Women-friendly investment essential to eliminate gender-based violence

Gender awarenessNourin Ahmed Monisha

“I was in the tenth grade when I got married. Since my father was no longer in the picture, my mother felt it was important to arrange a marriage for me at a young age. She planned for a dowry of Tk 50,000 and a bicycle to be presented on the day of my wedding. But the joy vanished after I was married.

Within a year, I became a mother. My husband demanded that I bring an additional Tk 50,000 from my mother. When I refused, he hit me so severely that I blacked out. He loaded me onto a cycle-van and took me to my mother. But he called me often and threatened me. During one of his many beatings, he used a sharp weapon to sever my right leg. Life in my marriage was like this.”- Unnamed

Childhood and life were ruined for Mukta (pseudonym), she says. One day Mukta was a child, the next she was a wife and then lost her childhood, dropped out of school. All she had wanted was to go to school, have fun with her friends, and build a great life for herself, but she was married off as a child and put at risk of gender-based violence. The violence, exploitation, and childbirth she endured as a result of her early marriage set the stage for a lifetime of unending hardship.

Thousands of girls like Mukta survive violence in Bangladesh. UNICEF found that 51% of young women are married before the age of 18. Out of the total 38 million girls and women who marry before the age of 18, around 13 million do so before the age of 15. You can well imagine how many young girls are deprived of the opportunity to develop into strong, independent women because of the conditions in which they were raised. We know what the rate of child marriage is, but we have never quantified the harm it does.

Child marriage is the worst form of gender-based violence. One in three women will be victim of some form of physical or sexual violence during her lifetime. There is a culture of silence surrounding gender-based violence despite the fact that it compromises the victim's health, dignity, security, and autonomy. Child marriage is a violation of human rights and an act of gender-based violence, as established by international law.

Exploitation, abuse, and discrimination on the basis of gender persist because of patriarchal masculinity, negative gender stereotypes, belief and social norms. Both boys and girls had their futures ruined by early marriage, but girls were at much greater risk. The risks of physical, psychological, sexual, and economic violence, as well as lower life expectancy at birth and higher rates of maternal and neonatal mortality are all exacerbated when girls are married off before they reach adulthood.

Worldwide, adolescent brides are most often killed because they were married at a young age. Only 2.6 of married women in Bangladesh experiencing violence take legal action (BBS-2016)

Like Mukta, many are taken advantage of and abused, which causes them to abandon their schooling and lead uninteresting, unfulfilling lives as adults. An abused youngster will continue to be oppressed as an adult. Who knows if she'd be able to escape her violent, exploitative, abusive, and discriminatory surroundings if she lacked the skills, mobility, education, and contacts to get away from them? Because they have no idea what will happen to them once they tie the knot, brides are never prepared for this transition. This puts them in extreme danger of experiencing violence at home.

Millions of young women's lives are impacted by violence because of this threat. Their lives and the life of the unborn child are put in danger. Worldwide, adolescent brides are most often killed because they were married at a young age. Only 2.6 of married women in Bangladesh experiencing violence take legal action (BBS-2016). Doubt whether female children are included in this number, or not!

Every girl has the potential to change the world. However, they were more likely to be victims of sexual assault after getting married as children. Forty-four point seven percent (44.7%) of girls were married off before they turned eighteen, according to a survey conducted by the BRAC Social Empowerment and Legal Protection Programme. Child marriage occurs at alarmingly high rates in Bangladesh.

Is there a quick fix that could put an end to child marriage? There is no magic pill that may instantly eradicate detrimental gender stereotypes on this issue. The eradication of both child marriage and gender-based violence is the focus of a number of government and non-government initiatives. But our culture has constructed many detrimental gender norms, assumptions, and practices so that a girl child is viewed as someone else's property from the moment she is born. Our culture and upbringing teach us that it's best to get rid of someone else's 'property' as quickly as possible, and this includes girls. Prevalence of child marriage is the expression of their thought. Girl's and women's opportunities and agency suffer disproportionately from these archaic behaviors.

There has been a persistent gender gap throughout history. Instead of focusing on females' empowerment through education, health, and psychosocial development, our focus is on exclusion responsibilities with marriage.

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More than 650 million living women and girls got married when they were very young. If we wish to eliminate all forms of violence against women, we must end child marriage. Fifteen hundred (150) million additional girls will be married by the year 2030 if we cannot end child marriage. A nation's future lies in this path.

What is the solution? We have to understand the specific root causes of child marriages in the community, one of the biggest barriers to ending gender-based violence.  Combatting child marriage in Bangladesh will require a comprehensive approach that includes girls' agency building, coordination between government and development partners, awareness raising, policy reform, laws implementation, and community involvement at large. Consequently, #NoExcuse in investing to prevent violence against women and girls.


There is no alternative to empower girls and women who invest in the futureFor this need *more investment in girls' health, safety, and access to educational and employment opportunities is essential. The prevention of violence against women and girls is a worthy investment. *Give young women the tools they need to become independent learners, strong thinkers, and capable decision-makers.* through social mobilization and communication aimed at changing people's behaviors, we can abolish violence against women and girls and put an end to child marriage. *Avoid unnecessary repetition of efforts by a dedicated, coordinated, and all-encompassing strategy. *Ensure social awareness and strengthen access to justice against child marriage and gender-based violence.*

Strengthen the legal protection system for a safe and secure environment.  Empowering generations of girls and women will be more capable of fighting all forms of gender stereotypes beliefs and norms.   

* Joyshri Sarker is an author, cultural activist, humanitarian and development professional. She may be contacted at [email protected]  

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