Expert Group Meeting
Organized by: UN Division for the Advancement of Women
in collaboration with:
Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and World Health Organization (WHO) 11 – 14 April, 2005
Violence against women : A statistical overview, challenges and gaps in data collection and methodology and approaches for
Expert paper prepared by:
Sharmeen A. Farouk
Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA)
Violence against women is a common occurrence in most societies whether the violence is physical or mental. In South Asia it is a daily and often deadly fact of life for millions of women and girls. Women and girls are generally looked down upon, trapped within cultural framework, molded by rigid perceptions of patriarchy. As a result violence against women is viewed as a ‘normal’ phenomenon even from the women’s perspective. South Asian women suffer multiple forms of violence including domestic violence, rape, dowry deaths, sexual harassment, suicide, forced marriage, trafficking and other psychological and financial oppression. Violence against women has become one of the most visible social issues in this region. Violence Against Women in Bangladesh
As a South Asian country, Bangladesh is no different from its neighbors. Violence against women is amongst the most serious threats to overall development and progress in Bangladesh. Widespread violence and repression in numerous forms puts women’s lives at risk in almost all parts of the country. This is further compounded by the gender bias against women in the society. Before discussing the nature and extent of violence against women it is important to focus on the general socio-economic and legal rights of women in Bangladesh.
Socio-economic status of women
Women in Bangladesh are not a homogenous group; they belong to the rich, middle and poor classes and are from different cultural and ethnic minority groups. They are also differentiated by rural and urban settings. Although women constitute half of the population, various indicators reveal that the status of women is much lower than that of men. Their literacy rate is only 43.2 percent, much lower than that of men 61.0. Excessive mortality among women due to discrimination has resulted in a sex ratio in the population of 105 men to every 100 women.1
Despite constitutional guarantees of gender equality and legislative and other affirmative interventions, the status of Bangladeshi women is on the whole dismal. Women are subjected to discrimination and violence within the household, at the workplace and in the society. Their inferior status can be traced to the patriarchal values entrenched in the society which keep women subjugated, assigns them a subordinate and dependent role, and, prevents them from accessing power and resources. Men hold the power and resource within families and control any property and family income. Women are considered as men’s property, their sexual activity, income and labor being systemically controlled by the men in their family. Social expectations still pivot around child rearing and household management. The practice of Purda (seclusion), although changing, is still socially valued. Social norms, education, employment and legal rights and gender inequality in Bangladesh are all perpetuated by patriarchy. From their childhood, women are forced to live in a culture, which tolerates and even permits inhuman treatment to them. As more women are entering the workforce, conflict is growing between the patriarchal social norms and women’s urge for economic independence. In recent years there has been a significant change in the attitude towards women taking up outside employment. With the breakup of the extended family, greater numbers of women are seeking employment. At home, however,...