Int'l Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women: It shows little sign of easing
Despite various preventive measures by government and non-government organisations, violence against women in Bangladesh shows little sign of decreasing.
The extent of harassment and other acts of violence, including rape, murder and domestic abuse over dowry, have forced many girls stop pursuing education, according the Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK).
Against this backdrop, Bangladesh is observing the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women today.
Last year, at least 1,648 women faced six forms of violence -- rape, domestic abuse, assault on domestic workers, dowry-related attacks, acid attacks, and assault unleashed by salish (village arbitration), according to the ASK data based on media reports.
Additionally, at least 255 men and women suffered violence for protesting sexual assaults and harassments on women.
However, the actual figure might actually be much higher as many incidents go unreported.
For example, about 2,000 complaints of violence against women and children are reported every day through a hotline number (109) set up by the government.
Bangladesh is pledge-bound to eliminate violence against women as it ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) with reservation on some clauses, including those on women's property rights.
As part of the pledge, the government is implementing a project called Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence against Women. The project began in 2000 and is now in its fourth phase, which ends in June 2021.
Under the project, the government carries out awareness-building campaigns across the country, including sermons by imams to discourage violence against women, said Abul Hossain, the project director.
Asked if these measures have made any difference, he said, “We are doing our job. We are trying to create awareness so that violence does not recur.”
Between January and October, 1,263 women were victims of violence across the country. Another 159 men and women faced violence for protesting sexual assault, according to the ASK report.
The number was 1,467 in 2016, 1,627 in 2015, and 1,615 in 2014. And the numbers of women and men who faced violence for protesting such attacks were 156, 205 and 241 respectively.
ASK Senior Deputy Director Nina Goswami claimed that non-government organisations were trying hard to prevent such crimes but the government did little in this regard.
The perpetrators not only harm the victims but also put themselves and other family members in a pathetic state, she observed.
She said the quick disposal of cases on violence against children through speedy trial tribunals had been a sign of the government's success, but regular tribunals and courts were still in a sorry state.
Referring to the low-number of incidents reported in the media, Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist Salma Ali said police stations and courts were not women-friendly yet.
The conviction rate is also low, which discourages women from coming forward to report the assault on them, she added.
Lengthy trial processes, political influence and powerful offenders are also to blame, she said.
Globally, one in every three women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner, according to the UN.