According to the World Population Review, Bangladesh has an estimated population of 160.4 million people, and indigenous people make up around 1.8% of the population. Indigenous people face various forms of discrimination and violence, as well as restricted access to justice. In many cases, incidents are not reported to the police, and, even if they are, there are no follow-up investigations. These minorities are not only persecuted because of their religion and ethnicity, but also because of their indigenous identity and socioeconomic status.
Discrimination against indigenous people continues to be one of the biggest problems in Bangladesh, and indigenous women and girls are especially prone to violence. One of our local partners documented 42 cases in the first half of 2015 concerning violence against indigenous women and girls. This amount is very disturbing considering how many cases go undocumented. The above timeline provides just a few examples of these cases and paints an alarming image of the vulnerability of women and girls in the country.
Upon examination of the cases documented by our local partner, we found that women are victims of sexual harassment, rape, attempted rape, gang rape, abduction, physical assault, and murder. Although there have been various laws passed to protect women, the efforts and mechanisms to implement these laws need strengthening.
Although the Constitution of Bangladesh provides protection for women and children under various acts, the perpetrators often get away with their crimes due to a lack of justice. For instance, The Prevention of Oppression Against Women and Children Act of 2000 states that all offences contained under this act are non-bailable under Section 19 (ii).
Although many organisations aim to protect indigenous people and their rights, the sad truth is that justice is lacking, and only a select few number of cases have brought justice to the victims and their families. It is difficult to determine whether there is an increase in the number of incidents because, as mentioned above, victims and their families are often afraid of reporting incidents. Furthermore, the perpetrators often threaten victims with further violence and take advantage of the stagnant legal system, the victim’s financial incapability, and prevailing taboos to protect themselves from punishment.
In Bangladesh, indigenous women and girls face more difficulties than their non-indigenous counterparts in regards to safety, using legal instruments, and accessing justice, and are therefore more vulnerable to violence. However, we hope to break this vicious cycle so that indigenous people may live in peace and dignity, which they deserve as rightful citizens of the state. The State and Constitution of Bangladesh must firstly recognise indigenous peoples and their rights and then take measures to explicitly address sexual and physical violence against indigenous women and children.
For more information please contact: Naz Tuncay, Human Rights Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
 A Joint Submission On Indigenous rural women situation in Bangladesh The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women 31 October 2013, Dhaka http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CEDAW/RuralWomen/KapaeengFoundationBangladesh.pdf