To awaken women regarding liability of illegal earnings and assets acquired especially by male relatives through corruption and accept deposit in their names either willfully or unknowingly, it is important to grow consciousness among women about the legal obligations and the definite punishment of such criminal acts. Such awareness raising programmes should highlight the potential risks of the crime, ways to avoid and the prevailing laws for safeguarding them and the family in this regard. Besides, more policy research and studies should be conducted to determine either the women are deliberately engaged with the liability or compelled to agree with the settlement. Relevant institutions should take initiatives of providing legal assistance to the female victim of such grafts. Moreover, Anti-Corruption Commission should be more sensitive and female-friendly in searches, investigation and prosecution of relevant corruption cases.
The observations were provided by the participants of an opinion-sharing meeting titled family liability of illicit income and property through graft: the role of women, risks and way forward held on 6 May 2018. Transparency International bangladesh (TIB ) organized the event at its Dhaka Office to analyse the risks posed to family especially women as wives in addressing liability of illicit income and property acquired through graft with its legal, institutional and socio-economic impact, and identify ways forward.
Moderated by TIB Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Mr. Iqbal Mahmood, Chairman, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) attended the event as Guest of Honor.
At teh beginning of the event, TIB Programme Manager Shammi Layla Islam presented a working paper in the meeting where ACC was urged to adopt more women friendly measures in examining and investigating corruption charges against women. According to the paper, to safeguard earnings and assets acquired through graft, the prevailing practice of keeping the incomes in women’s title is a common phenomenon in Bangladesh to avoid the liability. In most cases, women get victimized for the wrongdoing unknowingly which push them towards a different type of social risk. Patriarchal socio-economic context, economic dependency and sympathetic attitude of women towards family, corruption-prone mentality stretch the hazard further. In preserving the illegal earnings and assets of husband, brother or any other male relative, women often forcibly become victim, means, beneficiary of the corruption and sometimes turn out as collaborator of fraud and thus become liable and criminal in eyes of law. The paper also recommended for providing legal support to women who will fall prey to corruption charges. According to the paper, the court punished 29 women in the 29 cases filed by the ACC from March 2007 to March 2018 for helping their husbands in carrying on corrupt activities. Moreover, there are 118 cases filed from 2015 to 2017 where corrupt persons acquired illegal wealth in their wives' names.
To counter and prevent the prevailing risk and crime, speakers stressed on active role of conscious, aware and vigilante women for meaningful change. Besides, women’s increasing inclusion in decision-making process, change of traditional patriarchal concepts, exemplary punishment and effective prevention of corruption, and governments political will for these changes can gradually decrease the risk.
Mr. Iqbal Mahmood said a good number of women to their unawareness own illegal wealth which was basically obtained with illicit income by their male relatives like husband, father or brother. In around 90 per cent of the cases filed by the commission women have no knowledge that the assets they own actually came from illicit income of their male relatives, he said. “The ACC will talk with lawmakers about whether it is possible to punish a woman who did not know anything about her husband's involvement in corruption. It'll also consider whether it's possible to amend the law in this regard,” he added. However, ACC has been thinking how to provide safeguard to these women with the existing legal framework and raising awareness among women about that type of situation so that they can stand against corruption, he said. Besides, women empowerment, increasing number of women inclusion in decision-making process, awareness raising programmes, further discussions with stakeholders will be needed to counter this prevailing menace, he added.
Dr. Iftekharuzzaman said “anti-corruption awareness can play meaningful role in these cases where ACC needs to play a more powerful and engaging role. In safeguarding family, there is no alternative of being aware and conscious. However, to measure the level of women’s actual involvement with the liability of illicit incomes and property acquired through graft, further research and study should be conducted. Women empowerment and advancement will be of big help in preventing and reducing corruption in society.”
The meeting was also addressed by TIB Adviser-Executive Management Professor Dr. Sumaiya Khair; ActionAid Country Director Ms. Farah Kabir, Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS) Executive Director Rokeya Kabir; Professor Asif Nazrul, University of Dhaka; Political Scientist Professor Dilara Choudhury; Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) Executive Director Ms. Shaheen Anam and others. Among others, senior officials of ACC, representatives from relevant government and non-government organizations, journalists from print and electronic media also attended the event.