Poverty, male domination blamed for violence against women

The Indepdendent, 12 June 2002

The culture of patriarchal domination over women is one of the major causes of violence against women in the country leading to human rights abuses hindering national development and damaging economic potential of women.

But because of lacunae in the investigation and charge-sheet procedures, 88 per cent of the offenders cannot be brought to book though there are a number of laws in the country for protecting women from violence.

These facts were revealed at a workshop on “Violence Against Women: International and Bangladesh Context”, organised by the South-South Centre, Bangladesh, at the BRAC Centre INN in the city yesterday.

Minister for Women and Children Affairs Khurshid Jahan Haque was present in the inaugural function as the chief guest while UNFPA Representative in Bangladesh Suneeta Mukharjee as the special guest. M Fazlur Rahman, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, presided over the opening session.

The Chairperson of NGO Coalition on Beijing Plus Five, a coalition of 626 NGOs, Salma Khan presented the keynote paper in the business session moderated by the Editor of The Independent, Mahbubul Alam.

The other discussants at the technical session were : Dr Dina Siddiqi, Senior Associate, Women Studies Centre of the University of Pennsylvania, Adv Salma Ali, the Executive Director of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers°« Association, Shaheen Anam, co-ordinator of IFSP, CARE Bangladesh, and Dr Abul Barkat, a professor of economics of Dhaka University.

The workshop identified the factors leading to torture on women. These are: poverty, male domination and control over decision-making in the families and societies, economic inequality between men and women, cultural tradition of subjugation of women and lack of empowerment of women.

Of these, the patriarchal culture of domination over women is the major cause of violence against women in Bangladesh, the keynote speaker said adding the extent of torture on women in Bangladesh and the western developed countries, including USA and Canada, is almost similar.

The workshop was informed that Bangladesh stands second in the world in terms of violence against women in different forms like women battering, wife beating, domestic and dowry-related violence, acid attack, rape, physical and verbal harassment, fatwa, sexual harassment in workplace, trafficking and prostitution, polygamy and child abuse.

The proportion of violence against women is: suicide 30 per cent, rape 28 per cent, physical torture 26 per cent, acid throwing 1.5 per cent, trafficking in women and children 3.1 per cent, and dowry-related incidents 9.5 per cent.

About the national loss due to women°«s inaccessibility to health facilities, the speakers said it is estimated that anaemia among women alone causes a loss of $ five billion in agricultural production over a period of ten years, a result of social practices based on lower value placed on a girl°«s life, discriminatory distribution of foods, and systematic violence against women.

Adv Salma Ali blamed corruption in the judiciary and criminalisation of politics for the failure to contain violence against women.

Dina Siddiqui said the causes of violence against women should be analysed from the historical point of view in the age of globalisation.

Shaheen Anam stressed the need for close co-operation between government and non-government bodies, the civil society and common people to stop violence against women.

Dr Abul Barakat called for ensuring equality and empowerment of women adding that socio-economic and political rights of women must be established to rescue them from the vicious cycle.