Editor: Mulki Al-Sharmani
Author: Sohela Nazneen
In the late 1980s and early 90s, the Bangladeshi feminists mobilised for a uniform family code. Despite the extensive groundwork by the feminists on the required legal changes, the movement failed to attain its goal. The demand for a uniform family code not only challenged male privileges based on Shari'a law but also those based on religious laws of the minority communities. This chapter explores the movement building strategies and negotiations for a uniform family code, particularly feminist efforts to contest the pitting of the ‘right to equality’ against the ‘right to religion’.
In order to demonstrate that the code does not view these two rights as mutually exclusive, the feminists chose to change the discursive context. This was done by tying the demands for the code to the issue of justice. The chapter argues that while the work on legal texts strengthened the feminist debate and the lobbying of state officials gave the issue a higher profile, it did not create support for the code at the grassroots. Feminist failure to tackle male fear and incorporate men in the movement, particularly men belonging to the minority communities, left the space open for a backlash against the movement.
Although the chapter focuses on a legal reform initiative that took place in the late 80s and 90s, it draws on recent research that was conducted about this initiative and the actors that took place in it. Secondly, the efforts to introduce a uniform family codes have not yet been successful and hence taking stock of this earlier initiative is very important.