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Bangladesh: Homeless Persons’ Treatment Under 2011 Law

(Nov. 7, 2011) The Vagrants and Shelterless Persons Act 2011 was passed by the Parliament of Bangladesh on August 25, 2011. The law empowers the police and judicial officers to capture suspected “vagrants” and detain them for up to two years in rehabilitation centers. The law prescribes a punishment of up to three months of imprisonment for detainees who escape from these centers. The rehabilitation program is expected to be financed by money earned by the detainees. (Ernest Dempsey, Op-Ed: Homelessness to Be a Crime in Bangladesh?, DIGITAL JOURNAL (Oct. 21, 2011).)

The law's purported original goal was to help and rehabilitate homeless people. However, recent newspaper articles have reported physical torture and sexual abuse of the detainees by the people in charge of the rehabilitation centers. (Vagrant Act a 'Tool' to Put Shelterless Behind Bars, THE Daily Star (Sept. 18, 2011).)

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed concern over the law and considersita violation of the civil rights of the poor people in the country. The law was the subject of a petition drive by Care2, a social network website that shares the NHRC's view of the law. (Dempsey, supra.)