Plight of Hindu women in Bangladesh

I am a university educated Hindu woman and got a prestigious scholarship on my own merit to do Ph.D. in a foreign university in 2008. I also had the opportunity to visit many countries in Europe and North America between 2009-2013. I take this opportunity to tell readers about my life before I could come out of Bangladeshi Hindu society. I did my MA in 2000 and taught at a university college in Dhaka. I was married after my BA Honours and got a baby too, thanks to my monster husband with whom I was married under pressure from my family and relatives. He was a Ph.D., that attracted them most, but my first contact with him was a nightmare that haunts me even today.
Yes, I had no choice but to live with this man for long 5 years and every day of it was hell for me. He had other women and it was normal for him to beat me without any rhyme or reason. We never made love and he regularly raped me. Soon I started hating men deeply because of the behaviour of this man. When I was pregnant one day he punched me on my backbone and I fainted to wake up in a hospital bed. On examination, the doctors found that my spinal cord was damaged and said that the injury may never be healed. Quite surprisingly, my husband did not regret what he did and continued his brutal behaviour.
Finally, with my father’s help I gained some courage and divorced him against uproar and protest from my relatives, many of them with university degrees. Without my father’s support and a job at the university college I could never have had the guts to divorce the brute. I felt highly relieved after divorcing the monster and moving in with my parents. But my problems were not really over. I was regularly lectured by my so-called educated relatives who constantly asked me to return to my husband knowing well how brutish he was and how unfaithful he had been. Most of them boycotted me and I was never invited to any social and religious gathering.
Once I wanted to visit my grandparents but they told on my face that I would be welcomed only with my “Thakhur,” otherwise not. My ex-husband was married by then but still I was asked to go back to him by most of my relatives. I wonder what I would do if I had no education, a job and, most importantly, my saintly father’s support against great pressure from my relatives. I wrote about the injury my ex-husband inflicted on me. I am still suffering from it. I have undergone treatment in foreign countries and the doctors concluded that I shall never be cured and have to live with it for the rest of my life.
With the growth of Western education in Bengal and social movement that was started by Ram Mohan Roy and Iswar Chandra Bidyasagar, Bengali Hindu women progressed greatly. Gone were the days of of Sati Daha (widow burning), Gouri Dhan (marriage by 6-9 years), forbidden widow marriage, unlimited polygamy and what not. But are they really gone for good from Bangladesh? Bangladeshi Hindus don’t have Sati Daha but the rest of the barbaric Hindu cultures are fully intact with hidden but strong support from the so-called Hindu intellectuals. We hear every day how Muslim women are suppressed but how many know to what magnitude the Hindu women are oppressed and live like sub-humans in Bangladesh?
Hindus lived under full repression during Pakistani period. But in independent Bangladesh they may not have full rights as citizens that the constitution of the country promises but no doubt they have made remarkable progress in educational, economic and political arenas by their own efforts and hard work. But what about social progress so far as Hind women are concerned? It is very disgraceful and deplorable, to say the truth.
Hindus don’t register their marriages, and divorce is not allowed legally. Widow marriage is still not a Hindu social norm in Bangladesh. Polygamy is an open secret among Bangladeshi Hindus.  Muslims may have 4 wives by religious culture but Hindus have no number limitation. Adultery is a common fact among Hindu men and it is a hush-hush matter. Hindu Bengali widows in Bangladesh still live in utter disgrace and face inhuman treatment and discrimination. Hindu widows are not allowed in social gathering such as weddings; they are not supposed to eat fish and meat and must wear simple white clothes only. In some cases they are not even allowed to wear shoes.
Centuries-old Hindu tradition does not allow a widow to remarry and the question of divorce does not arise at all.  A widow or a divorced woman is a curse to a family and the society at large. Most of the Bangladeshi Hindus consider seeing widow or a divorcee’s face as an evil omen and bad luck and that is why they don’t invite them to any auspicious occasions. Caste and dowry system are other two most inhuman Hindu cultures and traditions that dominantly prevail in Bangladesh as in the Indian Hindu society.
All these I write from my personal experience and I wish I were wrong. Western press talk about oppression on Muslim women, as Hindu media cheerfully and gleefully nods. But nobody writes about us, the unfortunate Hindu women in Bangladesh. We silently accept our pathetic social condition and tolerate all sorts of suppression and oppression that Hindu men inflict on us.
We have “Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikyo Parishod” to fight for political rights for minority communities in Bangladesh, but did they ever give any attention to the centuries-old evils that prevail in Bangladeshi Hindu society? They foiled the Bangladesh government’s move to make Hindu marriage registration mandatory. The bill (Hindu Marriage Registration Bill-2012) aimed at providing legal and social protection to Hindu women. The objective was to safeguard women from marriage-related cheating by their husbands, to ensure the rights of the Hindu married daughters who are deprived of most of their rights, including their equal rights or inheritance to the parental as well as husband’s property, and making polygamy a punishable offence.
This bill was vehemently opposed by a large section of Bangladeshi Hindu leadership. Hiren Biswas, the president of the Samaj Sangskar Parishad group, passed the most obnoxious comment on these issues saying: “We don’t mind optional registration because Hindu couples sometimes need the marriage certificate when they travel, but we won’t accept mandatory registration, or divorce and inheritance rights to women because our scriptures and customs don’t allow them.” What silly reasons he had for his objection! How long do he and other Hindus want to oppress their mothers, sister and daughters? I ask this question to all Hindu men of Bangladesh and plead to our government to come forward with legal framework to protect us.

Name withheld by request.

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