Speaking at the meeting, the discussants said that the government is committed to decrease gender violence in the country by 2030 in accordance to the Sustainable Development Goals and the National Plan of Action. Government and non-government initiatives must be carried out at all levels of society in order to implement this.
Human rights activist and former caretaker government advisor Sultana Kamal, addressing the roundtable, said gender violence is related to women’s reproductive health. The responsibility of birth control invariably falls upon a woman. But she doesn’t have the right to take any decision. This culture is still prevalent in society. The matter must be viewed from the point of a woman’s personal right.
Joint secretary of the health and family planning ministry (planning) Md Abdus Salam Khan said despite many problems, the country’s reproductive health services have advanced considerably. But a project must be taken up to implement a woman’s own rights. Alongside government efforts, non-government initiatives are required too.
Director (maternal and child health), family planning directorate and line director (MCRAH), Mohammad Sharif, said that we have many shortcomings. But many countries do not have what we have got at the upazila level in the health sector, including community clinics. Women are still neglected in society. Violence is still on a rise. The family planning campaigns are inadequate. An increase in child marriage means an increase in maternal mortality. An increase in maternal mortality means an increase in infant mortality. One is linked with the other. Coordinated efforts will be more effective.
Pathfinder Fund’s senior country director and project director of USAID’s Shukhi Jibon project, Caroline Crosby said, we all have one goal and that is to stop violence against women in Bangladesh. There are some alarming data in certain areas. People of all sectors and strata must come forward together to ensure family planning and reproductive health services and to prevent gender violence. The government is committed to this. International agencies are also working in this regard. But this work must be given further impetus.
Family planning is generally seen to be entirely a matter pertaining to women, observed Tania Haque, professor of women and gender studies at Dhaka University. She said, the excuse is used that a man’s work capacity will fall, he has to earn a living, and so birth control matters are placed upon women. Women have the responsibility, but not the rights. Yet men are a part of this. More research is needed to break this patriarchy.
Men’s participation in family planning has to be increased, said the line director of the family planning directorate’s family planning field services delivery programme, Md Aminul Islam, adding that it was mostly women who adopted birth control. Men are less involved.
Deputy director of the family planning directorate’s IEM unit, Zakia Akhter, said only two of the easily available birth control methods in the country are for men. The rest are for women. If men extend their support, a woman’s reproductive health will improve and violence against women will decrease.
Family planning services are failing to adequatelty meet the demand, said assistant director of the family planning directorate Md Rafiqul Islam Talukdar. He said a woman has to rely on a man about when she is to marry, when she is to have a child, when she will use birth control and so on.
USAID’s Bangladesh project management specialist (SBCC) Lisa Talukdar said that the actual state of violence against women in the country is far worse than the available figures. She said emphasis must be placed on behavioural changes in society, changes which are difficult. These matters are not discussed within the families much.
USAID’s Bangladesh project management specialist (SBCC) Samina Chowdhury said society views a woman’s reproduction as a commodity. It is this attitude that leads to violence against women. Efforts must be made to change this attitude.
Fatema Shabnam, adolescent and youth specialist of USAID’s Shukhi Jibon project, said that after birth, a woman faces violence at one stage of her life or another. The Shukhi Jibon project was working with the government on reproductive health and to reduce violence against women.
At the roundtable it was said that according to UNFPA 2019 records, a total of 214 million women around the world want to prevent pregnancy, but fail to do so due to the lack of birth control methods. Such methods do not reach them. Every day 830 women die of preventable maternal health causes. Every day 33,000 girls are forced into child marriage. One in every five women is victim of violence by her partner.
Presenting the keynote, USAID Sukhi Jibon project’s gender manager Shamima Parveen said, many men do not like their wives taking birth control measures. This is often an excuse for gender violence. Women between the age of 18 and 35 are mostly subject to such violence. There is a link between a woman’s age and family planning as well as reproductive health. Over 90 per cent of the women using birth control methods are between 18 and 35.
Prothom Alo’s associate editor Abdul Quayum made the opening presentation at the roundtable. The event was moderated by Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Choudhury.