Artistic and definitive factors laboriously impact how women are treated and considered in Bangladesh. Women, adolescents or girls, become the possession of the husband's family after getting married, which determines prospects for schooling and it eternalises dependence and disempowerment. Domestic violence and intolerance are problematic to evaluate; acts of brutality can account for in-court proceedings and police reports. Violence in Bangladesh varies from acid throwing to physical and psychological torment, sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, related violence, trafficking, forced prostitution, suicide, and even murder.
Gender-based violence is the most pervasive structure of human rights infringement that women and girls confront in Bangladesh. The VAW (Violence Against Women) Survey 2015, jointly executed by UNFPA and the BBS, demonstrated that 73 per cent of ever-married women in Bangladesh had encountered roughness by their husbands, 55 per cent conveyed violence, and 50 per cent reported physical violence in their lifetime. The commonness and harshness of GBV (gender-based violence) vary across the country. But its negative effect has explicit links to the overall development of Bangladesh. Violence against women impoverishes individuals, families, communities, and governments, which create barriers to the economic development of a nation. During the COVID-19 period, gender-based violence increased a lot. Now, we are in the 21st century. But still, some of our attitudes are like primitive people. The thoughts regarding women should have to be changed. A proverb is there to combat this: "Unity is Strength".
Marital, psychological and physical abuses are usual, including during pregnancy. Around 14 per cent of maternal deaths result from injury and violence. Data say it is predominantly young women aged 15 to 19 who have a more elevated risk of maternal death due to violence.
Analysis of violence against women- Before and after Covid-19: Violence against women is a powerful social and mental health problem and the most predominant form of human rights violation. Sexual violence contains acts that vary from verbal abuse to forced penetration and several forms of oppression, from social pressure to intimidation to physical force. The recent COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis on a previously remarkable hierarchy. About 35 per cent of women worldwide have encountered physical, intimate sexual partner abuse or sexual vitriol by a non-partner (World Health Organization, 2013).
During the COVID-19 situation, domestic and sexual violence, suicide, stress, mental ailments, depressive disturbances are advancing in Bangladesh. Rape is one of the most ignominious forms of violence against women in Bangladesh. Rapes and sexual aggression happen consistently during the pandemic, both inside and outside the residence in Bangladesh. In a current survey by Manusher Jonno Foundation, 2020 among 38,125 women instructed by a human rights organisation in 53 out of 64 districts in Bangladesh, 4,622 women were found mentally tortured, 1,839 women physically abused and 203 women sexually abused.
During 2001 to 2021, 7919 women were victims of domestic and sexual violence. About 1,790 women were brutally gang-raped, 525 women were killed after rape and 36 women committed suicide after rape.
During the COVID-19 from January to September 2020, 397 women died because of domestic and sexual violence, but only 208 cases were filed. A number of 975 women were raped, 204 women fell victims to rape attempts, 43 women died after rape, 12 women committed suicide after rape. Among them, 762 women were raped by single accused while 208 suffered gang-rape.
Dowry related Violence against women (2001-2021): A victim of rape and sexual brutality bears the psychological, medical, economic, and social scars for the rest of her life. Sufferers of sexual violence encounter multiple social and psychological challenges in Bangladesh.
According to a report of Bangladesh-based human rights group Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), in the first nine months of 2020 a total of 235 women were murdered by their husbands or in-laws. Odhikar, another recognised Bangladesh human rights group, reports that from January 2001 to December 2019, around 3,300 women and girls were murdered over dowry.
Sexual violence against women is augmenting during COVID-19. New incidents of rape have become a nuisance in the country. People across Bangladesh were gathered to oppose rapes in the recent past. During the movement, the government adopted an amendment that stipulates the death penalty in rape cases.
The 1860 Colonial Penal Code stipulated rapes in Bangladesh as a criminal offence punishable. The Cruelty to Women (Deterrent Punishment) Ordinance, 1983 and the amended Nari O Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain 2000 (Prevention of Women and Child Repression Act) stipulated penalties for this shameful act. The sentence is imprisonment for a term of up to ten years or life imprisonment as per Section 376 of the Penal Code 1860.
According to the Women and Children Repression Prevention (amendment) Ordinance 2020, 'Lifetime, Rigorous Imprisonment' in Section 9(1) of the act is substituted by 'Death or Lifetime Rigorous Punishment'. So a rape invites the capital punishment or life-term imprisonment.
The country saw a 93 per cent fall in acid attacks in the recent past as reported by the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF). Acid Control Act 2002 and Acid Crime Prevention Act 2002 have restricted dealings in acid and have stipulated punishment up to death. In 2002, as per ASF records, 494 acid attacks took place and 18 years later in 2020 the number came down to 21.
In Bangladesh, rape, sexual harassment, dowry-related violence, domestic brutality and discrimination against women had been there even before the pandemic. But the situation deteriorated during the pandemic.
Be it pandemic or disaster, we should not be devoid of our morality. Appropriate deterrence and punishment should be there to stem the sexual violence against women. For the security of women, the existing laws should be efficiently handled. Law enforcement agencies need to enforce the laws with integrity, dedication and devotion. We have to empower women and girls and teach them how to protect themselves. It is essential for both men and women to come together and raise their voice against sexual violence against women.
Soma Dhar is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Economics, University of Chittagong, Bangladesh
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