The Women of Bangladesh

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Final Paper - Women in Bangladesh
Dana Hanson
Women Around the World

Women’s Low Status and Power

Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries with 150 million people, 49 percent of whom live below the national poverty line. In addition, child malnutrition rates of 48 percent are the second highest in the world, a condition that is tied to the low social status of women in Bangladeshi society (THP). Even though women constitute almost half of the population in Bangladesh, their status has been ranked the lowest in the world based on twenty indicators related to education, health, marriage, children, employment, and social equality (NCBP). Bangladesh is a very patriarchal society and gender inequality is evidenced in almost every aspect of life. Some studies have shown that the majority of women from rural areas are not aware of gender inequality because traditional beliefs keep them in the shadow of their fathers, husbands, and sons (Hadi). Women are dependent on men all their lives because that is what they know. Their traditions and lack of education keep them pocketed away from society especially in rural areas, where after marriage they are not allowed to leave the home unless accompanied by a male relative. Bangladesh is one of the very few countries in the world in which males outnumber females; this provides strong evidence that there is a problem of missing women. Census data from 2001 shows that more than 2.7 million Bangladeshi women were missing (SIGI). There are no reliable statistics to quote, so estimates on the number of trafficked women and children are difficult to make. The crime is largely hidden despite its pervasiveness. Nevertheless, a total of 335 women and children were reportedly trafficked from Bangladesh in 2002 (BNWLA). In all fairness, it seems that stating “more than 2.7 million Bangladeshi women were missing” from the 2001 census may pose more questions than answers especially considering many rural families do not legally record births, deaths and marriages because they haven’t been educated to do so. Son preference is also prevalent in this society leading to female sex-selective abortions, neglect of girls (compared to boys) in early childhood and abandonment (SIGI). A report released by the U.N. Population Fund in 2000 asserted that 47 percent of adult women report physical abuse by their male partner. Much of the reported violence against women is related to disputes over dowries. Assailants who fling acid in their faces disfigure a number of women each year. Many of these attacks are revenge motivated by rejected suitors. Few perpetrators of these acid attacks are prosecuted due to poor investigation and lack of eyewitnesses (OWP).

Reproductive Freedom

In Bangladesh, the use of the term “Reproductive Rights” is very recent. The common understanding of reproductive rights is that women should be able to decide and control their own bodies and reproductive behavior. However, many women living in rural and poor urban settings of Bangladesh are victims of physical, sexual, psychological, and human rights violations (Hossain and Akhter). Pregnant women have many potential causes for serious illness and complications during their pregnancy. Early marriage, lack of proper nutrition, and multiple pregnancies are just the beginning. Abortion is not legal, and many women attempt to induce abortion or get assistance from untrained people in less than sanitary conditions. These factors often lead to sterility and sometimes death. The government decides which contraceptives will be made available to women and often due to lack of education; rural women are unaware of what is accessible to them. Additionally, “women have to take permission from their husbands to use contraceptives (Hossain and Akhter)”. This means that women, especially the extremely poor, do not have a choice concerning the timing of pregnancies. A highly religious and patriarchal culture keeps...
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