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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Bangladesh divorce reform planned
Bangladeshi women
Changes in the law are opposed by Islamic parties
The government of Bangladesh says that it is planning to make changes in the country's marriage laws to give women the right to divorce.

Under existing Islamic shariah family and marriage laws, only men have the right to initiate divorce proceedings.

The Women and Children Affairs minister said she was consulting other ministries to make the changes.

The move has been strongly opposed by Islamic parties and clerics and could face opposition within the government.

'Contrary to Islam'

"I have talked to the law minister and also the social welfare minister," the Women and Children Affairs Minister, Khurshid Jahan Haque said, "and I am hoping that we would be able to make changes soon."

Bangladesh is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, relating to the rights of women and children rights.

Moulana Fazlul Huq Amini, chief of Islami Oikya Jote [IOJ] - a partner in the governing coalition - said the divorce change proposals would be contrary to Islam.

Women protestors in Dhaka
Rights groups say that Bangladeshi women are discriminated against

"This would be totally against the spirit of Koran," he said, "we will oppose this and all Islamic clerics will oppose this."

Mr Amini says that according to Islamic law a woman can express her desire to her husband if she wants a divorce.

"But it depends on the man whether he would allow his wife to get that divorce," he said.

Mr Amini also said that they would resist any move to bring amendments to the family succession laws that could give equal rights to men and women over family property.

The BBC's Shahriar Karim in Dhaka says that those laws favour men over women after a parental death.

Our correspondent says that the government is not considering changes to family succession laws because existing shariah law is an obstacle.

Ms Haque said that successive governments had avoided tackling the issue for fear of hurting the religious sentiments of the majority Muslim population.

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