Government should heed the UN’s concerns
The UN has expressed its concerns over shrinking civic space, growing inequality and violence against women in Bangladesh. At a recently held discussion at the Foreign Service Academy, UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo mentioned how the pandemic had led to growing inequality and violence against women not only in Bangladesh, but across the world, and said that action on both national and global levels was needed to address these issues. Most importantly, she called on the government to make the Digital Security Act (DSA) compliant with international human rights standards.
Undoubtedly, the shrinking of civic space is a major concern in the country right now. Freedom of expression and opinion is under severe threat as people's voices are being suppressed using repressive laws such as the DSA. Cases of enforced disappearances have created fear among the citizens. Poverty has increased in society, while violence against women and children have become major issues of concern.
It is time for the government to seriously reconsider dropping some of the more controversial provisions of the DSA that have repeatedly been used against the citizens. The Editors' Council and the TIB called for review of this law several times in the past. As the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has looked into the DSA and made some recommendations, we now hope that the law ministry will take steps to implement the recommendations. Needless to say, the DSA should be made compliant with the international standards. If Bangladesh wants to work as a functioning democracy, it needs to get rid of such repressive laws and work to protect civic space. We also need to ratify the convention on enforced disappearances, which the UN advised us to do.
Moreover, as Bangladesh is going to graduate from the LDC status, it should now focus more on eliminating inequality from society. There are several steps that the government can take in this regard, such as expanding its social safety net programmes and addressing corruption—which ultimately leads to increased poverty and inequality. At the same time, the government should make sincere efforts to stop violence against women and children in the country, which is also a major barrier to the country's development.