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Catholic women back equal rights draft

Opponents vow to fight equality move with measures including demonstrations

Catholic women back equal rights draft
New Women Policy can raise hope for Bangladeshi women reporter, Dhaka

April 19, 2011

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Catholic women have welcomed ground-breaking draft legislation that will give women equal rights. The National Women Development Policy 2011 (NWDP) is currently the hottest topic in the country and the subject of heated debate. Most civil groups back the policy while some political parties and Islamic groups strongly condemn it, saying it goes against Holy Scriptures, the Qu’ran and Islamic laws. Catholic women leaders unequivocally favor the NWDP. “The new policy acknowledges equal rights for men and women. It will really benefit women who for so long have been oppressed,” said Rita Costa, 42, Women Desk convener of the Episcopal Commission for Laity. “Extremists oppose it without understanding it. They abandon violence and accept it to foster the country’s development,” she said yesterday. The government approved the draft on March 7 and the bill is due to go before parliament soon. The Islamic Law Implementation Committee (ILIC) has declared “war” against the move and is holding a series of demonstrations over the next two months. The group, comprising many Madrasa (Islamic formation house) students staged a nationwide hartal (strike) on April 4, which turned violent. ILIC chairman Mufti Fazlul Haq Amini who is also chairman of faction of the Islami Oikkya Jote party has warned his organization will take extreme measures to bring down the government if the NWDP and a ban on fatwas are not scrapped. However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Sunday, “The government will not give in to the malice of ‘religious traders’ who oppose the draft without having read it or knowing it is no way in conflict with the Qu’ran.” She accused several political parties of trying to “fish in dirty water” with foul play. Caritas Bangladesh Gender Cell coordinator Juliet Sarkar echoed Costa saying, “Fundamentalists have no political issues to play with right now. They are trying to create one through blindly opposing this draft.” Related Report: A smart man stands up for the cause
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