Economist Abul Barkat revealing findings of a study on Wednesday said 85 per cent of the owners of flats in Dhaka were female and half of them were dead mothers-in-law of the main earning male of the families.
Such an interesting finding no way reflects empowerment of women rather it hinted at attempts to hide source of illegal income or to dodge tax by the men using women, said Barkat.
The findings came in the study ‘Bangladesh land status report 2017’ edited by Barkat and carried out by the Association for Land Reform and Development.
The organisers did not elaborate their research methodology and no copy of the study was available at its launching held at CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka.
The study revealed that only five per cent of women living in villages across Bangladesh had effective land ownership.
‘By the term “effective ownership” we mean women having land documents in their names, the authority to put land to use according to their wishes or on sale whenever they want,’ said Barkat.
The World Bank in 2016 estimated that nearly 65 per cent of 160-million people in Bangladesh live in rural areas and the gender ratio was roughly 50-50.
Women rights activists have long been demanding equal land rights. Successive governments turned a deaf ear on the demand or similar calls from local and international human rights groups apparently to avoid hurting religious sentiment of the Muslim-majority nation.
Land minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury said that the reality was that the government was still in no position about amending the law for recognising equal land right to women.
‘Religion stands in the way. And nobody wants to talk about it,’ said Saifuzzaman.
Barkat said every landless family in the country would get 2 bighas of land if the government distributed the khas land mong them and the problem of poverty would have been eradicated much sooner than expected.
Bangladesh roughly has 2 crore bighas of khas land and water-bodies. There were about 1 crore landless families in the country, Barkat said.
‘Water bodies could be distributed among landless fishermen under cooperative farming system,’ said Barkat.
NGO representatives at the report launching ceremony asked minister to take steps to ensure smooth release of information from the land ministry.
They said that the ministry people were not entertaining requests for information filed under the right to information act.
Dhaka University professor Shafiquzzaman emphasised on preserving agricultural land and encouraging agro-based industrialisation.
Jahangirnagar University anthropology professor Ainoon Naher called for a broader gender perspective in discussing legal land rights to bring marginalised people of the third gender to the mainstream.
Land ministry additional secretary Abdul Haque, ALRD chairperson Khushi Kabir and its executive director Shamsul Huda also attended the report launching event.
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