Abuses Against Persons at High Risk of HIV Infection in Bangladesh

What You Can Do

Early in HIV/AIDS epidemics, when the disease is “contained” among high-risk persons—sex workers, injection drug users, and men who have sex with men, for example—experience shows that working respectfully with and protecting the rights of high-risk persons is the most effective anti-AIDS strategy. Human Rights Watch’s research shows that Bangladesh is doing exactly the opposite. These vulnerable persons, already deeply marginalized by Bangladesh society, face frequent and violent abuse at the hands of both the police and powerful criminals known as mastans, increasing their HIV risk.

A Human Rights Watch Report, Ravaging the Vulnerable, documents abuses committed against at-risk persons, including abduction, rape, gang-rape, beatings, arbitrary arrest, and extortion. The report shows that human rights abuse further alienates sex workers, drug users, and men who have sex with men from society, rendering them more difficult to reach with HIV prevention services and less able to protect their own health and the health of others. AIDS peer educators among these persons also experience violent abuse, a direct blow to frontline prevention efforts.

Ravaging the Vulnerable makes detailed recommendations for the reform of Bangladesh’s law enforcement system and its national HIV/AIDS program with the aim of ending the abuses that undermine the country's fight against this deadly epidemic.

What You Can Do: Action Steps and Resources

Contact the Bangladesh Government.

Urge the government to reform both the law enforcement system and the national HIV/AIDS program to end abuse by police and mastans against persons vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. In particular, Bangladesh should

  • Institute civilian review of police officers.
  • Prosecute police and mastans who perpetrate abuses.
  • Bring its criminal procedures in line with international standards.
  • Support peer-driven HIV/AIDS prevention services among persons at high risk of HIV.

More specific recommendations are made in the report. Address letters and calls to:

Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia
Office of the Prime Minister
Gona Bhaban
Sher-e Bangla Nagar
Phone: +880 2 811 5100, +880 2 882 2411
Fax: +880 2 811 3243
Email: or

Mr. Altaf Hossain Chowdhury
Minister of Home Affairs
Bangladesh Secretariat, Building 8
Dhaka 1000
Phone: +880 2 861 4611, +880 2 861 4611
Fax: +880 2 861 9667

Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain
Minister of Health and Family Welfare
Bangladesh Secretariat, Building No. 2 (3rd Floor)
Dhaka 1000
Phone: +880 2 861 8008, +880 2 861 8188

Barrister Moudud Ahmed
Minister of Law, Justice & Parliament Affairs
Bangladesh Secretariat, Building No-4 (7th Floor)
Dhaka 1000
Phone: +880 2 861 0577, +880 2 861 0627
Fax: +880 2 861 8557

Mr. Mudabbir Hussain Chowdhury
Inspector General of Bangladesh Police
Police Headquarters
Phoenix Road, Fulbaria
Dhaka 1000
Phone: +880 2 956 1028, +880 2 861 9526, +880 2 956 2054
Fax: +880 2 956 3362, +880 2 956 3363

Contact donor governments, lending agencies, and the United Nations.

Urge your own government as well as lending agencies and the U.N. to support the reform of Bangladesh’s law enforcement system and its HIV/AIDS program with the aim of ending abuses against persons vulnerable to HIV. Below are a few of the governments and agencies working in Bangladesh.

United States: Contact your representatives in the House and the Senate, the State Department, and the U.S. embassy in Bangladesh.

United Kingdom: Contact your representatives in parliament, the Foreign Office, and the British High Commission in Bangladesh.

World Bank
3A Paribagh
Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh
Telephone: +880 2 966 9301-8
Fax: +880 2 861 3220

UNAIDS Bangladesh, C/O UNDP
Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Agargaon
Dhaka 1207, Bangladesh
Telephone: +880 2 812 4051

UN Offices, 18th Floor
IDB Bhaban
Agargaon, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar
Dhaka 1207, Bangladesh
Telephone: + 880 2 811 8600
Fax: + 880 2 811 3196

Assist Human Rights Watch in its advocacy for the rights of those vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

Link to other organizations.

The following organizations work on human rights and/or AIDS in Bangladesh. Their inclusion here is not meant to imply their endorsement of Human Rights Watch’s report.

  • Odhikar is a coalition of individuals and organizations working to promote human rights in Bangladesh. Recent topics of research and advocacy include abuse of section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and impunity in the legal system.
  • Naripokkho is dedicated to upholding the rights of women in Bangladesh. Naripokkho helped to facilitate the creation of the National Sex Workers Network.
  • Ain o Salish Kendro (ASK) is a legal aid and human rights resource center based in Dhaka. ASK was involved in, among many other issues, the legal challenge to the brothel evictions that occurred in 1999.
  • South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre is a network for the investigation of human rights abuses throughout the subcontinent. SAHRDC has published recent “Human Rights Features” on Operation Clean Heart.
  • CARE-Bangladesh is one of many NGOs working for HIV/AIDS prevention in Bangladesh. CARE supports several organizations of sex workers and Bangladesh’s largest needle exchange program.