International Women’s Day and the situation of Indigenous Women in Bangladesh

  John Tripura:

John Tripura

As every year the 8 March is observed internationally as International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day since in the early 1900’s. This day is celebrated for the achievement of women regarding social, economic, cultural and political rights. And Bangladesh is also observing the day with respectfully since its inception as an independent country. I pay my tribute to those brave women who have had paid their life for establishing an equality society. The feminist movement in Bangladesh is also growing with the spirit to eradicate all forms of discrimination and to establish an egalitarian society. And the indigenous women are also not out of this movement.

 Source: Dhaka Tribune
Kalpana Chakma

We should not forget the brave women from Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) Kalpana Chakma — the fearless indigenous activist who held the position of Organizing Secretary of the Hill Women’s Federation was abducted along with two of her brothers in June 1996 by the army forces when she was only 23 years old and still disappeared.


Despite differences, indigenous women have some common concerns with the indigenous population as a whole. In addition to the loss of their land, indigenous people of Bangladesh also slowly losing their traditional livelihood and self-sufficiency. Moreover, social, economic and political marginalization, as well as racial stereotyping, discrimination, and the loss of culture, language and often pride, left indigenous women in Bangladesh with little social or political power and contributed to economic inequality and even abject poverty. Urban and rural indigenous communities continue to struggle with a lack of education, employment, skills, opportunities and income equity. Many young indigenous women are migrating to urban centers. This migration may be caused by the lack of opportunities for advancement on reserves and in rural areas as well as the perceived abundance of opportunities, particularly education, and many other opportunities for leading life in urban centers.


Indigenous women in Bangladesh have confronted unique problems stemming from stereotypes of them perpetuated by the non-indigenous population since contact. The removal of indigenous people from their land, their placement on reserves have caused role conflicts, frustration, and anger which often finds its outlet in violence against women. The cycle of violence, combined with the poverty and deprivation facing many indigenous people in Bangladesh. Lack of resources and few choices often result in limited recourse for indigenous women as well. While many indigenous women share goals for the advancement of their people, their voices are often ignored by the State and sometimes directly or indirectly they also ignored by the indigenous leadership and male-dominated political organizations itself as well.


Moreover, the indigenous woman in Bangladesh are facing multiple forms of discrimination and different types of human rights violations including rape, kill after rape, torture etc. According to the Kapaeeng Foundation human rights report, 2016 says that a total of 58 indigenous women are girls were assaulted sexually and physically. Among all these cases 25 cases took place in the plain lands in which 28 indigenous women and girls were victims of physical and sexual violence in contrast to 28 such cases in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) where 30 women and girls were the numbers of the victim. The report also shows that at least 10 indigenous women and girls were attempted to rape. Besides, 8 indigenous women were physically assaulted, 17 women were raped, 6 were killed/ killed after the rape, 9 women were gang raped. Furthermore, 2 cases of sexual harassment and 5 abduction cases where reported.


The most shocking part is among all these violations, from 85 offenders, 72 belonged to the mainstream Bengali community and 2 by the member of law enforcement agency, while 11 malefactors were carried out from the indigenous background. And the perpetrators from Bengali community none of these cases were held accountable and enjoying the absolute impunity.

 In the State report submitted by the Government of Bangladesh in the second cycle of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in April 2013, it was mentioned that the Government gives priority to ensuring the protection of women against violence. It is praiseworthy that Government has enacted laws and undertaken initiatives to combat violence against women. However, over the past few years, apparently, the most appalling issue facing indigenous women and girls in Bangladesh is the alarming rate of violence against them and the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators. To minimize violence against indigenous women and to secure their life the government of Bangladesh must ensure gender dis-aggregated data for indigenous people in regards to different sectors including housing, sanitation, education, healthcare, employment, and judgment. And also have to ensure access to justice for indigenous women and girls and bring the perpetrators to justice, ensuring exemplary punishment for those who are involved with violence against indigenous women and girls. In this regard, form a special body to investigate the cases of violence against indigenous women and girls.

John Tripura is an  Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defender, belonging  to ‘Tripura Indigenous Community” from Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. He has  graduated with Masters in Law from Eastern University of Bangladesh with the hopes to enhance his knowledge on the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights. After  graduation, he started working as indigenous human rights defenders. He collaborates with like-minded NGOs, human rights organizations, indigenous peoples’ organizations, the indigenous peoples in Bangladesh, and the civil society. 

He has also attended different national and international programs to raise my voice for the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh. He participated  at UN Business and Human Rights Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. He presented as a Co-Chain at indigenous Caucus on Business and Human Rights Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. 






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