Domestic violence in Bangladesh


Shamsi Mumtahina Momo :
With the flip of a new page, October is a Domestic Violence Awareness Month, applauded to be a month where our community can strengthen its ties towards advocating for the lives of many women who are victims of domestic violence.
Gender-based violence has become a prevailing issue in Bangladesh, even with the nation gaining its full independence in 1971, in transitioning towards modernization. Violence against women is a day-to-day phenomenon here, coming in a multitude of forms ranging from emotional abuse, physical abuse, rape, dowry killing, sexual harassment, acid attacks, to sex trafficking.
In 1971 thousands of women lost their honour and we got our independence. As we mark 50 years of independence on the 16th of December, 2021, it is still in this current climate today, that we frequently hear of news on violence, rape, sexual harassment.
The alarming increase in domestic violence during the Covid-19 pandemic has been reported to highlight the long-term systemic barriers that hinder legal recourse, protection, and social services, as spoken by a reporter released today.
As Bangladesh enters the final phase of its national plan to build a “society without violence against women and children by 2025”, the harsh repercussions and reality taunts are evidently lurking.
Although there are many organizations and laws that work to eradicate these issues, these issues still prevail in society in high numbers, due to the lack of abuse reports being formally submitted.
Many women in Bangladesh fail to report violence committed against them due to the existence of the stigma surrounding rape, abuse, and domestic violence in the country. In other words, many victims have accustomed to believe that it is shameful to be a victim.
Popy Akhter (age 35) stated that her husband had physically tortured her every night after coming home drunk. After two years of constant torture, she came back to her paternal house, and was furthered diagnosed with multiple bone injuries.
In the course of another case, Ripa (age 35) has been married for 10 years, and oftentimes, her husband has physically tortured her. Yet, when she was asked to take legal actions, she remained vigilant on not proceeding, due to having to endure the consequences for her children.
Furthermore, violence directed towards women is normalized in our modern society in Bangladesh today. Subsequently, women are accustomed to tolerate abuse, presuming that filing formal complaints would only create more problems.
Rape and acid throwing are also some form of violence projected towards girls. The patriarchy manifest is the main reason towards this. Often after getting rejected by a girl, a boy rapes or throws acid to girls face to satisfy his masculine ego. Nazmin, a 16 years old, girl had been raped after rejecting the boy. She was gang raped by the boy and some of his peers, later being thrown onto the road, where her relatives rescued her from. These types of activities have been happening as a common norm and pattern across the nation, due to the lack of attention directed towards constructing better support and legal repercussions for these subsequent behaviours.
In 2019, the death of Nusrat Jahan Rafi (18 years) shook the nation. She was burned alive on the roof of her Madrasa after she refused to drop her complaint of sexual harassment against the institute.
In September 2022, a child of 7 years who used to collect alms from the street was found dead in Chittagong. A rickshaw puller took her by showing her greed of biryani, and then sexually harassed and later murdered her. This tragic story was of a 7-year child; yet, the gravity of these situations is not widely acknowledged.
Recently, we were presented with another dark story of Tasnia Hossain Adita(age-14),a student of 8th grade who was raped by her private tutor Abdur Rahim Rony. With a view to conceal the sexual harassment, Rony later slit the throat and vein of left hand of Adita with a knife.
In the past year, we have seen growing attention to one manifestation of this violence. Sexual harassment is experienced by almost all women at some point in their lives. No space is immune. It is rampant across institutions, private and public, including our very own.
In fact, a staggering amount of 100,000 women and young girls are working as prostitutes to this day; yet, less than 10% of this pool is working voluntarily. Forced sex work is an issue affecting women and girls all over Bangladesh.
The effects of violence can remain with women and children for a lifetime, and can pass from one generation to another. Studies show that children who have witnessed, or been subjected to, violence are more likely to become victims or abusers themselves.
Young men with more childhood exposure to Gender Based Violence and who were living amid stronger norms of male dominance were more likely to justify violence, control family decisions and perpetrate physical violence. Following the pandemic, youth gangs spiked in areas like Barishal, Chattogram and Dhaka and these areas witnessed increased cases of sexual violence against women.
Violence against women and girls is an extreme manifestation of gender inequality and systemic gender-based discrimination. The right of women and children to live free of violence depends on the protection of their human rights and a strong chain of justice.
Thus, what can the nation do, to strengthen its legal policies or groundwork to prevent this issue from becoming a worse issue? Though there are laws and enforcement, in many cases proper enforcement is lacking.
For an effective response to this violence, different sectors in society must work together collaboratively across different departments, to strengthen these solutions. A rape survivor must have rapid access to a health clinic that can administer emergency medical care, including treatment to prevent HIV and unintended pregnancies and counselling. A woman who is beaten by her husband must have someplace to go with her children to enjoy safety, sanity and shelter.
A victim of violence must have confidence that when she files a police report, she will receive justice and the perpetrator will be punished. And an adolescent boy in school who learns about health and sexuality must be taught that coercion, violence and discrimination against girls are unacceptable.
Women constitute half of the population, and yet, they are denied most basic rights like education. Their lack of financial independence, thus, leads them to have low self-esteem and confidence. Most of the time, they’ve endured torture, not even fully acknowledging the terms of the law in differentiating what is right and what isn’t.
Therefore, in paving the way, better law awareness must be created, for people in society to support the stories and victims of domestic violence.

(The writer is a Student
and Social Worker).