Ethnic women of the country are more vulnerable to domestic violence at their own home as well as outside the home. Though they frequently face violence and tortures but do not raise voice due to the long-practicing customs.
A recent study shows that about 44 percent ethnic women in the Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT) face domestic violence at least once in their lifetime and of them, women of 82 percent cases are tortured in the hands of their husbands.The study titled “Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Access to Justice for The Ethnic Women and Girls in CHT” says about 33 percent faced physical violence, while 38 percent experienced mental torture, 19 percent went through economic oppression and 5 percent faced sexual violence.
The study was carried out on 1,171 women of ethnic groups, including Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Tanchangya, Mro, Bawm, Khumi and others in three hill districts Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachhari from March to April last year.
Changla Mro (not real name), a 26-year-old woman of Mro ethic group living in a remote area of Ruma upazila in Bandarban, is often tortured by her husband.
“My husband is a dipsomaniac. He regularly drinks a lot of locally-made wine. When my husband drinks a lot, he loses his control and beats up me mercilessly starting quarrel even in a small issue. And it is happening everyday in my life,” Changla said.
“And I am bearing the brunt of his torture. Sometimes, I think I should get separated to get relief from his torture. But I cannot do so due to my two minor children,” she said.
Kangchag Mro, another woman of ethic community, said ethnic women frequently face violence and tortures in their families but do not raise voice due to the long-practicing customs.“When we go out for works, we also face economic oppression, inequality and violence by both Bengali and ethnic community men. We experience both domestic violence at home and physical violence outside the home,” she added.
Like Changla and Kangchag, a huge number of women of ethnic minority groups in the Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT) experience domestic violence in their locality every day.
Presenting the findings of the study at a recent function here, anthropology professor at Jahangirnagar University Dr Ainoon Naher said economic insolvent women having no education and those subjected to early marriage and family members of alcohol addicts, were the most vulnerable to domestic violence.
She said about 52 percent of the ethic women, who were surveyed, experienced gender-based-violence in public transport, on the roads or in the public gathering places and both Bengali and ethnic community men were widely accused of their accounts.
Dr Naher said the women were victimised through touching or attempting to touch their bodies, throwing objects to sensitive parts of their bodies, getting sexually indicative languages, suggestive songs and whistling, and men’s standing too close to them.
Over 45 percent women experienced multiple forms of violence at workplaces and/or at educational institutions, 61 percent felt most vulnerable at marketplaces, 45 percent at crop fields, 6 percent in educational institutions, and 3 percent in offices, according the study.
Local goons, influential people, colleagues, ex-husbands or unknown persons were found the main perpetrators during the study. According to 70 percent women, the perpetrators came from other ethnic groups than their own.
The study also found that women from ethnic communities only seek remedies through the formal justice system for grave cases, mostly for rape or severe physical torture.
Only three percent went to court, while 35 percent survivors and their families approached the traditional justice system, 28 percent approached Union Parishad and 14 percent sought justice through local or community salish (village arbitration council).
Speaking at the event, Jesmin Ara Begum, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, said in most cases, witnesses are reluctant to come to the court due to lack of safety.
At the same time, she said, due to the power and position of perpetrators, an overwhelming majority of the cases are settled out of court in exchange for money.