Violence against women is a violation of basic human rights, but we still witness different forms of gender-based violence worldwide.
Deep-rooted societal norms, social stigma, religious fundamentalism and patriarchal culture are responsible for the prevalence of gender-based violence in Bangladesh.
According to Human Development Report (2020), 54.2 per cent of women aged 15 years and old witnessed violence by intimate partners, and 3 per cent of women witnessed violence by a non-intimate partner.
Since Bangladesh witness frequent natural disasters every year, many people lose their homes and migrate elsewhere. Displacement of the populace owing to adverse climatic events triggers vulnerability and insecurity in the context of socio-economic well-being.
Each year, extensive river erosion coupled with cyclonic disasters and salinity intrusion led to more climate displacements in Bangladesh. After natural disasters, there is a growing trend of women being subjected to violence.
A qualitative study has been conducted among the disaster-induced displaced communities in 5 Upazilas of two districts namely Shariatpur and Satkhira.
The study found that displacement of the populace owing to adverse climatic events triggers vulnerability and insecurity in the context of socio-economic well-being. Each year, extensive river erosion coupled with cyclonic disasters and salinity intrusion led to more climate displacements in Bangladesh.
After natural disasters, there is a growing trend of women being subjected to violence. Violence in families escalates during any natural disaster, especially gender-based violence, because of the financial crisis.
Economic crisis and financial insecurity are common reasons for gender-based violence.
Displacement as a result of natural disasters is a common occurrence in coastal areas that causes many other issues for displaced people.
Men often find it difficult to find work in new places as most of the places they go for settlement is impoverished. Due to such adversity, they tend to be frustrated and distressed, which as a result, lead to violence against women in their families.
In disaster-prone communities, dowry is another significant factor behind violence against women. The major cause for prevalent dowry practices, along with existing societal customs, is abject poverty.
Those who lose their homes and other possessions due to a disaster put pressure on their spouses to get money from their families.
Also, women in coastal areas are subjected to a wide spectrum of violence. They, particularly married women, are the most extreme victims of physiological assault.
Physical violence against women is also frequent with most cases perpetrated by their spouses or in-laws.
Women often do not object to this due to fear, shame, or other social factors. Sexual violence is more common among young unmarried women and disabled women. Most of the families have faced difficulties adapting to a new place after being displaced, especially building new shelters and looking for new jobs.
The study also found that child marriage is a common phenomenon in disaster-prone areas. Moreover, child marriage has adverse effects on women's physical and mental health of the child bride. It often leads to death, the leading cause of which is early pregnancy.
The main reasons for child marriage are the economic condition and prevailing social norms of the family, mentioned by the respondents.
The study recommends that Bangladesh, like other countries, needs to establish a specialised government-based monthly and yearly report on the displacement situation.
Publishing reports on a monthly and annual basis assists responsible officials and researchers learn about the situation of the dislocated people, comparing and contrasting it with previous displaced situations to develop a strategy for future decisions, and portraying Bangladesh's stairways against displacement to the rest of the world.
In addition, the report on the displacement scenario covers the development project's progress as well as forthcoming regulations on disaster-induced displacements.
After disasters, protecting women and girls must be included in the overall context of gender aspects in disaster response.
One of the numerous effects of the disasters that can be mitigated by better gender-sensitive disaster management would also reduce the susceptibility of girls and women to violence.
To address post-disaster violence, disaster management must take a broader, gendered perspective, taking into account the complexity of needs of women during and after a disaster.
Md. Shakhawat Hossain, Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies at University of Dhaka
Arifur Rahaman, Department of Sociology, University of Dhaka
[The study was funded by Share-Net Bangladesh, an international knowledge-sharing platform, which actively work on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) among many other areas. Share-Net Bangladesh organized The 6th SRHR Knowledge Fair in Gulshan Dhaka where the study was presented among much other scholarly research.]