Gender Equality in Family Laws for Muslims in Bangladesh


Bangladesh has a history since independence of pursuing gender equality through a range of development programmes and both government and non-government institutions. However, in the realm of laws enhancing Muslim women’s rights, personal status legislation remains relatively static. Inspired by studies of negotiations between state and civil society actors in bringing about changes in law, this paper analyze the evolution of sexual equality in family laws for Muslims in Bangladesh. Using parliamentary and Supreme Court records, newspaper archives, expert interviews, and secondary literature, I make a systematic process analysis of changes in legislation on women’s rights. Two notable patterns emerge from this. First, that there has been little change in personal status legislation beyond procedural mainstreaming. Second, legal case history at the Supreme Court level suggests that there have been somewhat diverse interpretations of existing personal status laws despite the lack of change in legislation. Indeed, the judiciary at this level has shown a tendency to repeatedly clarify the significance of freedom of religious practice except in family or personal status laws. There is a fear apparent among legislators of raising the spectre of reinterpreting religious practices in law- and policy-making in the context of women and, to the extent that this spectre can be avoided, legislators have so far done so. This paper explores why this is the case.

About the speaker

Tahrat Naushaba Shahid is at the Department of Politics at the University of Oxford, focusing on the nexus between the politics of religion and family laws for Muslim women in Bangladesh. Her research interests are focused on the politics of Islam and gender in South Asia. Prior to Oxford, she was a research associate at the World Bank in Washington, DC. Among a range of experiences, she co-founded a trust providing free medical services in Bangladesh, analysed the impact of foreign direct investment inflows at the Central Bank of Turkey in Ankara, and conducted corporate debt research at Morgan Stanley in New York City.

Tahrat Naushaba Shahid
The Department of Politics at the University of Oxford

Time and date
Sunday 22 June 2014, 11 am to 12:30 pm

Room no. 1001, Department of Law, University of Dhaka


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