The ‘Birangonas’ are the women who had been brutally tortured and victimised during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 and stigmatized for the rest of their lives. Though they had played a significantly important role in achieving our freedom after the long nine months of war, they not been recognized nor given their due respect in 43 years.
The legal recognition of the ‘Birangonas’ could mitigate their unbearable miseries and enable them to lead lives of dignity. Approximately 300,000 of them still have to be recognised by the state even after 43 years of the war. The way their modesty had been violated by the atrocious Pakistani army in association with the Bangladeshi collaborators who were against the emergence of Bangladesh can never be appraised or evaluated by any means.
The Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA), one of the grantee partner organisations of Community Legal Services (CLS), felt that it was high time that the ‘Birangonas’ should be given formal recognition. A PIL (Public Interest Litigation) has been filed under Article 102 (1) and 102 (2) (a) (i) of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh on January 27, 2014 for the enactment of a law to recognise the ‘Birangonas’ or ‘War Heroines’ of Bangladesh as ‘Freedom Fighters’. The High Court has already issued a rule asking the government to explain in four weeks from May 18, 2014 why it should not be directed to upgrade the social status of the ‘Birangonas’ and give them all the same facilities, benefits and privileges as adopted by the government for the freedom fighters. By law, freedom fighters are entitled to an honorarium of Taka 1,500 on a monthly basis, provided with the age flexibility to get hold of any government jobs and get 100% tuition fees waived for their children, among others.The court has also asked the government not only to provide the ‘Birangonas’ with the same state recognition and honor as the freedom fighters, but also to recognise these ‘Heroic Women’ as the freedom fighters by preparing a comprehensive list of the ‘Birangonas’ through the publication of a gazette notification.
The court has already issued the order following a writ petition in which BNWLA and the association of the former students of Saleha Ishaq Girls School at Sirajganj have pleaded for a directive for the enactment of a law stipulating legal recognition of the ‘Birangonas’ as the freedom fighters to enable them to enjoy the facilities, benefits and privileges they deserve.
Though the writ petition is still undecided and the next date has been fixed for the hearing to make this rule absolute, the government has shown an affirmative attitude towards the claims of the petitioners to give honor to the ‘Birangonas’ as the ‘War Heroines’ of Bangladesh. On the last date of the hearing, the respondent has submitted a draft policy to recognise the ‘Birangonas’ as the freedom fighters. This draft policy is going to be reviewed to determine whether this rule shall provide the needed protection which the ‘Birangonas’ historically deserved.