Advocate Salauddin Dolon vs. Bangladesh [‘Forced Veiling’ Case]

Writ Petition No. 4495 of 2009

High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh

A, an Upazilla Education Officer, made sexually coloured remarks and verbally abused S, principal of a primary school in Kurigram District, allegedly for not covering her head during a public meeting at the Upazilla headquarters. Following publication of a news report of the incident in the Daily Shamokal on 26 June, 2009, Advocate Salauddin Dolon filed a writ petition challenging the arbitrary behaviour and degrading remarks of the government official in violation of code of conduct. BLAST was added to the petition as a co-petitioner.

The High Court initially issued a Rule Nisi on the Ministries of Education and Home Affairs and on the Upazilla Education Officer to show cause as to why the Ministry of Education should not be directed to take appropriate action against the said Education Officer for uttering highly derogatory remarks against the Headmistress. The Court directed the education authorities to submit a report to the court. On receiving the report, which stated that the Education Officer had made an “inadvertent error”, the Court called the Education Officer to appear before the Court who then apologized in person to the Headmistress who was also present in court in January 2010.

On final hearing, the Court held that forced veiling or imposition of a dress code constitutes a violation of Articles 27, 31, 32 and 39 of the Constitution.  Sexually coloured verbal representation and sexually coloured remarks or gestures constitute sexual harassment under the Guidelines on Prevention of Sexual Harassment laid down by the High Court Division on 14.5.2009 in Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association v Government of Bangladesh (W. P. No. 5916 of 2008). Further, the Court noted that Rule 27A of the Government Servants (Discipline and Conduct) Rules, 1979 prohibits a public official from conduct or language which is improper, against official decorum or offends the dignity of female colleagues.

In its judgment, the Court directed the Ministry of Education to take immediate steps to implement the Guidelines on Sexual Harassment declared earlier and to ensure that no woman working in any educational institution, public or private, is forced to wear a veil or cover her head and may exercise her personal choice whether or not to do so. The Court also observed that Section 27A of the Government Servants (Discipline and Conduct) Rules, 1979 must be read alongside these Guidelines to ensure that public officials are held to account for any acts of sexual harassment.

Laws Cited:
Constitution, Articles 27, 31, 32 and 39; Government Servants (Discipline and Conduct) Rules, 1979

International Instruments Cited:
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 1987; Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993


BLAST, YMCA Development Center, 1/1 Pioneer Road, Kakrail, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh
BLAST would like to thank Sara Hossain, Jahangir Alam, Arafat Hosen Khan, Amanda Sen, Rokeya Chowdhury & Kazi Ataul-al Osman for content development
Copyright © 2010, BLAST | Web Design: Siraj / Machizo, Jahangir / BLAST