Bangladesh's reservation about two key articles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) raises questions about the state's commitment to ensure women's rights.
Of the clauses, article 2 is about enacting new policies and laws, and amending the old ones to eliminate all sorts of discrimination against women.
And the article 16-1 (C) necessitates the government to grant equal rights to both men and women while getting married and divorced.
Although 29 Muslim majority countries have already ratified CEDAW, Bangladesh's government has kept reservations giving the excuse of people's religious sentiments.
The observations came at a discussion organised by Citizens' Initiatives on CEDAW (CIC), Bangladesh, marking International CEDAW Day at The Daily Star Centre in the capital yesterday.
The discussants pointed out that the government's reservation goes against several articles of the constitution which do not allow any discrimination based on sex, religion, race, and birthplace.
The CEDAW agreement was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly and is known as an international bill of rights for women. Bangladesh signed the convention in 1984.
“Bangladesh is not a Shariyah state,” said noted human rights activist Dr Hamida Hossain. The excuse of Quran-Sunnah is feeble as they are not followed in other matters, she added.
The main opposition to article 2 comes from the people's refusal to give women equal share to their ancestral property, she asserted.
Since the government claims to be a secular one, it should immediately withdraw the reservations and bring changes to any law that is discriminatory to female wards, she added.
Country Director of ActionAid, Farah Kabir, said Bangladesh is about to endorse the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and for this it needs to change its inheritance laws.
Presided by State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroz Chumki, the discussion was moderated by Ranjan Karmakar, executive director of Steps Towards Development.
Lawmakers Shirin Akhter, Chhabi Biswas, Lutfa Taher, Selina Jahan Lita, Rebecca Momin and member of the Law Commission Dr M Shah Alam also spoke.