Most abused at homes
Nearly nine out of 10 husbands abuse their wives in Bangladesh, according to a recent nationwide survey conducted by the government.
The survey conducted on 12,600 women randomly chosen across the seven divisions says an astonishing 87 percent of married women are abused by their husbands.
Around half of the victims said they had suffered severe injuries and had to go to the hospital. One-third of them refused to visit a doctor despite severe injuries in fear of their husbands' further actions.
The survey published last month presents an alarming picture of the husbands having permanent habit of abusing their wives as 77 percent respondents said the last time they were abused happened within last 12 months.
Compared to this, only 8 percent of women said they had never been abused by a man other than their husbands.
The nationwide survey titled "Violence Against Women Survey 2011" was conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund.
"The reality is that domestic violence exists in almost every household and it is a daily occurrence," said Hamida Hossain, women rights activist and founder member of Ain o Salish Kendra (Ask).
Just five days ago, Joya Pal, housewife at Hathazari in Chittagong, was allegedly burned alive by her husband and in-laws.
Earlier this month, a newly married bride, university student Afia Zaman Mita, 22, succumbed to critical burns in Parbatipur in Dinajpur. Her family alleged she was set on fire by her husband and in-laws.
"Domestic violence has not yet been brought under law as people don't perceive it as a punishable offence. Even the police don't do anything about it terming it family matters," said Hamida Hossain.
Salma Ali, rights activist and legal expert, described how even judges are not helpful regarding this.
"Last Wednesday I sat and fought with the judges of a Sylhet court in my efforts to make them accept the law. They don't consider domestic violence to be a crime," said Ali.
Most of the women who face domestic abuse see the violence culminating into marital rape. The survey reveals that around one-third of the married women have been raped by their husbands. Many of them said they had not protested because they were afraid of their husbands.
"This happens because women grow up believing that they are weak and need protection and in exchange they must serve the men," observed Hamida Hossain.
A study conducted by the ICDDR, B, also finds that a vast majority of the men in the country rape because they believe sex is their entitlement.
The survey titled "Men's attitudes and practices regarding gender and violence against women" was published in November 2011.
Many of the women are tortured to the point where they commit suicide. As many as 126 of the women respondents claimed to have a family member who had committed suicide due to domestic violence.
"Women commit suicide when they have no way out. The law is not protecting them. Their families are not beside them if they decide to go through a divorce, and many are not equipped to be able to live on their own because of the way they are brought up. Death becomes the only option," said Salma Ali.
On January 10, a mother in Chapainawabganj took her three daughters aged 8, 6 and 2, and jumped into the Padma river allegedly following an altercation with her husband.
The mother, Akhtara Begum, and her elder daughter Shaheeda were rescued immediately by fishermen, but the younger daughters did not survive.
On November 28, Rupa Rani Das from Narayanganj died an agonising death at the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Unable to take the torture from her in-laws, she set fire on herself.
Even on her deathbed Rupa was too scared to accuse her husband or her in-laws when the police came to file a case, said her uncle Shudhir Chandra Das to this correspondent.
“She said, 'Uncle who will take care of my two children if my husband and mother-in-law are arrested?'," added Das.