How safe is Bangladesh for foreign women

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Bangladesh was founded in 1972 as a secular state that guaranteed Buddhist, Christian and other religions the same status and rights as Islam with regard to their religious practice. Since Islam was declared the state religion through a constitutional amendment in 1988, the compatibility of basic secular values ​​with an official state religion has been the subject of lively debates. While Bangladesh was traditionally known for religious tolerance in the region, there have been signs of change over the past two decades. Many of the millions of Bangladeshi migrant workers in the Gulf States adopt the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam there and carry it upon their return to Bangladeshi society. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also finances a large number of mosques and Koran schools in Bangladesh.

The proportion of the population of religious minorities is declining in the historical trend due to emigration to the neighboring states of India and - to a limited extent - to Myanmar.355 Discrimination against and individual attacks on religious minorities take place in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) despite the conflict that ended in 1997356 still held sporadically.


Demographic proportions of religious communities

The vast majority of around 89 percent of the population of Bangladesh are Muslim according to the last census from 2013 (of which around 1 percent are Shiite). 9.5 percent of the population are Hindu, 0.6 percent Buddhist and around 0.4 percent Christian, mostly Catholic. The majority of the ethnic minorities are members of the indigenous (non-Bengali) population living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the northern districts. They belong to different minority religions. The Muslim religious community of the Ahmadis, with fewer than 100,000 members, is viewed by parts of the Muslim majority as a heretical sect.

According to UNHCR estimates, since the Rohingya population fled Myanmar in 2017, around one million have been over 99 percent Muslim Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. An estimated 33,000 Rohingya are officially registered and live in and around two official refugee camps in the south of the country in the Cox's Bazar district.


Legal situation

Bangladesh joined the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN Civil Covenant) on September 6, 2000.

Bangladesh was founded in 1971 as secular state founded. A constitutional amendment in 1988 declared that Islam officially for State religion (Article 2A). At the same time, the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religions were assured of the same status and rights to practice. Article 12 of the constitution states that no religion may be given political status and any discrimination or persecution of persons based on their religious affiliation must be prohibited (also Article 28). Freedom of religion is guaranteed by Article 41. The right not to practice religion is not expressly protected.

Despite the fundamental Equality of religions there are big differences in the family and inheritance law of Muslim, Hindu and Christian believers, which in Bangladesh depend on the religious affiliation of the people. Justice takes place in secular courts; alternative dispute resolution procedures are possible. Civil law allows interfaith marriages. Religious instruction is compulsory in all public schools, in each case in the religion of the pupils.

Conversion as well as missionary work and "apostasy" are generally not prohibited in Bangladesh, but remain a sensitive topic. Comments critical of religion are punishable by law. The applicable law to blasphemy traces back to Section 295A of the British Colonial Criminal Code of 1860, which criminalizes "willful and malicious violation of religious sentiment", although the offense is rarely applied.

The limitations of that weigh more heavily Information Technology Act ("Information and Communication Technology Act" / ICT) of 2006 (amended in 2013), which prohibits the publication of Internet content that "harms public order and the law" or can be construed as defamation of a religion and imprisonment of penalizes seven to 14 years. From the point of view of human rights organizations and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, the law goes far beyond the scope of the Criminal Code and acts de facto like a blasphemy law by limiting freedom of expression through vague terminology and fueling a climate of uncertainty and fear. In September 2018, the Digital Security Act criminalizes the publication or dissemination of any information that offends religious sentiment. This has since resulted in increased website blocking, arrests and restrictions on public freedom of expression.

Religions that want to organize and operate several religious sites must register in the same way as secular non-governmental organizations. Your registration, funding and activities are subject to Office for the Affairs of Non-Governmental Organizations ("NGO Affairs Bureau" / NGOAB) if they receive financial support from abroad, and the Ministry of Social Welfare or the Ministry of Religious Affairs if they do not. The law gives the authorities a wide margin of maneuver allows registrations to be withdrawn if the organization does not follow the instructions of the authorities. Institutions that receive funding from abroad are subject to particularly tight monitoring mechanisms according to the Foreign Donation Act and the Microfinance Regulatory Law. Several Christian NGOs that Proselytizing declared their goals, their registration was withdrawn in 2017. Authorities justified this with the fact that these organizations should limit their work to development measures.

Muslim Women experience severe disadvantages due to family and inheritance law based on religious affiliation. A lack of legal protection in marriage, divorce and custody matters often leaves them destitute and homeless when they separate. Measures for systematic improvement are lacking and are also being hampered by increasing conservative Islamic influence. Human rights organizations report of extrajudicial fatwas, ie Islamic legal opinions, at the local level, on the basis of which religious leaders and community representatives punish women in particular for alleged "moral lapses".


Restrictions on freedom of religion and belief by state actors

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressly affirmed in public statements Protection of minorities. Government public commitments, however, are made by both state and non-state actors not implemented across the board

Minority religions and in particular the Hindu population of Bangladesh fall regularly due to the difficult access to legal channels and widespread corruption ("land grabbing") and victim assaults. In those controlled by the military Chittagong Hill Tracts According to non-governmental organizations, increasing population pressure is leading to land conflicts between the indigenous population and Bengali settlers. There is no official protection, and the 1997 peace agreement was inadequately implemented. Foreign development cooperation measures are reportedly made more difficult by the military, which means that malnutrition and lack of education are more common than in other parts of the country. Mainly of these is the Buddhist minority affected, which includes around 900,000 people.

Land grab is possible due to the Transferred Property Act ("Vested Property Act") of 1974, which enabled the government to confiscate, among other things, undeveloped land. Most of the land from members of the Hindu minority was confiscated after the Indo-Pakistani war in 1965, when they fled the country and became "enemies of the State "had been declared. In November 2011, the Vested Property Return (Amendment) Bill adopted, which should enable the return of the property confiscated in the course of the war of independence to the illegally expropriated, predominantly Hindu citizens. According to human rights organizations, the legal channels provided for in the Reparation Act are complicated and delay implementation. According to the responsible ministry, around 13 percent of the 118,173 applications submitted (as of 2018) have been processed so far. Around half of these proceedings were won by the plaintiffs.

To convert from Islam ("apostasy") is not legally sanctioned, but can lead to social exclusion and disinheritance because of" shameful behavior ", especially in rural areas. People who profess atheism are viewed with particular suspicion.
Members of religious minorities, with the exception of the ethnic minorities in the Chitta-gong Hill Tracts and the Rohingya living in the refugee camps of Cox's Bazar, have access to the same educational and health facilities in Bangladesh as members of the majority religion.

The government's containment of Islamist tendencies has had an effect, at least on the surface. There are hardly any political appearances by extreme Islamic parties or groups. However, the dissemination of anti-Islamic texts on social media is prosecuted in individual cases under the ICT Act.


Social conflicts with a religious component

Child marriages are a problem in Bangladesh that affects the Muslim majority in particular. There is a National Action Plan with which the Prime Minister has set the goal of abolishing child marriage by 2041. According to UNICEF, however, around half of all girls in Bangladesh were married before the age of 18 in 2017, and almost every fifth girl was younger than 15 years. Parents and marriage clergy need not fear prosecution. In January 2019, prominent Islamic organizations called for the abolition of the age at marriage for girls and for girls to attend school to be limited to five years. The government rejected the claims.

In the last few years, Bangladesh was made up of a wave of targeted attacks by Islamists shocked. In 2015 and 2016, around 40 religiously critical intellectuals, bloggers, LGBTI activists, writers and publishers who belonged to the secular scene and were considered "atheist" were killed by Islamists in Dhaka and other parts of the country. In a terrorist attack The "Holey Artisan Bakery" café in the state capital Dhaka, which was popular with foreigners and was subsequently taken hostage in July 2016, killed 22 people, including 18 foreigners. The so-called Islamic State and "Al Qaeda on the Indian subcontinent", which according to their own statements are still active in Bangladesh, have committed themselves to the attacks in front.

In March 2018, a Bengali science fiction writer was attacked with a knife by a 25-year-old who tried to silence "an enemy of Islam". The Prime Minister promised to bring the perpetrators to justice so that intellectuals could be safer Since the parliamentary elections in December 2018, death lists drawn up by Islamists with the names of human rights activists, people professing atheism and cultural workers have been circulating again. Some of those affected are trying to leave the country for the west.

It happens regularly to intra- and inter-religious violence, such as attacks on rural communities by minority religions and vandalism against Buddhist monasteries. In 2012 there were major violent clashes against the Buddhist minority in Cox's Bazar in the south of Bangl-desch. Between 2013 and 2016 there were a number of Islamist-motivated individual attacks with fatalities. A Hindu priest was killed in March 2018. In October 2018, a Buddhist monastery and a Buddha statue in the Chittagong Hill Tracts were destroyed. In spring 2018 and again in spring 2019 there were violent riots against Ahmadis in rural regions, with numerous injuries in each case. In addition to Islamic fanaticism, those affected cite the attackers' economic interests as the reason for these attacks (see land grabbing).


Interreligious cooperation structures

The rights of minority religions are represented by the alliance "Hindu-Boudha-Christian-Oikya-Parishad", an NGO with branches in America and Europe. In addition, a number of NGOs are active in supporting the indigenous population in Bangladesh. There are also Muslim religious leaders, who represent a peaceful coexistence of the religions in Bangladesh.

355 In 1971, 23 percent of the population belonged to a religious minority, in 2018 it was only 9.6 percent.
356 The Chittagong Hill Tracts) are an autonomously administered province in the extreme southeast of Bangladesh, on the border with India in the north and Myanmar in the south. In 1997, after more than 20 years, a peace agreement was signed to end the conflict between the central government of Bangladesh and the indigenous people living in Chittagong Hill Tracts, which are characterized by great ethnic and religious diversity. At the center of the conflict had been the question of the autonomous status of Chittagong Hill Tracts, which the region had also had under British colonial rule, as well as land use rights. The indigenous population suffered human rights abuses during the conflict. In addition, there were disputes between the indigenous population and the Bengali, who the government had settled people in Chittagong Hill Tracts, with the aim of being able to use the region for agriculture. An acute shortage of arable land and rigid access restrictions imposed by the military make possible development measures difficult.