Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 08:28 GMT

Bangladesh: Whether polygamy is practised by members of the Hindu community

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 19 April 2001
Citation / Document Symbol BGD36981.E
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bangladesh: Whether polygamy is practised by members of the Hindu community, 19 April 2001, BGD36981.E, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to the Third and Fourth Periodic Report to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Bangladesh provides for equality between men and women in marriage and family law (1 Apr. 1997, 77). Section 2.15.4 states that polygamy is recognized by Hindu law but provides no further detail.

Information received from an Assistant Officer with the Bangladesh National Women's Lawyers Association (BNWLA) also states that existing Hindu law, enacted prior to partition and never amended, provides for polygamy and polygamy is, therefore, practised as custom (17 Apr. 2001).

Sarah White, as detailed in her 1992 book Arguing with the Crocodile: Gender and Class in Bangladesh, encountered several cases of polygamous marriages among Hindus in the village in which she lived and conducted her research for a period of approximately 11 months. In a section of the book which focuses on marriage for security of person or livelihood, she writes:

Two of the five (three Hindu and two Muslim) polygamous marriages in Kumirpur represented an extreme example of how marriage may be arranged through the gamble that pays off. They came out of affairs between the daughters of very poor (Hindu) women and two middle income married men. These were countenanced by their mother, apparently as a calculated risk: how could she hope to raise the money to get her daughters married otherwise? (ibid., 101).

Further details of these particular marriages or the prevalence of polygamous marriages beyond Kumirpur are not mentioned by White.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Bangladesh National Women Lawyer's Association (BNWLA) [Dhaka]. 17 April 2001. Correspondence.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), United Nations. 1 April 1997. Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Third and Fourth Periodic Reports of States Parties: Bangladesh. (CEDAW/C/BGD/3-4).

White, Sarah C. 1992. Arguing with the Crocodile: Gender and Class in Bangladesh. London, UK: Zed Books.

Additional Sources Consulted

Bangladesh Country File. Resource Centre.


Women's International Network News (WINN) [Lexington, MA]

World News Connection (WNC)

This list is not exhaustive. Country-specific publications available at the Resource Centre are not included.

One oral source was unable to speak to the subject and two additional oral sources contacted did not respond within the time constraints of this response.

Internet Sites including:

Alternative Asian Voices

Amnesty International

Annual Report for International Religious Freedom 2000

Country Reports

The Daily Star [Dhaka]

Economic and Political Weekly

Empowering Widows in Development (EWD)

Global Reproductive Health Forum

Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities

Human Rights Watch

The Independent [Dhaka]

Institutional Development of Human Rights in Bangladesh

South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC)

South Asian Women's NETwork (SAWNET)

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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