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Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Bangladesh

Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury had a distinguished legal career before entering politics ©IPU

Former Supreme Court lawyer Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury is the first-ever woman to take the top job in the Bangladeshi parliament and also the youngest. She is a committed campaigner for women’s rights who has won an award for her work in tackling violence against women.

Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury became Bangladesh’s first woman Speaker of Parliament on 30 April 2013. At 46, she was also the youngest person to hold the position.

A keen campaigner for women’s rights, she described her appointment as “as an outstanding milestone in the empowerment of the country’s women”.

Dr Chaudhury was first elected to the Bangladesh parliament in 2009 as a member of the Awami League Party, to one of the 50 seats reserved for women.

Before taking up the post of Speaker, she served as Minister for Women and Children Affairs, which saw her involved in efforts to tackle violence against women, including the finalization of a law on domestic violence.

Prior to entering politics, Dr Chaudhury had a distinguished legal career, serving for 15 years at the Supreme Court, where she worked on many human rights cases involving constitutional issues.  

In 2000, she earned a PhD in law after winning a Commonwealth scholarship to study at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. Later she was a panel lawyer for the Awami League’s Sheikh Hasina, then opposition leader and now prime minister, when she was arrested on charges of murder and corruption by the army-backed caretaker government of 20072008.

Dr Chaudhury was awarded the Asia Society’s humanitarian service award in 2010 in recognition of her leadership in advocating the elimination of violence against women and supporting women’s empowerment and employment in Bangladesh.