What does life on the street look like to those sitting in large halls and fed treats on government expenses? Maybe not more than an empty can that can be kicked with your feet or squashed under car tires. If that weren’t the case, what else can explain the new legislation approved by the parliament of Bangladesh that risks the safety and well-being of 7 million homeless Bangladeshi people?
Called Vagrants and Shelterless Persons Act 2011
, the law was passed by the parliament on August 25, 2011, and under this new act, police and judicial officers will be authorized to capture and detain suspected “vagrants” for up to 2 years in rehabilitation centers. If they break this confinement, they will be sent to jail for up to three months.
Tossing the term “vagrant” for the homeless is not surprising as targets of prejudice are labeled a derogatory term before making them pay for no crime committed, except poverty and helplessness. Thus, criminalizing the homeless is nothing new; yet, it is as deplorable as ever. The new law comes in the face of the fact that in the names of rehabilitation, the confined homeless people are subjected to physical and sexual abuse at the hands of management in these rehabilitation centers, as informs The Daily Star
What is also dehumanizing is that the proposed new rehab shelters will be built with government funds but operated with the money earned by the homeless confined therein—a kind of legalized form of slavery. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of the country has expressed their concern over the new law and it means to urge on the government for reconsidering it. Human rights organizations in general have called the law a violation of the right to live, human dignity, and personal freedom.
As Jay S. Levy, author the book Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways
, said in an interview
, homeless people frequently suffer violence and many of them avoid shelter for the fear of threat to their safety that comes with moving into a shelter. The most brutal case of the persecution of the homeless recently made news with the killing of Thomas Kelly, a homeless and mentally ill man, at the hands of Fullerton police in California. The cops beating and electrically stunning him to death on street now face murder charges. But that is in America. Will torture and abuse of the homeless in Bangladesh be noticed, let alone tried for crime? Not likely!
Care2 meanwhile has started a petition
to demand of the Bangladeshi government for repealing the new legislation that is nothing but “radical violation of the rights of the poor!”