Ensure equal inheritance for all women
It is extremely disappointing that women in Bangladesh continue to be doubly deprived in terms of inheriting (or getting access to) property and wealth. On the one hand, they still do not get paternal property in the majority of cases; on the other hand, they are being deprived of, or facing challenges in accessing, mahr (denmohor) or dower which is allowed in the Islamic family law. Despite mahr being legally required for all Islamic marriages, women are facing layers of obstacles in actually getting it. And since Bangladesh's family laws do not ensure equal rights for women in inheritance and family property, often they are being put into extremely difficult positions.
These same difficulties are affecting women of other religions too. For example, despite India amending its Hindu Inheritance Act in 2018 to ensure that women have equal property rights as men, Bangladesh is yet to take any such measures. Clearly, gender disparity in our country transcends religious boundaries, as experts have also noted in a recent seminar. As such, what we desperately need is a uniform family law for all religions covering men and women that governs marital and inheritance rights as well as rights that ensure self-guardianship and autonomy for every individual.
The present situation is not only discriminatory, in a way it is also denying women of their basic human rights, in violation of our constitution which states that all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law. And such discriminatory practices are further hindering the economic, social, and political progress of our nation.
Admittedly, this is not the only discrimination that women face in our country; they face it almost in every sphere of life, in terms of education, social safety, career, family affairs, etc. This culture of discrimination has to change first if we are to ensure that women get their rightful access to inheritance and property. And as much as that is the responsibility of the whole society, the government also has a big role to play here.
To tackle the crippling effect of gender inequality, women's economic status must be strengthened as a priority. Thus, the government should empower the courts and arbitration councils so that women can quickly and fairly access their rightful share of property, following separations from husbands or deaths of parents. Additionally, in keeping with the spirit of the constitution, it is high time the government amended the existing family laws in Bangladesh to ensure equal rights for all women to inheritance and family property.