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Bangladesh opposition unites against Hasina’s women’s policy

by IANS,

Dhaka : The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has supported Monday’s general strike called by a conglomerate of Islamist groups to protest the government’s Women Development Policy 2011.

The strike call comes along with the stir of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), the country’s largest Islamist party that has sought immediate release of its imprisoned top leaders who are to be tried for war crimes.

Targeting unarmed civilians during the 1971 freedom struggle against Pakistan are called war crimes.

The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) has urged that the strike call be withdrawn. The government has clarified that the policy for women has nothing against the Quran.

“Calling a hartal (strike) on the issue is illogical as there’s nothing fishy in it, and the government’s explanation has been accepted by all,” said the country’s apex trade body.

The women’s policy announced March 6 strives to give equal status to women in the country, which is an Islamic republic with a predominantly Muslim population. It gives equal rights to women, but is silent on the law of inheritance.

The Islamists say the policy is against the Quran that, according to them, says that a woman can never be equal to a man. The constitution cannot take precedence over Islamic laws, media reports have said.

While keeping its distance from the Islamist group Islami Ain Bastabayan Committee, the BNP is lending tacit support to the twin moves because two of its leaders have also been implicated for war crimes.

The BNP said it would protest the women’s policy and “other anti-Quranic activities” of the government, New Age said Sunday.

“The BNP in principle supports and will support any movement and struggle against any policy or law that goes against religious code,” BNP’s senior joint secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.

He, however, declined to clarify whether the party would lend its direct support for Monday’s general strike.

Hasina’s key ministers have denied that the women’s policy or any other measure it has taken is anti-Islam.

Women’s groups have supported the government.

Bangladesh Mahila Parishad president Ayesha Khanam said religious political parties were trying to create anarchy based on completely “false information”.

Karmajibi Nari president Shirin Akhter said: “Restoration of the Women Development Policy of 1997 was one of our main objectives. Thanks to the Awami League government, that has been achieved. But our demand for ensuring women’s equal right to inherited property has not been fulfilled yet. Any way, the policy has given our movement a foundation for advancing the cause of women. We can go forward now based on the policy.”

Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association executive director Salma Ali said the longstanding demand for ensuring women’s right to inheritance was not sealed in the Women Development Policy.