May 18, 2012

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Women Living in Fear

Women in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are living in fear of becoming victims of violence or rape as a result of the failure by Bangladeshi authorities to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice.

Below is an extract from UN News:

Anmoy Chakma, speaking on behalf of Kapaeeng Foundation, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia, Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, Asian Indigenous Women’s Network, United Confederation of Taino People, and Jumchab Metta Foundation, said that even as the Permanent Forum met to discuss combating violence against women, in Bangladesh, women were passing their days in fear of having grave violence being perpetrated against them.  Indeed, many of those women in the Chittagong Hill Tracts were preyed upon by military personnel, even though Bangladesh was a party to major international human rights treaties.  Rapes and other violence against indigenous women in Bangladesh were pervasive due to impunity.  There was not a single case where women preyed upon received justice.  He called upon the Government of Bangladesh to comprehensively address the issue and to carry out all elements of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord.

The full statement of Mr. Anmoy Kiron Chakma is published on CHT News Update:

Today when we are gathered here to discuss violence against indigenous women, my indigenous sisters in Bangladesh are passing their days in fear of rape and other forms of violence against them. As my indigenous sister Ellen from Asia Caucus mentioned yesterday, even on last Wednesday, we received the news of an eleven year old indigenous Jumma girl, who was allegedly raped, and then murdered, by a non indigenous Bengali settler, Ibrahim in Longudu subdistrict of the Chittagong Hill Tracts region (May 9th 2012), who has apparently been arrested. It is further alleged that he was earlier charged with the rape of another Jumma girl and was released on bail. This clearly tells a story of impunity and absence of deterrence measures.

Though Bangladesh is a party to several international human rights treaties, including CEDAW, CERD, ICC Rome Statute, ILO Convention 107 and the two international human rights covenants, the strong trend of violation of indigenous peoples' rights, including violence against indigenous women in Bangladesh continues. This includes rape, murder, sexual assault, trafficking and abduction by non-indigenous Bengali settlers. The major concern is that very few of these violations are impartially and independently enquired into. Thus the perpetrators remain at large and un-punished; such example is the last rape case that happened last Wednesday. This culture of impunity gives the impression that such violations against indigenous women and children are normal and acceptable to state and society.

Violence against indigenous women in Bangladesh has been going on for decades, including during the internal conflict from the 1970s to the 1990s. Here are some statistics. The international CHT Commission, in its groundbreaking report of 1991, mentioned that the military systematically used rape as a weapon against women in CHT. According to the Hill Women’s Federation, “security forces were responsible for over 94% of all the alleged rape cases in CHT between 1991 and 1993. Out of all these allegations of rape, over 40% of the victims were children”.

Before the CHT Peace Accord was signed in 1997, from 1971 to 1994, approximately 2,500 indigenous women were allegedly raped by the military, and by non-indigenous Bengali settlers, as estimated by Ume Mong, an indigenous woman leader.

These violations continue in the period after the signing of the CHT Accord. According to statistics provided by Jummanet, over 57% of the rape victims in CHT between 2003 and 2006 were children in their teens or below. According to a report from Kapaeeng Foundation (a human rights organization of indigenous peoples of Bangladesh), non-indigenous Bengali settlers carried out violence against 66 indigenous women, including a three and a half year old child, [5] between 2007 and February 2012, out of which six were murdered after rape. These statistics show how insecure indigenous women of CHT are today.

Despite the provisions of section 376 of the Bangladesh Penal Code, which mentions high punishment for the rapist, there is not a single case where the indigenous women were provided with justice, except for court martial of some military personnel more than ten years ago.

I call upon the Government of Bangladesh to punish the perpetrators by following its own Constitution, to stop all kind of violence and racial discrimination against indigenous women immediately, and to follow the UN Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which has provisions for security and protection of indigenous women.

I urge the Forum and member states of the UN to encourage the Government of Bangladesh to implement the recommendations made by the Forum on the implementation of the CHT Accord, following a study by Mr. Lars-Anders Baer in the last session of the Forum. (E/C.19/2011/6)

I also call upon all my fellow indigenous brothers and sisters to lend their hands to prevent all forms of violence against our indigenous women and children not only in Bangladesh, but also around the world.