The women in our society go through oppression in innumerable ways. A husband poured inflammable substances on a woman who sought divorce. Another woman was beaten and driven out of home for failing to bring money from her father. A girl was raped at a factory she recently joined. In another case, a girl was raped over a feud centering ownership of a piece of land.
Men are responsible for all the aforementioned incidents. This correspondent talked with the victims. All of them wonder why they became victims of such violence.
High Court sources said the number of under trial cases under the women and child repression act exceeded 150,000 in the country. In 99 women and children repression prevention tribunals in 64 districts, as many as 161,218 cases are pending till 30 June this year. 21 per cent of these cases are under trial for five years although the cases with the tribunal are supposed to be disposed of within 180.
During investigations, delay in getting medical certificates and DNA reports (mandatory in rape case), depositions from physicians, investigation officers and witnesses procrastinate the trial process for years.
One can refer to ‘The Second Sex’ by French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir here. She said men consider themselves as superior and women as inferior. In the book written in 1949, Simone explained how women have been shaped into the “other,” second sex – the negative counterpart to man and blamed this perception for all kinds of repression against women.
In Bangladesh, patriarchal outlook gives rise to violence against women. According to media reports and data from police headquarters, rape and domestic violence are the most prevalent type of violence women face in Bangladesh. According to findings of a study, no cases are filed in 97 per cent cases of domestic violence. Researchers did not find any basis for the commonly held excuse that most of the cases filed under women and children prevention act are fake. The study said 90 per cent rape cases are authentic. Procrastination at taking the complaints, filing cases under wrong sections, failing to provide witnesses and evidence often lead to dismissal of the case.
Against such realities, Bangladesh marks International CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) day on 3 September. The international treaty was adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly and instituted on 3 September 1981. Bangladesh ratified CEDAW in 1984. While ratifying CEDAW, Bangladesh had reservations on four articles. Later on, reservations from two articles were withdrawn but reservations on articles 2 and 16.1(c) remain to this day. Article 2 calls on ratifying states to take policy measures eliminating discrimination against women while article 16 addresses equal rights of women in marriage, family relations, and divorce.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan told Prothom Alo on Saturday that the government is always active in preventing repression against women and children.
Rape cases rife
A 19-year-old woman would work at a panjabi factory in Kamrangichar. Within only 4 days of joining the work, the girl complained she was raped inside the factory on 21 August. The details of the incident were learnt during a visit to One-Stop Crisis Center (OCC) in Dhaka Medical College Hospital on 28 August. The woman’s husband, who pulls a rickshaw van, said his wife wanted to go home during lunch break like as others but the factory owner asked her to sweep the floor. Later the factory owner raped the woman inside the factory.
OCC’s coordinator Afroza Begum said the medical examinations found evidence of rape.
The government on 13 October in 2020 approved the death penalty as punishment for rape, after widespread protests in response to several gang rape cases. But the incident of rape did decrease due to such measure
A girl from Savar was admitted to the OCC. Miscreants broke into the house of the girl dead at the night and raped her tying her hand. The miscreants made the family members unconscious and looted the house. The victim’s brother told Prothom Alo on 28 August the family had a feud over a piece of land with a former member of union parishad. The victim’s family believes the incident was planned.
The government on 13 October in 2020 approved the death penalty as punishment for rape, after widespread protests in response to several gang rape cases. But the incident of rape did decrease due to such measure. According to information with the police headquarters, over 19 thousand cases were filed under the act in 2022 and over 18 thousand in just the first seven months in this year.
Less cases, more incidents
A woman in Dhaka told this correspondent that the process is on to sell a piece of her father’s land. The woman’s husband asked her to give a major portion of money once the land is sold. At loggerheads over the issue, the husband beat up the woman with a club in the last week of July.
A 2020 study titled ‘Criminal justice system status quo and recommendation for domestic violence victims in Bangladesh’ revealed that 87 per cent women of Bangladesh faced domestic violence--physical, mental, economic or sexual.
Another study in the same year styled ‘Hidden sexual victimization in Bangladesh’ found that 60 per cent school and college going girls in the country became raped or victim of sexual violence by relatives, neighbors, classmates or teacher at some stage of their lives. Although going through the torment, 80 per cent among rich respondents and 70 per cent among the middle and lower class victims did not complain to police.
An unpublished study in collaboration with Dhaka Metropolitan Police showed the incidents of rape take place due to socioeconomic context, cheating and luring for better life.
Muhammad Omar Faruk, chairman of Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University’s criminology and police science department, led all three studies. He said women don’t want to complain due to fear of being more harassed in society and lack of effective safety measures in the legal structure. The rate of verdict in rape case is less than 4 per cent. Weaknesses in investigation and case management lead to dismissal of many cases. Pretext of 10 per cent fake cases are used as reference to weaken the rest of 90 per cent cases. These all factors encourage the miscreants more.
Mother of the woman who was burnt by her husband told Prothom Alo on 31 August said, “I won’t send my daughter to that house. My daughter's dower is Tk 800,000. I told them that I don’t need the money. Let my daughter live.”
‘Govt’s initiative inadequate’
There are committees from national to union level to prevent repression against women under the leadership of the ministry of women and children affairs. The members of these committees said law enforcement and drug situations get importance at the meetings of these committees held every month. The issue of violence against women seldom gets discussed in the meetings.
Professor Muhammad Omar Faruk thinks the government initiatives are inadequate in preventing violence against women. Patriarchal mindset in every sphere should be changed and the victims should get justice quickly. A separate law should be made for reparation of the victims from the criminals.
The ministry’s project titled ‘Multi sectoral programme on violence against woman’ is going to end this year. The staff of the project are therefore more concerned about their jobs than ensuring service.
Project director and MoWCA’s additional secretary Asma Akter Jahan told Prothom Alo that although the project is about to end there is no laxity in the work. The activities in preventing violence against women and children are going on in full force.
But professor Muhammad Omar Faruk thinks the government initiatives are inadequate in preventing violence against women. Patriarchal mindset in every sphere should be changed and the victims should get justice quickly. A separate law should be made for reparation of the victims from the criminals. The state and the persons involved will compensate the victims under this law.