Bangladesh: From Prisoner to Business Woman – An Outcome of Gender Mainstreaming

In Bangladesh the majority of the population has little access to justice. The criminal justice system is chronically underfinanced and offers limited legal aid, particularly to vulnerable groups. 70% of prisoners are under trial. Prisons are overcrowded because too many cases unnecessarily end up in the formal criminal justice system as people are not fully aware of alternatives to the formal system. Prisoners also lack access to rehabilitation and reintegration services. Women are particularly vulnerable as the current system is often characterized by genderbased discrimination. After being released from prison, reintegration back into society is very difficult for women due to stigmatization. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through GIZ supports the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Prison Directorate and the Ministry of Law in reducing the case backlog in court and the overcrowding in prisons. The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) co-finances the programme. Strategies include legal aid and assistance through the help of paralegals, diverting cases away from the formal justice system to village courts, mediation or restorative justice and the reduction of recidivism through skill development and referral for drugdependent prisoners.

Gender mainstreaming is an integral part of all programme activities and its consistent implementation is one of the main success factors for achieving gender equality in the justice system. Besides specific targeting of female victims inside and outside prisons, initiatives include the incorporation of a 30% women quota in partner NGO contracts for all staff hired for the project. Paralegals, all field staff, locally elected representatives and stakeholders receive gender training. The female staff members are empowered through their new jobs as they gain respect in their communities and families and are able to influence the life and decisions of their community towards a more gender equal environment. Moreover, NGO budgets include funds for the rehabilitation and reintegration of women, juveniles and disabled persons.

Although the share of women in the total prison population in Bangladesh is relatively low (3% on average), priority is given to female inmates in project interventions. Until December 2015 the project had released 9.521 people from prison (1026 women). 57.347 persons (19.847 women) were assisted in court and 8.746 (2.612 women) at police stations. 996 persons (189 women) attended skills development training and 1.527 (246 women) identified drug users were referred to counselling and other services. Paralegals and all other field staff take the different needs of women and girls into account in their daily activities. Therefore, female prisoners and other beneficiaries in the community feel comfortable bringing their cases to them as they are sure that their voices will be heard.


Promita Sengupta
Prison and Justice Reform for Promoting Human Rights in Bangladesh and Preventing Corruption in Bangladesh

The competition entry ”From Prisoner to Business Woman – An Outcome of Gender Mainstreaming” from GIZ Bangladesh can be downloaded here:

49 Bangladesh: From Prisoner to Business Woman – An Outcome of Gender Mainstreaming_Gender Competition 2016

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