National Consultation Meeting on Family Support Cell

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In Bangladesh, discriminatory personal laws often dictate marriage, separation and divorce related issues, which provide women with very limited financial benefits in case of separation, dissolution of marriage or in times of marriage. In light of this situation, in order to address equality and justice for women and provide them with recourse against discriminatory practices, one of Community Legal Services (CLS) partners, BLAST, prepared an outline for a ‘Family Support Cell’ by consulting concerned stakeholders, lawyers and judges.

In this regard, BLAST organised a national consultation meeting on 26 September 2016, held at the Conference Room of Jatiya Mahila Shangstha, to simulate discussion on the ‘Family Support Cell (FSC)’. The event was chaired by Honorable Justice Mr. Md. Awlad Ali, while a total of 54 participants were present (19 women and 35 men), including District Judge and Joint District Judges of Dhaka District Court, NLASO representatives and judges, lawyers, and representatives from BLAST’s Unit offices in Rajshahi, Faridpur, Dinajpur, Comilla, and Kushtia.

Justice Md. Awlad Ali talked about the various procedures regarding summon. He said, “There is no exclusive family court in Bangladesh. As such it is difficult to ensure the financial remedy for women who are vulnerable and marginalised.” He stressed on the need for having an exclusive cell of responsibilities among the judges and simplifying the whole process for the sake of ensuring speedy justice.

The Chief Guest for this meeting, District and Session Judge, S M Kuddus Jaman exclaimed that FSC is essential for marginalised women and must not be limited to dealing with issues regarding dowry only – rather it should have an expanded periphery. He also said, “People are not interested   to  come  to  the court

therefore there is a need for mass advocacy and awareness about FSC.” He further emphasised that exclusive family courts have to be established for the purpose of speedy remedy.

During the meeting, Advocate Tajul Islam made the keynote presentation to highlight the purpose, background, importance and necessity of the Family Support Cell. The proposed FSC will be a Cell of NLASO with branches in all Districts under the guidance and supervision of the respective DLAC. The respective DLAC in turn may convene a Sub-Committee to oversee activities, while Deputy Director/Assistant Director of NLASO will manage the FSC, and will oversee branches centrally.

Deputy Director of NLASO said, “To protect women especially who are marginalised and vulnerable from violence and discrimination, establishing a family support cell is of utmost importance and NLSAO may consider having a separate family support cell of its own.”

The lawyers and representatives of BLAST present at the meeting echoed the necessity and importance of a Family Support Cell to ensure financial justice for the marginalised and vulnerable women, and said that the idea of FSC is practical and logical, and is necessary for speedy trial and execution of a decree. They recommended increasing the awareness of women on legal procedures and providing counselling services to depressed women who have faced legal discrimination.