'Change of mindset to prevent gender-based violence'

Building resistance was stressed during discussion on ‘Prevention of Violence against Women: Current situation, challenges and way ahead’

Speakers at the roundtable organised by ActionAid Bangladesh at Prothom Alo office in the capital on Saturday, on the occasion of '16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence 2023'.
Prothom Alo

To prevent gender-based violence against women, negative attitudes towards women has to be changed first. There has to be effective implementation of the law based on the type of repression. There must be prevention of child marriage, change in the outlook towards women and awareness on this issue.

Coordinated initiatives from the government and non-government agencies could have a huge impact on preventing gender-based violence.

Speakers said this in a roundtable organised by ActionAid Bangladesh in the capital on Saturday on the occasion of '16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence 2023'. Prothom Alo was the media partner of the event.

The roundtable was held at the Prothom Alo office in Karwan Bazar of the capital. Building resistance was stressed during discussion on ‘Prevention of Violence against Women: Current situation, challenges and the way ahead’.

ActionAid Bangladesh’s country director Farah Kabir, moderator of the roundtable, said that the outlook of the family and the society needs to be changed for the prevention of gender-based violence.

Gender-based violence against women isn’t an issue concerning only women alone, but an issue concerning the society. Everyone has to work towards changing their respective families’ patriarchal outlook. Women have to have confidence in themselves and also invest in themselves.

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ActionAid Bangladesh’s manager on policy research and advocacy Tamazer Ahmed along with manager on women rights and gender based equality Morium Nesa presented a report on the current situation of gender based violence in the country and measures for prevention during the discussion.

They stated that research from 2018 showed that as much as 66 per cent of the gender-based violence in Bangladesh is actually domestic violence. And, legal action was sought only in 11 per cent of the incidents. Meanwhile, research from 2022 revealed that almost 64 per cent of the women have faced repression online.

Professor at the women and gender studies department of Dhaka University and member of the National Human Rights Commission, Tania Haque, said that awareness has to be raised from different perspectives to prevent gender-based violence against women and to determine the course of action.

How patriarchy creates physical as well as mental pressure not only on women but also on men and how men too have to face financial loss because of gender-based violence against women, has to be highlighted.

Representative of UN Women in Bangladesh, Gitanjali Singh said that from travelling in different parts of Bangladesh it seemed to her that men’s outlook towards women needs to be changed to stop gender-based violence against women.

From the left, Gitanjali Singh, Farah Kabir, Tania Haque and Nishat Rahman. At the Prothom Alo office in Karwan Bazar of the capital on Saturday, 25 November 2023.
Prothom Alo
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Proper data and statistics are required to discern which type of violence is more frequent and to take preventive measures accordingly. She added that it should also be monitored to see if the law was working properly to ensure safety or not.

Additional deputy commissioner Nishat Rahman at Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s cyber and crime division-south, sharing her experience of working at the field level, said that women have to be a bit extra conscious to prevent cyber bullying or crime.

Many women share their social media account passwords with their husbands and boyfriends. They share intimate snaps also. And, when they break up with their partner, the snaps are used against the women, she added.

Director (maternal and child health services) at the directorate general of family planning, Nurun Nahar Begum said there must be a zero tolerance policy against gender-based violence on women in the family and in every institution of the society. And the policy must be implemented also.

Government and non-government orgaisations have to work in unison to raise awareness against gender-based violence on women as well as to promote sex and reproductive health education, she remarked.

Associate professor at the law department of Dhaka University, Taslima Yasmin said that domestic violence hasn’t yet been defined as a crime by the law. The domestic violence prevention and protection act provides a sort of civic solution.

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So, lawyers often file dowry cases in incidents of domestic violence because it is easier to get conviction. But this cannot always be proven. This way, many cases filed under the women and children repression prevention act are gets labeled as false cases.

She urged for removal of obstruction towards the enactment of sexual harassment and abuse prevention act, strengthening of the law monitoring system and the women and children affairs ministry taking even more effective steps.

Actress Azmeri Haque Badhon said that sometime there are films made based on misogynistic themes, which is a terrifying tendency. It’s important for the media to run awareness campaign against sponsoring this kind of films. 

Fast bowler of Bangladesh National Women’s Cricket team, Jahanara Alam, said that being involved in sports has brought about a positive change in her life. She has learned to protest. Whenever, there’s an incident of discrimination against women, everyone should be vocal together.

Uniliver Corporate Affairs Partnership and Communication director Shamima Akhter said that in response to domestic violence soaring high across the world during the pandemic, Uniliver started following a policy from 2020 to support their employees.

As per the policy, if any of their employees fell victim to domestic violence, they receive 90 days of support including shelter outside of the home as well as legal and psychosocial aid.

Regarding media’s responsibility, head of Prothom Alo English Web Ayesha Kabir said that issues concerning women need to be reported in the media in detail and prominently. These issues should not be overshadowed by 'feel good' stories.

Pointing out some areas of progress, senior advocacy officer at Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Ayesha Akhter said that a section has been added to the evidence act that states that without court’s permission, victims of rape or attempted rape cannot be questioned about their character and past sexual behavior during cross-examination.

Founder of ‘Meye Network’ and OGNIE Foundation president, Trishia Nashtaran said that monitoring should be increased so that women don’t have to face harassment while going to file a case.

Representative of ActionAid Bangladesh’s Girls Lead Action Project, Purnima Islam who is a student of Class Ten at a school in Narayanganj, said that she often has to endure negative comments while working to raise awareness on child marriage and reproductive health. However, instead of being discouraged she is continuing with her work.

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