Around 80 percent of married women/girls have been abused by their husbands at least once in their lifetime. This horrible piece of data has come from none other than a government survey, namely the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. Although hardly surprising in a country where violence against women makes the news every single day, that the rate of abuse against married women would be so high, is appalling.
According to the report, these women/girls face all kinds of violence – physical, sexual, economic and emotional. Husbands are controlling and in most cases married women keep their trauma hidden. Only 2.6 percent of the victims actually seek legal support. Social stigma, further violence from the husband, concern for family honour, ensure this silence.
Unsurprisingly, the report has found that rural women are more likely to face such abuse though even in urban areas the rate is quite high – around 54.4 percent.
These statistics point out that despite stringent laws against violence against women, male chauvinism is part of our culture and our age-old stereotypical perceptions regarding women have not changed. Wife beating has always been seen as a personal matter in our society, even our legal system is a party to that. In many occasions not only does society condone wife beating, it even encourages it as a way to keep women 'under control'.
A drastic change is therefore in order – a change in the way society as a whole treats its female members. Child marriage that legitimises sexual abuse of minors, must be stopped immediately. We need more legal aid and counselling services, shelters and income generating programmes for women who want to get out of abusive marriages because of fear or financial insecurity. It is up to us as a society to change this shameful scenario.