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In a report about the matter, Prothom Alo said that a member at the meeting pointed out that women generally do not take part in janaza (Muslim funeral rites), but women UNO’s take part in presenting guard of honour. This raises questions among the people. That is why in areas where there are women UNO’s, an alternative male official should be selected for the guard or honour. This can be the assistant commissioner (land), the upazila education officer, the upazila agriculture officer or officials in similar positions. What a bizarre request!

Members of the committee attending the meeting presided over by the committee’s chair Shahjahan Khan, were liberation war affairs minister AKM Mozammel Huq, Razi Uddin Ahmed, Rafiqul Islam, Kazi Firoz Rashid, Waresat Hossain and Moslem Uddin Ahmed. When one of these members raised the issue about women UNO’s, the others accepted it and decided to send the recommendation to the ministry.

The member had recommended that the guard of honour should be presented during the day, not at night. That is acceptable. Many people will not be able to attend such a guard of honour at night if held in a village. But the suggestion to replace a woman UNO during the guard of honour is downright discriminatory and also unconstitutional. Article 28 (1) of the constitution says that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. And Article 28 (2) states that women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the state and of public life.

The members of parliament have sworn to abide by the constitution, so how can they take a decision so insulting to a woman? They referred to the janaza, but they should keep in mind that janaza is a religious ritual. And guard of honour is a state event. Guard of honour is not accorded to the deceased only. It is accorded to various persons in positions of honour. There can be no question of discriminating between men and women in this issue.

The ministry of liberation affairs has been rife with irregularities and discrepancies about freedom fighter certificates, freedom fighter lists and even the medals of honour. The standing committee is not bothered about all that. They have for no reason stirred up a controversy over who will be present or who will not be present at the guard of honour ceremony for freedom fighters. Their initiative is not only unacceptable, but condemnable too.

We appeal to the parliamentary committee to admit their blunder and immediately withdraw their recommendation.

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