A majority of women and girls in six upazilas vulnerable to climate change faced violence by close ones during shutdown enforced amid the coronavirus pandemic, says a Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) report.
Findings of the report, "Identify Impact of Covid-19 and Amphan over Rights of Women and Girls and Their Livelihood in Climate Vulnerable Locations" were shared during a webinar jointly organised by MJF and The Daily Star yesterday.
MJF, along with Inspira Advisory and Consulting carried out the study. Field data for the study was collected in September. The six upazilas are: Patharghata of Barguna, Shyamnagar of Satkhira, Gaibandha Sadar and Phulchari, and Rangamati Sadar and Naniarchar.
In about 90 percent of the cases, husbands were the key perpetrators, said the report
The report says the cases of dowry increased during the virus outbreak as husbands or in-laws suddenly started demanding dowry or property of the women to cope with financial stress.
Addressing the webinar, MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam said like women across the globe, women in Bangladesh are facing various challenges amid the pandemic.
Inhabitants in climate-vulnerable areas were already facing various challenges while newer challenges emerged amid the pandemic, she said.
Domestic violence against women, especially by "intimate partners", has increased globally. Besides, incidents of child marriage increased and livelihood of women involved in small scale entrepreneurship was also disrupted, she added.
Moreover, work burden of women at home has also increased, she further said.
The report says about 25 percent of the 330 respondents supported child marriage.
Social pressure was identified as the key reason behind child marriage by about 55 respondents, and 30 percent said financial concerns as the key reason.
Returnees from abroad during the pandemic topped the list of grooms preferred, it says.
It added that monitoring mechanism against child marriage fell apart at the initial period of the shutdown. Since then, there has been a gradual rise in the number of unregistered marriages where parents need to pay lower amount of dowry.
It was revealed that respondents considered marrying off a "12-13 years old" as a child marriage but marrying off a "16-17 years old" as not child marriage.
The report says some 28 percent respondents faced trouble in accessing healthcare services but they did not report subscribing to telemedicine services.
The pandemic caused supply chain disruption at hard-to-reach areas, as about 40 percent respondents noted unavailability of key necessity items such as basis medicines and contraceptives.
The report also found that about 80 percent respondents experienced a slump in their income or livelihood during the pandemic. Besides, respondents reported about increase in unpaid work during the time.
The report recommends facilitating alternative income-generating activities for the most vulnerable women who have lost their livelihood during the pandemic.
Noted climate expert Prof Ainun Nishat said after cyclone Amphan, salinity of water in some coastal areas increased to the level of seawater.
Both men and women in the affected areas have been suffering from hypertension, he said. "Women have been diagnosed with eclampsia while their pregnancy rate also dropped," he added.
Addressing the webinar as chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan said eliminating incidents of child marriage is in the government's agenda and that the prime minister is concerned about it.
He said the government has undertaken a pilot project to supply pipe water in rural areas and that it was also working to address water crisis in hilly areas.