A report by renowned women's rights organisation, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, states that more than 4,500 women and children were subjected to murder, rape, acid attack, physical torture, suicide and other forms of violence against women in the country last year alone. At least 939 women were raped, of whom 174 were gang-raped and 99 killed, while 431 women were tortured and 236 women killed because of dowry.
The statistics are extremely alarming, especially when we consider that they constitute only a fraction of the total number of incidents of violence against women which were reported in 13 major Bangla and English newspapers. We know that an overwhelming majority of cases are never reported to the police because of complex factors including lack of access to justice, insensitive state institutions and patriarchal social norms that insist on blaming victims.
It goes without saying that all women and girls have the right to live free of violence. A state and society that is unable to respect women and children, provide due security and ensure justice cannot claim to be civilised, democratic or inclusive. If we are to effectively address gender-based violence, we need to undertake a multi-faceted approach that not only seeks to sensitise state institutions, institute and implement progressive laws and secure justice, but also works to change embedded patriarchal norms that devalue, disrespect and dehumanise women.
Gender-based violence is not a women only issue, but one that involves us all. Change must begin at home, and the fight for establishing a gender-just society replicated at all spheres of society.