In Gazipur's Sreepur upazila, most family disputes that women face are disposed of by the Union Parishad Women, Children and Family Dispute Mitigation Committee.
These committees exist in every union of Sreepur upazila, comprising the three reserved women UP members, and from them one becomes the committee's president. The committees also have at least four other members.
The committees in the Sreepur's union parishads have been working for women’s rights as they come to the union parishad office with different issues.
Nasreen Akhter, from Sreepur's Mulaid village, who has had disputes with her in-laws and husband over dowry, was married to Faruk Mia from Borma village of the same upazila about eight months ago. As disputes in the family became a daily issue, she resorted to seeking assistance from the union parishad office.
After several hearing dates, the Women, Children and Family Dispute Mitigation Committee in her union on February 11 gave the decision of divorce and asked the husband to pay Tk125,000 to the UP chairman for Nasreen within a month. However, sources in the union parishad office said only Tk25,000 has been deposited until now.
Sreepur's Bormi Union reserved women member Rezia Begum, who is the president of the union's committee, said the committee mainly works in favour of the women. A meeting is held every two months and steps that can be taken to prevent oppression of women and ensure safety of children are discussed.
Another case is of Rima Akhter who is from Mymensingh's Pagla thana. She married Rubel Sheikh from Sreepur's Borma village about a year ago, but she too was having disputes with her husband over dowry. Rima came to the union parishad office with her complaint and after several hearings, the dowry issue between Rima and her husband was settled.
Rezia Begum said the critical issue was not solved just via hearings but through discussions between both the parties.
In another case, Ruma Akhter from Bormi union's Pathantek village was kicked out by her mother-in-law after her husband fell sick. Later, she appealed to the union parishad committee at the advice of locals, and after several discussions and hearings, Ruma's right to stay in her husband's house was reinstated.
Talking about such cases, Bormi union parishad Chairman Shamsul Haq Badal Sarkar said they receive an average of at least 15 different issues relating to women’s oppression on which its Women, Children and Family Dispute Mitigation Committee works. The committee is one of the 13 committees working for women's rights in the upazila.
He said they try to mitigate the issues within four hearings that usually take place over four weeks.
However, if any side asks for more time it prolongs the process of bringing the issue to a resolution. He further said that they dispose of 85% of the appeals they receive.
Shamsul Haq Badal Sarkar said if a case cannot be solved between the complainant and the defendant, they suggest the complainant to go to court.
He gave the example of a woman who was married for seven years and was beaten for dowry by her drug-addicted husband. As the two sides could not mitigate the issue between them, the committee suggested the matter be taken to court.
Sreepur upazila parishad Chairman Abul Jalil said that to date the Women, Children and Family Dispute Mitigation Committees have defended the rights of women in several homes.
But these committees need to be made stronger so that they can make more contributions in establishing the rights of women on the grass-root levels, he added.