Challenges and Progress: Bangladesh's Human Rights Struggle Examined in UPR Session amid Rohingya Crisis and Global Concerns
By Lené Sophia Strydom / GICJ
The ongoing struggles of protecting and promoting human rights for not only the people of Bangladesh, but also the 1.2 million Rohingyas that have seeked refuge in Bangladesh as a result of the Rohingya Genocide, were highlighted at the 44th Session of the Universal Periodic Review for Bangladesh on the 13th of November 2023.
Bangladesh is grappling with the formidable task of updating policies to meet international human rights obligations, attempting to enforce policies to hold violators accountable, and navigating challenges associated with strengthening national institutions. The involvement of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) in human rights promotion is seen as a necessary complex endeavour, from balancing the lack of resources and funding for climate constraints, the protection of the Rohingya refugees, and the numerous social difficulties within Bangladesh. With the continuous work towards the cyclones that occur yearly, damaging homes and killing families, and the endless efforts to host 1.2 million Rohingya refugees in their country, the funding and resources from NGOs and CSOs become scarce for the social issues occuring for the people of Bangladesh, including the increase in discrimination against women and children, the lack of access to health care and education. The nation faces hurdles in fostering a "culture of peace," particularly when it comes to combating discrimination. The impact of COVID-19, resource reallocation, and awareness gaps further compound challenges, particularly in remote areas. Bangladesh seeks external cooperation and support, acknowledging the role of developed and Global South countries, UN agencies, and international organisations. Despite efforts, progress remains slow, and the nation acknowledges the uphill battle in fortifying institutions to adequately promote and protect human rights.
During recent human rights reviews, several countries articulated key concerns and recommendations for Bangladesh. Common themes included the eradication of discrimination, promotion of freedom, and abolition of the death penalty. Many nations emphasised aligning national legislation with international human rights standards, with a particular focus on addressing violations against women, children, and vulnerable populations. Initiatives for people with disabilities, quality education, and efforts to reduce wage gaps were recurrent recommendations. Various countries underscored the importance of addressing violence against women and children, and promoting equal access to education. The freedom of expression for journalists, free and fair elections, and measures against enforced disappearances highlight the continuous social difficulties faced in Bangladesh. The overarching aim was to strengthen human rights institutions and mechanisms, foster inclusivity, and ensure the protection of fundamental rights for all citizens, including the Rohingya refugees.
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) acknowledges Bangladesh's efforts in safeguarding human rights for Rohingya refugees and recognizes the positive developments observed since the previous UPR review in 2018. Nevertheless, GICJ urges the concrete implementation of UPR recommendations, underscoring the prioritised protection and promotion of the rights of all citizens in the ongoing changes, from the death penalty, and unfair trials for journalists, to forced child marriages, and continious violations against women and children. Immediate action is imperative to fulfill the commitments Bangladesh has mades towards the genuine protection and promotion of human rights.
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