At least 1,349 women were raped, and 205 women were murdered by their husbands in domestic violence incidents between January and October this year, according to data compiled by Ain O Salish Kendra
Bangladesh is all set to observe International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women along with the rest of the globe on Wednesday.
A 16-day activism campaign under the theme “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” is also set to be launched on Wednesday and will continue till International Human Rights Day on December 10.
Government agencies, United Nations bodies, non-government actors, human rights defenders and civil society organizations will join hands during the activism campaign to set up initiatives to end violence against women and girls – one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations that remains largely unreported.
The day comes at a time when Bangladesh is reporting high numbers of rapes, murders and domestic abuse almost every day. At least four women were raped on average each day this year in the first ten months.
At least 1,349 women were raped, and 205 women were murdered by their husbands in domestic violence incidents between January and October this year, according to data compiled by Ain O Salish Kendra.
A total of 184 women were victims of dowry related violence, with 74 of them killed after physical torture, the data said.
Human Rights Watch in late October released a global report that said women and girls in Bangladesh were facing increased domestic violence during the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the long-term and systemic barriers to legal recourse, protection and social services.
The report found that despite some important advances, the government response remained deeply inadequate. Barriers to reporting assault or seeking legal recourse were frequently insurmountable, and services for survivors were in short supply.
HRW demanded the government take seriously its obligations under international law, its own constitution, and domestic laws to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for violence against girls and women and assist survivors.
Ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Dubravka Šimonović, UN special rapporteur on Violence against Women, said the rise in femicides and violence was “taking the lives of women and girls everywhere” around the world, as the coronavirus continues to rage out of control.
She called on all states and relevant stakeholders worldwide to take urgent steps to prevent the pandemic of femicide or gender related killings of women and gender-based violence against women, through the establishment of national multidisciplinary prevention bodies or Femicide watches/observatories on violence against women.
Dr Fauzia Moslem, acting president of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, said women were always considered the weakest part of society, and a lack of self-control and poor attitude from men makes women more prone to violence.
“Most women we spoke to asked if they were safe at home,” she said.
“Violence begins from home. The International Day for Ending Violence against Women is an important day globally, but in Bangladesh it is limited with few initiatives by non-government actors. The government and rights defenders should prioritize the day to raise awareness and end violence against women,” she added.
Advocate Salma Ali, chair of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, said Muslim Law and family related laws in most cases gave an indication that women lived on a lower tier of society.
“Because of legal issues, women are deprived of different rights such as land and property. A lack of accountability for different crimes is also a core reason for the number of incidents not coming down. The government should ensure accountability and punishment to minimize violence against women,” she added.
Events to mark the day
Different organizations have chalked out programs on Wednesday to mark the day and the 16-day-long activism campaign aimed at raising awareness about violence against women.
The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs will organize an inaugural event to mark the 16-day campaign at Bangladesh Shishu Academy. State minister for Women and Children Affairs Fazilatun Nesa Indira, Secretary Kazi Rowshan Akhter and UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo will attend the event.
Feminists Across Generations, an alliance of intergenerational feminist activists, will organize a torch procession with the slogan “Mukti’r Michhil” on Wednesday evening. The procession will start at 7pm in front of Naripokkho office in Dhanmondi and end with a flash mob performance of “Tui Dhorshok” in front of the National Parliament Building at Manik Mia Avenue.
The sexual harassment prevention committee of Central Women’s University will organise a webinar to mark the day at 7pm on Wednesday, which will be aired on the Facebook page of the university.
Bangladesh Mahila Parishad will observe the day and the 16 days of activism throughout Bangladesh. The organisation will unveil the details during a press conference at the National Press Club in Dhaka at 3pm on Wednesday.
Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka has also chalked out plans to celebrate the 16 Days of Activism campaign from Wednesday to December 10. The club will host three webinars and a TV talk show and radio programme from Wednesday to mark the campaign.
The webinars include Radio Talk Show with Irene Rabbani, Tootli Rahman and Aniza Chowdhury on stopping child marriage on November 26.
In the first webinar at 6pm on November 27, Prof Dr Nashid Kamal and Barrister Rizwana Choudhury will be sharing stories of personal victimisation and case studies. President of Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka Ztn Dr Simeen M Akhtar will be present at the webinar, which will be moderated by Advocacy Chairperson Ztn Tootli Rahman.
The second webinar, scheduled for 6pm on November 30, will be held in partnership with ULAB. The panelists will be Vice-Chancellor of ULAB Imran Rahman and industrialist and philanthropist Akhter Matin Choudhury. It will be moderated by Tootli Rahman. Dr Simeen Akhtar will also be present.
A TV talk show will be held on December 5 on Channel 71 on gender equality. It will be participated by Ztn Dr Zareen Delawar with a guest speaker.
The third webinar “strokes against violence” in partnership with Cosmos Gallery will take place at 8pm on December 9. It will showcase three prominent artists.
How it all began
In 1960, the three Mirabal sisters - Patria, Minerva and María Teresa, all political activists from the Dominican Republic - were brutally murdered on the orders of the country’s ruler Rafael Trujillo on November 25.
To honour the sisters, women’s rights activists have observed November 25 as a day against gender-based violence since 1981.
On December 20, 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women through a resolution, paving the path to eradicating violence against women and girls worldwide.
On February 7, 2000, the General Assembly adopted a resolution officially designating November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, inviting governments, international organizations as well as NGOs to join together and organize activities designed to raise public awareness of the issue every year on the day.