Introduction: Over the last two decades, violence against women has become one of the most visible and articulated social issues in Bangladesh. Today, all the sections of the society are concerned about the issues and movements; agitations and legal reforms are being made against women oppression. But the rate of improvement is not noticeable. It is resultant of a lot of reasons as negative socialization of our women, a historical system of patriarchy, the economic dependence of the women, acceptance of violence in the society and so on. Even the women themselves are also not able to realize the situation. They sometimes accept violence against them as usual. On the other hand, security agencies have become the breeding ground of violence. Police custody is considered to be more insecure place for a victim.
Concept of the violence against women
Ideally, the definition of gender violence encompasses a wide variety of the hosts of oppression and abuses suffered by women. However, assaultive behavior against women may take the following forms:
(a) Physical violence which includes all aggressive behavior inflicted on the body of the victim by an aggressor such as pushing, pinching, grabbing and pulling by the hair, choking, burning, stabbing, throwing acid or boiling water, shooting, and so on.
(b) Sexual violence includes physical attacks on the victim’s erogenous organs, e.g. breast and genitals or forced sexual activity accompanied by physical violence as described earlier.
(c) Psychological violence is committed by using psychological weapons such as verbal threats of violence against the victim or a person dear to her, forcing the victim to degrade herself; excessive controlling, curtailing and/or disruption of routine activities such as sleeping or eating habits social relationship, access to money, verbal insult and so on.
(d) Vicarious violence is committed through damage or destruction of property or assault on pets or even children.
Major trends and issues
All these various forms of violence, mentioned above may take place in the private and public arena, committed by family members or strangers. Major types of violence committed against women are as under:
1. Family Violence: Violence committed by family members within the family is the most serious and repugnant of all types of violence. The intimate context makes it difficult for the victim to seek redress. At the same time, the closed family structure makes it possible for the aggressor to repeat the violence.
2. Prostitution and trafficking in women: The problem of prostitution and trafficking in women seems to have increased tremendously in the last two decades. It is extremely difficult to assess the actual number of prostitutes currently in operation.
3. Rape and sexual abuse: Rape is the most serious and frequently occurred form of violence against women. It is a direct violation of woman’s sight to bodily security. In our country, everyday a huge number of women and girls are being raped.
4. Violence resulting from fatwa: The recent surfacing of violence related to the issuance of a fatwa by village Maulavis and implementation of the punishment given by the ‘religions decree’ is in contradiction to the law of the land. Such incidents have threatened the security and rights of women, especially the rural poor women.
5. Acid throwing: Acid throwing is another form of violence against women. Although laws have been made against such cruelty, the offenders are practicing very often in society. Besides, there are some other forms of violence as mutilation, murder, torture or murder for dowry and so on.
Factors contributing to increased violence against women
The socioeconomic and cultural factors which have contributed to the increased vulnerability of women to male violence are as under:
1. Criminalization of the public arena: Today the politics and administration in Bangladesh have been criminalized severely. Such criminalization and corresponding deterioration of the law and order The situation has not spared women. In the last two decades, the muscleman and student cadres of various political parties have committed various acts of violence against women and escaped punishment. So, such a tendency towards acceptance of violence in society is mainly responsible for increased violence against women.
2. Cultural-ideological factors: Irrespective of national affluence or level of development, women are vulnerable to exploitation, oppression and all other types of explicit violence from men in all societies where cultural norms, tradition and legal system sanction women’s subordination to men. In Bangladesh, an important mechanism of male dominance is the propagation of gender ideology through sanctions of religious texts and their gender-selective interpretation by the community leaders.
3. Socio-economic factors: The disruption in the traditional rural economic pattern brought about by changing socio-economic processes have adverse effects on women. Increasing lawlessness, pauperization, unemployment have increased the stress and tension in male-female relations in poor households and given rise to desertion, divorce and violence.
4. Ineffective legal system: Theoretically, the Bangladeshi state regards men and women as equal. However, the state’s concern to preserve the existing patriarchal social order is clear from the ways laws operate in respect to violence against women. The Bangladeshi legal system has done little to diminish women’s vulnerability to violence. Even religious sanctions and traditional values safeguard the interest of the patriarchy through family norms, community practices, state policies and laws.
Measures needed to combat violence against women
In spite of much agitation and protests and actions by government and non-government organizations, the evil persists and is aggravating. The obvious question is what is the need of hour to face up to the challenge? A few suggestions are made here:
1. National policy: There should be a national on all forms of violence against women. Such a policy should be framed on the basis of general consensus among major political parties and professional and occupational groups.
2. National anti-violence movement: Violence against women is a social evil and social action is probably the most effective shield against it. Social mobilization must therefore be attained to curb violence. For this, vigorous publicity should be given through all types of media, pictures, releases, demonstrations etc. Besides, anti-violence committees should be formed in unions and thanas.
3. Legal reforms: The patriarchal legal system needs to be salvaged from the traditional foundations of discriminatory norms about women. A new system should be built on the solid foundation of equality, reciprocity and interdependence of men and women. The review of the legal system may be handled by the proposed law commission on a priority basis.
4. Support services: The number of shelters for affected women and facilities for legal aid, counseling and vocational training are inadequate. So, need for shelter is urgent. Besides, it is essential to develop adequate facilities within the health system to identify cases of violence. Besides, affected women should be absorbed in the income-generating projects of NGOs for providing skill training and rehabilitation.
5. Political commitment: Women’s organizations can lobby with political parties to include women’s issues in the respective manifesto. They may reorient the attitudes and outlook of women politicians.
6. Extension of literacy programs: To make the women aware of their rights and responsibilities, they should be provided with proper education. They should be made able to fight superstition and oppression.
Integrated programs to accelerate the position of women in society is a must to combat violence against women.