of primary school students are 
female; less than 25 percent at the secondary level, and below 
15 percent at the college and university level.  Women are 
often unaware of their rights owing to high illiteracy rates 
and unequal educational opportunities.  Strong social stigmas 
and lack of economic means to obtain legal assistance 
frequently keep women from seeking redress in the courts.

According to the 1961 Muslim Family Ordinance, female heirs 
receive less inheritance than male heirs, and wives are more 
restricted in divorce rights.  Men are permitted to have up to 
four wives.

While job growth opportunities have been stronger for women 
than for men in the past few years, this is almost entirely due 
to the growth of the garment industry, in which female workers 
are prevalent.  Women still occupy only a small fraction of 
other wage-earning jobs, and hold fewer than 5 percent of 
government jobs.  The Government's policy to include more women 
in government jobs has had limited effect.

Violence against women is difficult to quantify because of 
unreliable statistics, but observers say that wife beating is 
widespread.  In 1994 human rights groups and the press reported 
many incidents of violence against women, in only some of which 
the perpetrators were reportedly prosecuted.  In villages 
vigilante groups meted out humiliating, painful punishments, 
including whipping, to women accused of moral offenses.

The Government has enacted laws specifically prohibiting 
certain forms of discrimination against women, including the 
Antidowry Prohibition Act of 1980 and the Cruelty to Women Law 
of 1983.  Enforcement of these laws is weak, especially in 
rural areas.  The Government seldom prosecutes vigorously those 
cases that are filed.

     Children

The Government undertakes programs in the areas of primary 
education, health, family planning, and nutrition.  The 
Government made universal primary education mandatory in 1991, 
but stated that it could not fully implement the law because of 
a lack of resources.  Little progress was made in 1994.

Human rights monitors continue to report that many children 
have been abandoned, kidnaped, sold into bondage, and employed 
as prostitutes.  One human rights group claims that there are 
about 29,000 child prostitutes.  The law does not allow anyone 
under 18 to engage in prostitution, and stipulates a maximum 
sentence of life imprisonment for persons found guilty of 
forcing a child into prostitution.  However, procurers of 
minors are rarely prosecuted.

     Indigenous People

Tribal peoples, especially in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, have 
a marginal ability to influence decisions concerning the use of 
their lands.  Until 1985 the Government regularly parceled out 
the land in the Chittagong Hills to Bengali settlers.

The Government has moved toward granting the tribal peoples 
more authority in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.  In July 1991, 
tribal-dominated local government councils assumed control over 
primary education, health, family welfare and the agricultural 
extension service.  However, government security forces 
continue to control law and order as well as land use (see also 
Section 1.g.).

Tribal peoples in other areas have also reported loss of land 
to Bengali Muslims through questionable legal practices and 
other means.  For example, the Garo people, who live in the 
Madhapur Forest region in north central Bangladesh, have 
encountered problems in trying to maintain their cultural 
traditions and livelihoods in the face of reforestation 
projects in.  Human rights monitors in the region claim that 
the Garos are being harassed and intimidated into leaving their 
homes to make way for these government-run, internationally 
financed projects.

     Religious Minorities

Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists make up an estimated 10 
percent of the population.  Although the Government is secular, 
religion exerts a powerful influence on politics.  The 
Government is sensitive to the Muslim consciousness of the 
majority of its citizens and has sought the political support 
of the Jamaat-i-Islami, the country's large Islamic political 
party.

Throughout the country, Islamic extremists violently attacked 
women, religious minorities, journalists, writers, and 
development workers.  The Government failed to denounce, 
investigate, and prosecute perpetrators of these attacks.

Among the most serious attacks were those carried out against 
nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) accused of conducting 
anti-Islamic activities.  Some of the violence against NGO's 
was prompted when Islamic religious leaders claimed that NGO's 
denigrated Islam and coerced Muslims to convert to Christianity.

Religious 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.

Property ownership, particularly among Hindus, has been a 
contentious issue since independence, when many Hindus lost 
landholdings because of anti-Hindu discrimination in the 
application of the law.  Reported cases of violence directed 
against religious minority communities has also resulted in the 
loss of property--most recently in December 1992 after Hindus 
in India destroyed the Babri mosque.  Such intercommunal 
violence has caused some members of religious minority groups 
to depart the country.  However, there were no significant 
instances of intercommunal violence in 1994.

     People with Disabilities

The laws provide for equal treatment and freedom from 
discrimination for the disabled.  The Government has not 
enacted specific legislation or otherwise mandated 
accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The 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, the law forbids 
government civil servants to join unions.  This ban also 
applies to security-related government employees such as the 
military and police.  Civil servants forbidden to join unions, 
such as teachers, doctors, and nurses, have formed associations 
that perform functions similar to labor unions.

Approximately 1.6 million members of the country's total work 
force of about 45 to 50 million workers belong to unions.

For a union to obtain and maintain its registration, 30 percent 
employee participation is required.  Registration of a union 
may only be canceled by the registrar of trade unions with the 
concurrence of the Labor Court.  There are no restrictions on 
affiliation with international labor organizations, and 
Bangladeshi unions and federations maintain a variety of such 
links.

Ten to 15 percent of Bangladesh's approximately 4,200 labor 
unions are affiliated with 23 officially registered National 
Trade Union (NTU) centers.  There is no legal restriction on 
political activity by labor unions.  Unions are independent of 
the Government.  They are highly politicized, and virtually all 
NTU centers are affiliated with political parties.

The law does not specifically recognize the right to strike, 
but strikes are common.  The Government prohibits nationwide 
general strikes.  Participation in such a strike is a criminal 
offense.  Nonetheless, the political opposition continues to 
use general strikes to pressure the Government on political 
demands.

The Essential Services Ordinance permits the Government to bar 
strikes for 3 months in any sector regarded as "essential."  
The Government has applied this ban to national airline pilots, 
water supply workers, shipping operations employees, and 
electricity supply workers.  The Government renews such bans 
every 3 months.

The Government may prohibit a strike before it begins and refer 
the dispute to the Labor Court.  The Industrial Relations 
Ordinance of 1969 established mechanisms for conciliation, 
arbitration, and labor dispute resolution.  Workers have the 
right to strike in the event of a failure to achieve a 
settlement.  Strikers participating in a legal strike are 
protected from retribution under the law.  In practice this 
protection has not always proven effective.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining is legal only for private sector workers, 
on the condition that they are represented by unions legally 
registered as collective bargaining agents.  Collective 
bargaining generally does not occur in small private 
enterprises.  The National Pay and Wages Commission recommends 
public sector workers' pay levels and other benefits.

Under the Industrial Relations Ordinance, there is considerable 
leeway for discrimination against union members and organizers 
by employers.  The Ordinance does not prohibit employers from 
transferring workers suspected of union activities.  Complaints 
that employers routinely engage in antiunion discrimination are 
particularly high in the garment industry.  In several cases 
the Labor Court has ordered the reinstatement of workers fired 
for union activities.  However, the Labor Court's overall 
effectiveness is hampered by a serious case backlog and 
allegations of corruption.

Current law prohibits unions in the two export processing zones 
(EPZ's).  A small number of workers in the EPZ's have skirted 
prohibitions on unions by setting up worker associations.  The 
Government has stated that restrictions on the establishment  
of unions in the EPZ's will be lifted by 1997.  So far, no 
action toward this end has been taken.  In the garment 
industry, there have been complaints of workers being harassed 
and fired in some factories for trying to organize unions.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor.  The 
Factories Act and Shops and Establishment Act, both passed in 
1965, established inspection mechanisms to enforce laws against 
forced labor.  These laws are not rigorously enforced.  There 
is forced labor to the extent that workers are often required 
to work longer hours than stipulated by law, with no special 
compensation.  This is often the case in the garment industry.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Factories Act of 1965 bars children under the age of 15 
from working in factories.  This law stipulates that young 
workers are only allowed to work a maximum 5-hour day and only 
between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.  The Government does not 
adequately enforce these rules.

According to U.N. estimates, about one-third of the population 
under the age of 18 is employed.  Children routinely perform 
domestic work.  Cases of children being physically abused and 
occasionally killed by heads of household where they work are 
reported in the press.

Employers discharged thousands of underage workers employed in 
Bangladesh's garment industry in 1993-94.  The Bangladesh 
Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association has pledged to 
eliminate all child workers from its member factories and is 
cooperating with the Government, the International Labor 
Organization, and NGO's to achieve this goal.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage.  The Wages Commission sets 
wages industry by industry.  In most cases, private sector 
employers ignore this wage structure.  In 1993 the 
Confederation of Labor Unions won a minimum wage agreement for 
public sector factory workers that was slightly above the level 
recommended by the Wages Commission.  According to the 
agreement, government factory workers receive about $24 (950 
taka) a month plus benefits.  Private sector wages tend to fall 
below the government wage and benefits package.  The average 
monthly wage is sufficient to provide bare necessities.

The law sets a standard 48-hour workweek with 1 rest day each 
week.  A 60-hour workweek, inclusive of a maximum 12 hours of 
overtime, is allowed.  The law is poorly enforced.

The Factories Act of 1965 nominally sets occupational health 
and safety standards.  The law is comprehensive, but many 
employers ignore it.  Workers rarely resort to legal action to 
enforce the law.  Enforcement by the Labor Ministry's 
industrial inspectorate is weak.  Because unemployment is high 
and the Government does not adequately enforce health and 
safety standards, most workers do not excuse themselves from 
performing hazardous tasks for fear of losing their jobs.
(###)


[end of document]

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