The failure to punish these perpetrators is a failure to establish women’s rights as basic human rights
March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day all over the world, and the day has been observed since 1909.
It is a day deputed by the UN to celebrate the achievements of women and to appreciate their contributions at the economic, social, and political levels.
However, discrimination and violence against women are still on the rise. And it is of a particularly grave concern that violence against women and female children have increased worldwide at a significant rate.
According to global statistics published by WHO, 35% of women worldwide have suffered either physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of a partner or non-partner in their lifetime. The analysis also finds that, globally, 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate male partner.
Violence against women and girls is now a global epidemic that violates women’s human rights and threatens to sabotage our endeavour to bring about sustainable development.
Women experience violence in many ways. It manifests itself as physical, sexual, emotional, and even as economic violence. Some other major forms of violence include domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, “honour killings,” dowry-related violence, throwing acid at a women, and of course, forced and child marriage.
In Bangladesh, rooted patriarchal customs and gendered social structures mean that the prevalence of violence against women and girls is disproportionately high. A study titled Violence Against Women Survey 2015 conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics concluded that 50% of Bangladeshi women were physically tortured whilst 28% were sexually abused.
According to Ain o Salish Kendra, a report on violence against women from January to May 2017, a total of 218 women were raped. The figure rose by another 62 rape cases in their June 2017 report. Rape victims in particular do not seek justice due to the social stigma associated with such a crime and the fear of being victim-blamed.
The failure to punish these perpetrators is a failure to establish women’s rights as basic human rights and demonstrates that a gender bias that is embedded in our social, legal, and judicial systems.
It must be pointed out that the definition of violence against women is narrow in our country, which leads to further devastating implications at the policy level. Violence at the domestic level is often ignored unless the consequence is some major criminal offence, which in turn fails to notice the root cause of violence against women.
We commonly misunderstand that the primary factors contributing to violence in general are mental health-related issues, drug abuse, dependence on alcohol, etc — but the common cause in most cases is gender inequality, which is a deep-rooted cultural issue.
According to international research, some key factors that lead to violence against women are:
• Strict belief in gender stereotypes
• Social and economic status of women compared to men
Men who choose to be violent believe that it is their right to behave the way they do, and that women are to blame. The issue of violence against women is thus completely rooted in gender inequality.
Once we acknowledge this fact, only then can we work towards changing how we as a society behave, treat, and act towards women differently. By normalizing patriarchal views and prejudiced behaviour, we only normalize violence against women at a greater level.
Therefore, telling our daughters to not go out alone will certainly prevent any harm coming to them, but is not a long-term answer to this issue of violence. The focus needs to be on the attitudes of boys and their behaviours. If you have a son, you must teach him that disrespect and aggression toward women are not acceptable.
We need to urgently develop and advance a healthier interpretation of masculinity and manhood. Positive male attitudes can be promoted by talking to sons and helping them to figure out behaviour that is wrong. Through this process, we can teach our sons to respect women and view them as equals. Until we do that, behaviour that manipulates and dominates women will, sadly, continue.
As parents, we have to take steps to mentor and teach young boys that being a man does not involve degrading and abusing girls or women.
We must also remember that change starts at home and thereby promote healthy and respectful relationships at home so that children can identify and reject abusive, unhealthy behaviour, and always embrace equal and respectful relationships.
Such steps can only lead to the society to change its misogynistic social practices, create a safe environment for women, and celebrate women’s day in its true spirit.
Aishi Dastidar is a former employee of Lloyds Banking Group, UK.