Narsingdi District Court, 15thJuly 2009 - two witnesses with different hearing needs were present in a case. The plaintiff hired an interpreter of Bangla Sign Language from Dhaka to interpret what these two witnesses had to say. At the beginning the lawyer of the accused party raised a question against the interpreter. But the honorable judge had a positive impression and the defendant’s lawyer had a strong point regarding the different needs of these witnesses. So the objection of the lawyer of the accused was overruled. A huge crowd outside the court observed this different kind of hearing for the first time in their life.
This is a true story. This has not happened only once in Bangladesh. But, unfortunately there is no law to support the ‘persons with different hearing needs’.
Though the persons with different hearing needs are the largest among all the persons with disabilities in Bangladesh (and Bangla Sign Language is the second language after Bangla proportionate to its users) they are still in a vulnerable position facing regular discrimination. The struggle for recognition and development of Bangla Sign Language is quite an old demand of the persons with different hearing needs in Bangladesh.
The UNCRPD emphasises on sign language identity and promotion. In Article 21.e it recognised and promoted the use of sign languages while in Article 24.b it facilitated the learning of Sign Language and the promotion of the linguistic identity.
Just like people with other forms of disabilities, ActionAid believes that persons with different hearing needs are also entitled to equal human rights in society. Sign Language has become universally accepted as the official language for them around the world and this as a culture is now regarded as a form of enrichment of national heritage. ActionAid Bangladesh has been working for last few years with the community, who are the principal users of Sign Language.
At present, the Sign Language Recognition Movement has reached a significant stage in its progress. We have achieved one of our great successes on 1st February 2009. On the occasion of “Aumor Ekushe Boi Mela” honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced that the government would introduce Bangla Sign Language at state level for ensuring the right to information of persons using Sign Language in Bangladesh. She also asked Bangladesh Television for airing news with Sign Language interpretations. It would gradually be adopted by the other media outlets, she said.