Speakers say marginalization of indigenous communitiesis still very prevalent in Bangladesh
At least 32 indigenous women and girl children fell victims to sexual violence and 11 of them were raped from January to July this year, said a human rights organisation on Wednesday.
Pallab Chakma, executive director of Kapaeeng Foundation, revealed the information during a seminar titled 'Eviction of the Marginalised People Including Indigenous Communities from Their Land and Their Human Rights' organised by International Indigenous Day 2018 Celebration Committee involving 17 organisations at Cirdap auditorium in the city.
The report was prepared based on newspaper reports.
Pallab said at least 32 incidents of sexual violence against women took place during seven months of the current year.
Among them, 11 women and girl children fell victims to rape and four of them were killed after rape.
Two became victims of gang rape, nine became subject to attempt to rape and six were sexually harassed, he said.
Speakers at the program urged the government to enact special laws in accordance with the national constitution in order to preserve the rights of indigenous peoples as laws currently in effect have failed to do so.
Amena Mohsin, professor of International Relations at Dhaka University (DU), said pluralism must be ensured for inclusive nationalism.
The land commission is unable to stop the migration of indigenous people due to the unstructured manner in which local government has been working, she said.
She added that the rights of not just the indigenous population of Chittagong, but also indigenous people from the plains, have to be constitutionally recognized.
Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council said marginalization of the indigenous community is still very prevalent in the country.
Speaking as chief guest, lawmaker Fazle Hossain Badsha said there needs to be a special law to protect the rights of indigenous communities.
He called on the people to work towards unity among different communities, secularism, democracy and equal rights for every member of every community, and no divisiveness over land.
Khushi Kabir, chairperson of the Association for Land Reform and Development, said women are the most affected in any type of conflict. This holds even truer in the case of indigenous women.
Rani Yen Yen, adviser to the Chakma Circle, said five indigenous women have been victims of sexual harassment in the last 11 days.
The indigenous women of the Chittagong Hill Tracts have no security in their own lands, she added.
She further said that violence against these women has been increasing due to miscarriage of justice, and that these cases are so frequent, it has become the norm for the perpetrators.
She mentioned that 100 families have reportedly migrated to Myanmar due to oppression in their own lands. The migration tends to happen when indigenous communities fear being driven out, with lack of security and human rights also being contributing factors.
Speakers at the seminar called on the state to help ensure and protect the rights of indigenous populations, saying that will only prevail when there is secularism and no discrimination based on language, race, or gender.
Advocate Sultana Kamal presided over the seminar, where DU Professor Dr Rubaiyat Ferdous, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum General Secretary Sanjib Drong, Bangladesh Jatiya Adivasi Parishad President Rabindrath Saren, spoke among others.