ARTICLE 19 organizes webinar commemorating the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence
The coronavirus pandemic has pushed women back from the track they were already struggling to continue on, as incidents of torture and repression in households have increased, speakers said during a webinar.
The webinar was arranged by ARTICLE 19, an international rights advocacy organization, on Thursday, commemorating the UN’s “16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence.”
At the beginning of the program, Moriom Shelly, program officer of ARTICLE 19, presented a paper on the current state of women during the Covid-19 lockdown.
She said that the pandemic affected everyone in the world and changed daily life, but not as much as it did for women, girls and marginalized groups.
It was the women and children who shared the greater burden of the crisis — both health crisis and economic devastation — though women comprised the majority of healthcare service frontliners, working as nurses and doctors, Shelly said.
Addressing the webinar, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) Senior Deputy Director Nina Goswami said the worst part was that the women who suffer abuse at home face obstacles if they want to resort to the legal system.
“People act as if they have come to file a false case. Sometimes family members do not help the woman, and even if they do help, it does not continue for long as the legal process takes too much time to end.”
Due to these obstacles, the majority of incidents of violence against women and girls remain unreported.
She said for these reasons, increasing punishments in relevant laws would not produce expected results until women are ensured prompt legal assistance, and a fast justice delivery system.
“The most important thing is to change the mindset of men,” she added.
Ho Chi Minh Islam, a gender and sexual rights activist, said incidents of violence against women have increased during Covid-19 because it has become a part of the culture. During lockdown, the men of the families stayed home for a prolonged period of time, which exposed the women and children of the families further to the violence. This has just unmasked the mindset of some men, the activist added.
Ho Chi Minh, who is a member of the transgender community, said in Bangladesh the movement to ensure freedom for women is not inclusive.
“Those who take part in the street movement are representing the elite and educated women of the society. Women from villages, uneducated and underprivileged women, and transgenders are not included in the movement.”
Supreme Court Lawyer Abdullah Al Noman said: “We see many women holding good positions in society, and assume that women have gained freedom, and have been empowered in their lives.
“However, we need to know that those we see empowered, have basically come from a privileged background.”
There is no chance of portraying women empowerment considering them as examples, he said.
Jahangirnagar University teacher Rezwana Karim Snigdha said a patriarchal society negatively affects its men as well..
“We saw that some men committed suicide as they failed to provide food for the family. If men and women shared equal responsibility for a family, men would not feel burdened with the livelihood earning responsibility,” she added.
Selina Ahmed, program head (Gender justice and Diversity) of Brac, said if people thought they should not bother about the incidents of violence against women as the victims were not related to them, it would be a mistake.
“It is a problem of the whole society. We need to bring changes before it is too late, because violence can affect your family members too,” she added.
The program was moderated by Faruq Faisel, regional director of ARTICLE 19.