indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts seeking their rights

Like most developing countries, Bangladesh too has its share of human rights issues and problems. While fundamental freedoms are enshrined in the constitution regardless of race, gender and religion, there are many instances where the rights are often ignored and at worst trampled.

There is a singular lack of tolerance in the political system where the major opposition parties are often at violent loggerheads. While Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy with reasonably free and fair elections, opposition to government policies is often displayed through violent demonstrations and enforced strikes (hartals). This is irrespective of which party is in power. In recent years the major opposition parties have boycotted parliamentary sessions.

The party in power usually takes advantage of state resources to suppress opposition activities. Opposition to ruling government policies are often portrayed as anti-state treasonable activities and the state police machinery is used to make politically motivated arrests and repression of opposition members.

The police in Bangladesh is also known is corrupt – partially as a consequence of being misused as party functionaries by the ruling government. Police related human-rights abuses are plentiful – unlawful detention, excessive use of force, torture, deaths in custody stories abound in the media.

Repression against women is still widespread. For the most part, women remain in a subordinate position in society. Women often are ignorant of their rights because of continued high illiteracy rates and unequal educational opportunities, and strong social stigmas and lack of economic means to obtain legal assistance frequently keep women from seeking redress in the courts. More recently, employment opportunities have improved for women with the growth of the garments industry and through NGOs whose policies and activities help empower women.

Bangladesh is relatively more stable in terms of communal harmony than some neighboring states. However, religious minorities are often preyed upon by thugs and extortionists with sometimes very little active opposition from the government agencies. Religious minorities are disadvantaged in practice in such areas as access to government jobs and political office. Selection boards in the government services often lack minority group representation.

Bangladesh has a very tiny majority of indigenous people. They have had a marginal ability to influence decisions concerning the use of their lands and are facing increased pressure from migrant majority Bengalis in their original land.

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