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10 December, 2019 10:47:18 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 10 December, 2019 10:47:41 AM
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Let us break the jinx of gender-based violence

The number indicates one person has been raped every six hours in Bangladesh in the first nine months of the year
Sourav Banerjee
Let us break the jinx of gender-based violence

Eleven hundred and fifteen. This is the number of women and girl children raped in nine months between January and September this year according to a report by Ain o Salish Kendra. The number indicates one person has been rapedevery six hours in Bangladesh in nine months.  The fact that adds to this grim statistics is that the numbers only reflect the reported incidents of rapes across the country and that many such incidents of violence against women and children remain unreported across the country.  Of these survivors, children belonging to the age group between 7 and 18 have been identified as among the most vulnerable. The report states that 849 of the survivors suffered rapes while 251 were subjected to separate incidents of gang rapes.
Even in October, the trend continued as 183 rapes and 465 incidents of violence against women and girls have been recorded, portrays data presented by Bangladesh MahilaParishad. While the country is posting significant progress in inclusive social and financial development, such dire statistics put obstacles to its path of progress. According to a survey by UN Women, gender-based violence or violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that affects one in three women in their lifetime. In most cases, the perpetrators are intimate partners or relatives.

In Bangladesh, more than one in five girls and women aged 15-49 experience sexual violence by partners while more than three per cent experience non-partner sexual violence, as estimated by UNICEF.

Increased number of girls aged 15 or more experience sexual violence during their lifetime in Rajshahi, Rangpur and Khulna divisions where the rate of early marriages is higher than other places

Violence impairs brain development of children and leads them to form depression and anxiety. They even develop suicidal tendencies in some cases.

While family should be the first point of contact where voices should be raised against abuse and violence, women and girls kept facing increased levels of discrimination and violence by close partners or relatives.

In order to cure the society from this malady of violence, among various factors, ensuring gender equality is of paramount importance. For this, ensuring participation of women in employment, social security, politics, financial management control and decision making, and facilitating their advancement need to be ensured.

Bangladesh secured second position among South-Asian countries in ensuring gender equality as per the Global Gender Gap Report published by World Economic Forum for 2018.

While this gives an impressive picture about the country’s initiatives on gender inclusion, the latest Women, Peace and Security Index for 2019-2020, published jointly by Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security, and the Peace Research Institute Oslo ranks Bangladesh 142nd among 167 countries. The performance of the country took a severe hit here as it slipped 15 steps from the earlier rank of 127th in 2017.

These statistics show that a sustainable framework is yet to be established for ensuring a safe environment for the women and children where they can flourish free from threats and intimidation.  

Although the government of Bangladesh has formulated and passed the National Plan of Action, and National Women Development Policy 2011, proper implementation and awareness about these guidelines are yet to take a graduated shape to come up with proper results.

According to a data by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics for 2014, more than 3.8 million women between 20 and 24 years were married off before they reached the age of 18. The situation has changed slightly at present with a marginal higher rate of progress in urban areas. In this context, the government of Bangladesh has introduced Child Marriage Restraint Act-2017.

With the law in effect, various socio-cultural organisations as well as NGOs have ingested renewed thrust in communities to encourage guardians to refrain from early marriages of their children. The union parishad authorities as well as the other local-government authorities at field levels have much higher rates of interventions now to foil attempts at early marriages of children now. The government has also introduced emergency helpline 999 and dedicated toll-free helpline 109 to see seek help if someone faces and witness violence against women and children.

Speedy-trial tribunals have also been introduced to ensure swift completion of cases.

To strengthen the judicial process, it is high time people come forward and ensure their participation. If someone witnesses violence against women or children, the incident should be reported through government channels so that help can reach the aggrieved.

Stress should be given on empowering people with knowledge of what to do and so that they do not remain silent. Silence is a curse that can engulf a society through creating the tradition of impunity for the perpetrators. Whenever a perpetrator finds that legal action or justice is not mandated, that person becomes confident in committing crimes and that tradition must stop.

The tradition of victim-shaming must also stop. If the message can be established that a woman’s dress or look or postures are no way the justifying reasons behind a rape, women and children will feel rather confident.

Rather than leaving our women and children behind, active focus should be given on educating them. Their participation should be ensured not only in the primary but in the tertiary level as well. Education is a key to empowering the women and children and it will help them in the in the long run to establish their voices in the society.

To address violence against women and children, BRAC, like many other organisations, works in creating awareness among community people and empower them by developing a participatory prevention mechanism, strengthening  protection for vulnerable groups and ensuring survivor support services.

For this the organization mobilise sits workforce through different programmes to engage men and boys in different learning and skills activities, supportlocal-government institutions, ensure access to physical and psychological support and legal aid services. It also provides skills training for alleviation of poverty and reintegration of survivors of detriment.

As part of its commitment to reducing gender-based violence against women and children, like previous years, BRAC is observing the 16 days of activism to stand against gender-based violence.

The campaign was initiated by activists in 1991 at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute, and continues to be coordinated each year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership.

The initiative is used as an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and children.

The writer is Communications Specialist Rights and Empowerment Portfolio Lead at BRAC Communications

SHK

 

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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.

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