BANGLADESH, September 29, 2012 (khabarsoutheastasia.com): Torulata Rani, 24, is having a tough time raising her six-year-old son by herself in Dokshin Chowra village in northern Nilphamari district, 217 miles from Dhaka. Her husband Sreepodo deserted the young family six years ago. Without a marriage registration, she cannot seek divorce or obtain compensation from her estranged husband. Because she is a Hindu, there is not much the state can do for Rani. The minority Hindu community in Bangladesh follows the centuries-old Dayabhaga Law. According to that code, Rani does not have the right to divorce Sreepodo until he dies.
While India enacted legislation on marriage registration and divorce in 1955, Bangladesh remains ambivalent on the issue, fearing a backlash from its Hindu minority. Things may be changing. On September 18th, amid growing demand from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society and women's rights groups, Parliament passed the Hindu Marriage Registration Bill-2012.
"This is an historic law and it will protect the rights of the Hindu women who face abuse by their husbands," Minister of State for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Quamrul Islam told Parliament during passage of the law.
But Hindu women's rights activists are not so sure of the benefits. "The law in no way will benefit the oppressed Hindu women unless the registration is made mandatory," Monjusree Saha, head of the women's rights department of Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service Bangladesh (RDRS-Bangladesh), an NGO, said. She said that the law could only facilitate the migration process. "We are not happy at all with the law. We urge the government to come up with a complete law with mandatory registration and divorce provisions," Nina Goswami, senior deputy director at the human rights group Ain o Salish Kendra, said.