Violence against women: Reluctance in seeking legal remedy 

Prothom Alo illustration

The brother of a woman who was abused by her husband occasionally contacts this correspondent and shares the suffering of his sister. This correspondent also spoke with the woman, aged 37. Since her marriage in 2020, she has been enduring continuous torture.

This abuse has been inflicted on her sometimes for dowry demands, and other times over trivial issues. In 2021, when she was 9 months pregnant, her child died in the womb due to beatings by her husband. Despite these traumatic experiences, she avoided filing a case due to fear of her family breaking up. 

Finally, on 25 July, the police arrived at the woman's residence in the Kachukhet area of the capital after she informed them of the extreme torture she had endured. Subsequently, on 28 July, she filed a case under the Prevention of Women and Child Repression Act at Kafrul Police Station. 

After enduring three and a half years of torture, the woman has now filed a case.

However, another woman is still awaiting the resolution of her dispute. On the night of 27 June of last year, the husband, a former police officer from the intelligence branch, along with her two stepsons, physically assaulted her and kicked her out of their house. Ashulia police intervened, rescuing the woman from the road and taking her home.

Unfortunately, after a few hours, her husband and stepsons evicted her once again. Speaking to Prothom Alo on Wednesday, the woman stated that she has sought refuge at her relatives' house. The village arbitrator summoned her husband, but he did not appear. The woman was in tears while talking to the correspondent. 

According to criminologists and police, one of the most underreported cases of violence against women involves domestic violence. Women who are socially and economically disadvantaged often refrain from seeking legal remedy to address the abuse, fearing a disruption in their families. The intensity of the torture they endure tends to escalate. Instances of rape and sexual harassment also rise due to the perpetuation of this dishonorable treatment of women within households. 

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Today, on 24 August, 'Violence Against Women Prevention Day' is being observed, as it is every year, to advocate for an end to all forms of violence against women in Bangladesh. Women's organisations initiated the observance 28 years ago in memory of the rape and murder of teenager Yasmin. On this day in 1995, while Yasmin was traveling by bus from Dhaka to Dinajpur in the early morning, she was raped and killed by three policemen. In 2004, these three policemen were executed. 

Yasmin's mother, Sharifa Begum, works as a domestic worker in two households in Dinajpur. She resides with her husband and two sons. Yasmin was her eldest child. Sharifa Begum informed Prothom Alo yesterday that currently, no organisation has contacted them regarding the observance of this day. She has arranged a milad and plans to provide meals to orphans at home today. 

Cases of domestic violence are high 

From January to July this year, the National Emergency Service 999 received 15,952 calls about abuse of women and children. Of them, 13,370 are of domestic violence. Apart from this, 714 are of sexual harassment, 686 of rape, 578 of murder, 333 of attempted rape, 263 of torture due to dowry and 8 of acid violence. 

Anwar Sattar, the spokesperson for the National Emergency Service 999, informed Prothom Alo that all those victims have received emergency services. In instances of domestic violence, women often call the police to their homes. However, due to prevailing societal circumstances, they might refrain from filing a case at a later stage. Additionally, in numerous households where cases of frequent abuse occur, the police might be disinclined to make repeated visits.  

Professor Muhammad Umar Farooq of Department of Criminology and Policing, Maulana Bhasani University of Science and Technology has done his PhD on 'Domestic Violence’. He said that only 1.1 per cent cases of domestic violence are filed while 2.6 per cent of cases are mediated through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and arbitrators. Most of them resolve the dispute by themselves. 

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Humaira Parveen, the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of the Women Support and Investigation Department of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, conveyed to Prothom Alo that the police initiates investigations and enacts measures solely upon the lodging of a formal case. Numerous victims are uninformed about the process of pursuing legal action. Moreover, a significant number of individuals choose not to pursue the case even after initially filing it. Furthermore, in cases of domestic violence, mediation tends to be more prevalent than resorting to legal proceedings. 

Muhammad Umar Farooq stated that women often refrain from filing cases due to the absence of genuine respect for women within both the family and society, leaving them with little hope for receiving justice. A specific subset of men display vindictive and aggressive behavior towards women stemming from sexual arousal and deep-seated hostility.

Thus, it is imperative to establish an environment that prioritizes sensitivity towards women within families and society, streamline the protracted judicial procedures, and effectively combat women's abuse. Failure to do so would potentially embolden criminals.

This sentiment was echoed in the words of the woman who lodged a case against her husband. She shared with Prothom Alo yesterday that her husband was apprehended in connection with the case, yet he secured bail within a mere three days. She posed the question, "Does this mean he won't face any punishment?" 

As for the other woman who sought refuge with her relatives, she expressed, "Could you possibly help me? This is my second marriage. I would feel profoundly ashamed if this was to break up as well."