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CEDAW Committee Expresses Concern over Bangladesh

In February, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) urged Bangladesh to immediately address critical reproductive health issues. These include the lack of information on women’s health, the lack of access to quality maternal health services and information for rural women, and discrimination against disadvantaged women, particularly with regards to healthcare.

The Committee also conveyed concern over the prevalence of violence against women, including sexual and domestic violence, and the lack of legal and emotional recourse for victims of such violence.

The Center raised many of these issues in a shadow letter to the Committee in January, which highlighted the grave state of maternal health in the country.

Bangladesh ranks eighth worldwide for maternal deaths and has a maternal mortality ratio of 340 per 100,000 live births--approximately 12,000 deaths per year. This far exceeds 280, the regional average.

In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 5, Bangladesh is supposed to reduce its maternal mortality ration to 143. But as we pointed out in our letter, the World Health Organization classifies Bangladesh as “lacking good complete registration data” on maternal deaths, making it hard to design or implement practices to rectify this situation.

The specific causes for these high numbers constitute a range of human rights violations. Inadequate healthcare services, including poorly qualified skilled attendants, far-flung facilities, insufficient data on maternal health, and gender-based violence, among other things, coalesce to prevent women from obtaining the reproductive healthcare they need, resulting in predictable and preventable deaths.

In our letter, we also highlighted the lack of access to contraceptives, the high incidence of obstetric fistula, and how discrimination prevents rural women from obtaining healthcare. In addition, we noted a very high percentage of early marriage, which has its own set of associated health risks and human rights violations.

The Center urges Bangladesh to do more to monitor the state of maternal health and address its causes.
In particular, the government of Bangladesh should follow the recommendations of the CEDAW Committee to establish a comprehensive maternal death reporting system, address the latent causes behind avoidable maternal death and morbidity, confront the disparities of access to care for rural women, and ensure women’s access to quality, timely, and appropriate care nationally.

The CEDAW Committee’s recommendations provide Bangladesh with strong guidance on steps it can take to meet additional international commitments, including achieving its Millennium Development Goal 5 of reducing maternal mortality by two-thirds before 2015.

Read the shadow letter online >>

Read the concluding observations online >>