Birangonas, women fighters who experienced sexual violence during the 1971 Liberation War, face various forms of harassment in their effort to be officially recognised as freedom fighters, said a recent study by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB).
There has been a lack of proper initiatives on part of the government to compile an official list of Birangonas since 2015 - when the notification was issued in this regard, said TIB Research Associate Rabeya Akter Konika while presenting the research findings at a virtual press conference on Thursday.
The study titled "State Recognition and Rights of Birangona Freedom fighters: Governance Challenges and Way-out" found that there is a lack of planning, accountability, institutional capacity, as well as structural complexity and opportunities for irregularities in the process of recognising Birangonas.
The process follows the traditional bureaucratic system which lacks social awareness and sensitivity, thus making the overall process complicated, the study found.
There are also allegations of delay in receiving allowances after being recognised. In some cases, it takes up to 3-6 months or more to get the allowance after registration.
"Recognising Birangonas as freedom fighters is a noble initiative," TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said, noting that there are allegations of bribery and corruption in the process.
In addition, the related authorities needed to be dealt with bribes and other ways in order to be listed as gazetted Birangona and get access to the facilities provided by the government, Iftekharuzzaman added.
At present, the total number of gazetted and certified Birangona freedom fighters in the country is 448, as per the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs' website, but the ministry's Management Information System (MIS) shows a list with 403 entries.
Reportedly, Birangonas are required to present some credentials for the verification of their application and being recognised as freedom fighters. In some cases, it gets difficult to collect the accreditation from the freedom fighter commanders.
The report included an interview of a volunteer who works with Birangonas. The volunteer said the whole process is so complicated and time-consuming that applicants prefer not to face additional troubles.
"Many of them had to spend money in one way or another. They silently do so, as much as they can afford. Most of them prefer not to talk about it in fear of cancellation," the volunteer added.
The TIB report also featured a Birangona's interview, where she said, "They said I have to spend money to avail the government's housing facility. They asked for Tk1 lakh. Otherwise, there is no house for me."