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9 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Ensuring Equal Rights For Women

IMRUL HOQUE
Ensuring Equal Rights For Women

Since the beginning of civilisation, the contribution of women to society is indelible. But unfortunately, women’s contribution is hardly equitably evaluated, or at least, unambiguously recognised. The African proverb _ until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter _ vividly portrays the reason behind discounting their role.

In his essay ‘Narir Mulya’ (Value of Women), writer Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay explored the negative attitude towards women in a male-dominated society throughout history. A 5,000-year-old defunct law codified that “if a wife hates her husband and says, ‘Thou art not my husband’, into the river they shall throw her;  if a husband says to his wife, ‘Thou art not my wife’, half a mina of silver he shall weigh out to her and let her go”. This draconian law shows what indignity women had to face in ancient times.

Saint Bernard, an illustrious churchman of medieval age, once wrote a letter to his mother: “What have I to do with you? What have I received from you but sin and misery? Is it not enough for you that you have brought me into this miserable world…..” Such condemnable outlook was just the tip of the iceberg.

Allowing women to participate in politics was a rarity in those days. Even Napoleon Bonaparte once told Madam de Condorcet, “Madame, I do not like woman to meddle with politics.” A person with sharp acumen, Madam de Condorcet replied: “You are right General, but in a country where it is the custom to cut off the heads of women, it is natural that they should wish to know the reason, why.”

The scenario has changed little, even in the 21st Century. Without rhyme or reason, women are ruthlessly subjected to financial discrimination, income disparity, mental torment, physical assault and domestic violence. Such behaviour could instantly generate a tempest of protest. But the society is so oblivious that the memory of these cruel misdeeds gradually evaporates.

As a result, the perpetrators of these offences sometimes not only elude trial and punishment, but they also intimidate the hapless victims with dire consequences. Jibanananda Das provided an impeccable picture of the influence of these people in his poem ‘Advut Adhar Ek’ (A Strange Darkness): A strange darkness has come upon the world today. They who are most blind now see. Those whose hearts lack love, lack warmth, lack pity's stirrings. Without their fine advice, the world today dare not make a move.

As a matter of fact, violence against women is prevalent throughout the world. Almost one in every three women worldwide experiences either physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in her life, according to World Health Organisation.

The situation in Bangladesh is not satisfactory, either. Incidents of physical repression, domestic violence, violence over dowry, etc, precariously increased in 2017, compared to 2016, as per the annual report of Ain O Salish Kendra, a rights organisation.

According to Quarterly Labour Force Survey 2015-16, published by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, women make up almost half of our population. But women’s participation in the labour force is only 35.6 percent, while that of men is 81.9 percent, the survey reveals. Unfortunately, two-thirds of employed women are on the vicious category of vulnerable employment. Our ambitious plan to be a developed nation may not see light unless women are integrated in education and provided equal opportunities in employment.

Today’s world leaders are more committed to promoting equal status and dignity, empowering women from diverse perspectives, and preventing discrimination and violence. Goal 5 of Sustainable Development Goals categorically endorses gender equality and women’s empowerment. It calls for providing women and girls with equal access to education, healthcare, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes. Besides, due to constitutional obligations, Bangladesh strives to ensure equality of opportunity and participation of women in all spheres of national life.

To conclude, the train of thoughts deeply embedded in our social fabric must change in order to annihilate all sorts of negligence, injustice and oppression towards women. Depriving women of their inherent rights and equal opportunities is definitely the stumbling block to our collective and conclusive prosperity and sustainable development.

The rebellious poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam, eloquently eulogised women and dignified their importance in his poem ‘Nari’ (Women) saying: “All the great victories of the world and all grand voyages, gained grandeur for the sacrifice of mothers, sisters and wives.” n

The writer is a student of Economics at University of Dhaka.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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