Friday, March 27, 2009

Discriminatory laws against Dalits to be repealed, Bangladesh

Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Saturday, March 28, 2009

Says law minister

A colourful procession was taken out from Mahanagar Natyamancha in the city yesterday to mark the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Photo: STARStaff Correspondent
Law Minister Shafique Ahmed yesterday said discriminatory laws against Dalit and Harijan communities will be repealed, if there is any.
"If you can show me any laws discriminating against your (Dalit and Harijan) communities, such laws will no longer remain in the law books. I will repeal those," he said.
If necessary, new laws will be enacted to remove discriminations and obstacles both the communities have been facing during admission into educational insinuations and in the professional fields, he assured.
"Every citizen of the country has equal rights. So, no one will face any discriminations for economic, educational and social reasons," he said.
The minister made these assurances at the concluding ceremony of a 10-day campaign organised on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The National Committee to Celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in association with Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) organised the programme at Mohanagar Natyamancha in the city.
Speaking as the chief guest, the minister said that legal rights of Dalit and Harijan communities will be ensured to establish their rights as people of these communities also participated in the liberation war and sacrificed their lives.
The law ministry is going to set up a directorate soon for providing legal and economic assistance for these marginalised people, he added.
In his keynote paper, PARITTRAN Director Milon Das said though the constitution ensures equal rights of every citizen, but Dalit and Harijan communities are deprived of education, health care, habitation and employment facilities and living in a humiliating condition.
There are about 55 lakh Dalit and Harijan people, who are known as untouchables in the society, live under marginal conditions in the country.
Milon demanded enactment of laws eliminating racial discrimination against them, formulation of a national development policy for incorporating the communities in the mainstream development programmes and ensuring their participation in all social activities.
Speaking as the special guest, lawmaker Rashed Khan Menon said Dalit and Harijan communities live in inhuman conditions.
The constitution ensures their rights, but it is not implemented properly, he said, urging the community members to launch their own organisational move on the rights.
Prof HKS Arefin said this is not racial discrimination, rather the discrimination is ideological and involved with religion, adding that mere formulating a law is not enough, the prevailing social structure that deprives them of their rights need to be changed.
Narrating difficulties the women of the communities face, Dipali Das, a member of Dalit community, said the condition of women in the country is volatile and the condition of women of Dalit community is worst.
“We want to live like other human beings. We have the right to franchise and we want to live with self-dignity. Let us give the right,” she said.
With Bangladesh Harijan Oikya Parishad President Krishna Lal in the chair, the programme was also addressed by Whip Shagufta Yasmin, MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam and Research Initiatives Bangladesh Executive Director Dr Meghna Guha Thakurata.

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