Protection of the Cultural Rights of Bangladesh
Aruna Bala writes for DOT
The “Pohela Boishakh” is the single cultural programs of the citizens of Bangladesh where all the people irrespective of their identity, nationality, race, caste and religion enjoy all over Bangladesh. The modes of celebration and the meaning of Pohela Boishakh may vary from the plain land to the hill track areas. The hill track people of Bangladesh call it “Boisabi”. However, this program also calls for attention towards the greater cultural rights of the citizens of Bangladesh as protected under the Constitution of Bangladesh. Keeping this occasion in my mind, I would like to draw attention of the readers that the creation or the very birth of Bangladesh was based on protection of the cultural rights. I would like to recall the events of 1952 which was the movement on protecting the language of the Bengali people, which is Bangla – a part of our culture. The language movement not only protected the language but also protected the self-determination and independence of every citizens of Bangladesh. Bangladesh has ratified several international instruments where they promises to protect, respect and fulfill all the obligations of the economic, social and cultural rights of its citizens.
Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICSECR) explicitly states that, “the right of everyone to take part in cultural life and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress.” Article 2 of the same Covenant provides that the countries shall implement these rights “to the maximum of its available resources” and ensure equality in the enjoyment of the rights of the treaty.
If we know the depth meaning of the culture then it is easier to relate the scope of the right to culture. ‘Cultural right’ is one of the alluded rights of human rights which have inadequate attention from us. Some of the international instruments namely: ICESCR (the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), UDHR (Universal Declaration of the Human Rights) and FCVCHS (the Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society) and UN (the United Nation), HRC (Human Rights Committee) emphasizes on the right to culture and the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination(CERD Committee) has also addressed the right to culture, calling on states to ‘recognize and respect indigenous distinct culture, history, language and way of life as an enrichment of the state’s cultural identity and to promote its preservation’ (General Recommendation 23).Culture in this sense, therefore represents the entire material and spiritual activities and the products which was given by the social group, ultimately distinguishes it from other communities. On 6 October 2016, the Human Rights Council adopted unanimously a resolution calling upon all States to respect, promote and protect the right of everyone to take part in cultural life, including the ability to access and enjoy cultural heritage, and to take relevant actions to achieve this. (Resolution A/HRC/RES/33/20)
On 5th October, 1998 Bangladesh has acceded to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Economic, social and cultural rights are part of the “fundamental principles of state policy” which are recognized in the Part II of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Back in 1966, the international level has formally split human rights into two categories: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), with no enforceable mechanism. Later, this differential treatment reflected in the traditional concept that those rights were not capable of judicial enforcement. Those norms basically reflected in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Article 8(2) clearly states that economic, social and cultural rights are judicially unenforceable. In view, lack of judicial enforcement creates a huge barrier in the light of the modern development in the international human rights system.
Nearly after couple of decades, the Government of Bangladesh submitted its first compliance report under Part IV of the ICSECR in 2017. They have emphasized on the issues likely; women empowerment, the protection of rights of ethnic minorities, status of Anti-discrimination Bill 2015, strengthening tax systems, protection of labor rights, social safety net, and Bangladesh’s plan of transition from informal to formal economy, birth registration, Child Marriage, amongst others. Despite of having 2030 Agenda plans, the Government of Bangladesh standpoint a Plan 2010-2021 contained actionable agenda to transform Bangladesh into a middle-income country by 2021 and a prosperous one by 2041.
Bangladeshis is well-known as a secular country. It’s obvious that it has immense touches of different cultures and traditions and ethnic people’s customs and occasions to celebrate. This is a day where none interracial beliefs or religious extremism can role. Back in 2016, in view of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), recognized the Mangal Shobhajtra (the annual Bangla New Year) parade, as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”. The term “Intangible Cultural Heritage” covers all kinds of traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants by oral traditions, performing, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts. Bangladesh fulfills all the criteria’s to be a state. So as a state, Bangladesh has some duties to protect and respect and fulfill all the obligations, the morals and traditional values which are recognized by the community. Unfortunately in Bangladesh this was not observed until recently. Only recently the government of Bangladesh introduced that the kids of hill tracked will be having their primary education in their language along with protecting the alphabets of indigenous nationalities of Bangladesh.
Given the above brief discussion, this paper suggests that the government of Bangladesh should actively emphasize on protecting our economic, social and cultural rights accordingly in consort with helping our minority and hill tracked people to practice and maintain their cultural traditions and customs and occasions without any kind of fear to lose their ancestors uniqueness. I strongly believe, if we can protect our cultural rights properly, once again, we can be easily recognized as one of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” to the world.
The author has graduated and postgraduated in Law from Eastern University, and she is an independent researcher. ([email protected]).