Violence against women on rise
Despite massive campaigns, violence against women has increased over the past few years in the country, with dowry becoming a major contributor, according to two development organisations.
Worse still, the form of violence has been more horrifying and brutal than the past, said Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, citing that the number of rapes was 307 in 2008; 393 in 2009; 593 in 2010; 635 in 2011; 508 in 2012; 696 in 2013, and 544 in the last 10 months this year.
"Rape has been a major tool of violence, and women are being tortured brutally before and after rape," Ayesha Khanom, president of the parishad, told a press conference at Jatiya Press Club in the capital. "The perpetrators do it to strike fear into people's minds," she said.
A culture of impunity, bias by law enforcers and administration, social and political unrest, drug addiction and a lack of awareness are major contributors to the rise in the violence, she added, and described the trend as a reflection of criminality in social and political arenas.
Separately, Khan Foundation revealed a survey report, showing that out of 806 cases on trafficking and violence against women and children in the last 10 months this year, 197 were dowry-related violence.
The cases were reported in 17 districts where the foundation is implementing a project on the issue. “Every year many young women commit suicide or face physical torture after marriage,” said Nausheen Khan, research associate of Khan Foundation.
She presented a paper on this at a seminar, “Fighting trafficking and violence against women and children: Overcoming road bumps in Khan Foundation's journey”, in a city hotel.
The foundation also reported 80 incidents of physical and mental torture, 32 of child marriage, 42 of trafficking, and 10 incidents of stalking.
The trends in trafficking are gradually changing, Nausheen said. Women and children are used by the traffickers for smuggling of goods or drugs across the border, she added.
Dutch Ambassador Gerben Sjoerd de Jong and UNAIDS country director Leo Kenny also spoke.
Meanwhile, in a written statement, Mahila Parishad Director (advocacy and lobby) Maksuda Akhter Laily placed a 20-point recommendation to end violence against women.
These include formulation of a national policy and a comprehensive plan of action, amendments to and strict enforcement of existing laws, women's easy access to justice, implementation of the women development policy, and an increase in the budget for victim support centres.
The others include creation of a community watch group to check child marriage, inclusion of contents on puberty-related issues in textbooks, and conducting of awareness campaigns.
Laily also emphasised a more active role of administration and law enforcers for bringing the perpetrators to justice.
"Everyone will have to work to end violence against women," she said, adding that it was necessary for the overall development of the country.
At the conference, the parishad unveiled a two-week programme marking the international fortnightly campaign for elimination of violence against women and Human Rights Day. The campaign includes discussions, rallies, awareness building, and rendition of folk songs.