Sunday, 29 January, 2023

We Must Unite to Stop Violence against Women

Dr Matiur Rahman

We Must Unite to Stop Violence against Women
Dr Matiur Rahman

"International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women" is observed every year on 25 November to prevent violence against women. The day is celebrated internationally to encourage people from all walks of life to protest and avoid violence against women. On 17 November 1999, the United Nations General Assembly declared 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Women constitute almost half of the world's total population, and their contribution to the development of society is undeniable. But still, women are not equal to men in terms of peace, security and rights. The world is moving forward; social structures are changing, and people's lifestyles are also changing, but violence against women does not stop.

According to the World Health Organization, one in three women experiences physical, psychological or sexual violence at some point in their life. Two out of every three women are victims of domestic violence by their husbands, friends, or members of the opposite sex. Most abused women do not speak up against abuse for fear of social and public shame.

Violence against women has become an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace, and the realization of women's human rights. Above all, without ending violence against women and girls, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) commitment to "leave no one behind" is impossible.

From 25 November, worldwide awareness raising through various programs on violence against women will continue until World Human Rights Day on 10 December. Through government and private initiatives in Bangladesh, women and human rights organizations will carry out various programs through various events. This year the theme of the day is "UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls".

Violence against women is a major social problem in Bangladesh, constantly increasing in various ways and forms. It is a sad fact that many women and girls are killed every year due to such violence because they can't talk about it openly, or they're not allowed to speak. Even after torture, they have to remain under pressure.

Women are oppressed for various reasons, including poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy. Unable to meet the dowry demands, many women's lives have become miserable. Existing laws on dowry, child marriage, polygamy, divorce and other related issues are not adequately enforced. Moreover, ordinary people are not aware of these laws.

Another reason for violence against women is society's negative attitude towards girls and women. Women are being abused both within their own families and outside the family. Many women do not want to tell their families about the violence, and it can be seen that the family often blames the abused woman. Many women victims of violence in the existing social system cannot seek legal recourse even if they want to. Many women are forced to bear these tortures thinking about family and children.

A recently published survey by the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad shows that in 2021 there were 810 rapes, 225 organized rapes, 192 rape attempts, 96 cases of molestation and sexual harassment and 114 dowry-related incidents and issues. Women (above 18 years) and girls (below 18 years) were more victims of rape, and girls were more victims of rape than women.

Twenty-two per cent of girls aged 10 to 13 have been molested and sexually harassed and 22 per cent of women between 18 and 22 generally suffered more dowry violence. Among girls, students of class VI-X are more victims of sexual abuse.

Homemakers are more victimized than working women, and this rate is 83 per cent for dowry. This study refers to girls below 18 years of age and women above 18 years of age. The report also mentions various types and numbers of violence against women.

Another report revealed that in October this year (2022), 368 incidents of violence against women and children occurred in the country, including 61 incidents of rape. Seventy-one people, including 4 children, 22 teenagers and 45 women, have committed suicide this month. Four children and a woman have been kidnapped. On the other hand, 1 child, 7 teenagers and 3 women are missing. In addition, 89 children, adolescents and women were killed, including 14 unnatural deaths. It is to note that it is only reported data, but many cases are unrevealed.

The above data show a terrible picture of violence against women in Bangladesh. However, experts believe that violence against women can be prevented. Regular meetings, seminars and workshops should be organized in every area to create public opinion. Moreover, steps should be taken to make everyone aware of the impact of violence against women. Civil society, religious leaders and other conscious persons should extend a helping hand to the victims of violence. NGOs can organize street plays, alternative media and mass education campaigns/programs to reduce violence against women.

Government, private, and civil society organizations should emphasize women's human rights and education. Helping victims of violence get appropriate legal aid, counselling and additional support. Counselling and education sessions should be arranged for men to make them aware of women's human rights. A balanced and healthy relationship between men and women should be broadcasted through television media instead of stereotyped relationships. Proper enforcement of the Dowry Prevention Act should be ensured. Girls should be trained in life skills to save themselves in their personal life.

Poverty and discrimination eradication and mass awareness education programs should be strengthened to reduce violence against women. Media can play an influential role in this end. Appropriate programs should be conducted to change the mindset and behaviour of male members in the family and society. Law enforcement agencies and service providers must be more sympathetic to the victim and more rigid toward the perpetrator.

A comprehensive advocacy program must be undertaken to change the attitude and behaviour of men. Political parties should include prevention and protection agendas of violence against women in their election manifestos. Form an active alliance with government, non-governmental and grassroots representatives to prevent violence against women.

Building a robust 'social support system' is essential to prevent violence against women. Teachers and parents should be informed about sexual harassment and online safety at the school and college levels, and textbooks should include topics on online harassment. Making complaints about online harassment easier and more women-friendly is essential. Cyber bullying laws should be tightened in violent cases through social media, including Facebook, YouTube, etc. Online violence prevention against women and children should be specific to one platform instead of multiple platforms. A massive public awareness campaign is needed to prevent online violence against women.

Besides, we must change our attitude to take the above initiatives to prevent violence against women. Out improved and balanced attitudes towards women can prevent violence against women. Through this, women will get the remedy of violence, and a beautiful society free of violence will be developed. Therefore, everyone should unite to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls.


The writer is a researcher and development worker