The study shows over 45% of the women of CHT face gender-based violence at workplace
A recently conducted survey has found that sexual harassment and assault of women in the workplace or in the agricultural sector has of late been on the rise in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), which conducted the survey, published the findings as encapsulated in a report, “Gender based violence (GBV) and access to justice for ethnic women and girls in CHT,” at Brac Centre Inn in Dhaka on Tuesday.
The study shows over 45% of women in the Chittagong Hill Tracts face gender-based violence at their workplaces or institutions, while 44% are subjected to domestic abuse.
Ainoon Naher, Professor of Anthropology at Jahangirnagar University, presented the findings while MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam moderated the event.
The study, conducted in March and April last year, was based on interviews of 1,155 women – aged between 19 and 40 – in Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachhari.
The survey looked at gender violence at three places – household, workplace or institution and transport.
According to the survey, 61% of women experienced multiple forms of GBV at market places, while 45% faced it while working on jhum cultivation (shifting agricultural); 6% women said they faced it in educational institutions and more than 3% in an office environment.
Among the victims of gender-based violence, 6% were assaulted physically, 37% were abused mentally, psychologically, and emotionally and 11% faced sexual harassment.
The survey also found that sexual harassment and assault in the workplace or jhum had been on the rise lately.
The respondents identified the perpetrators of sexual harassment and violence at workplaces or institutions to be local thugs, social or political elites, colleagues, persons affiliated with educational institutions and ex-husbands, among others.
Meanwhile, of the women who experienced multiple forms of GBV in the household, 82% saw the husband as the main perpetrator of domestic violence.
Among those respondents, almost 33% faced physical violence, 38% faced mental, emotional and psychological torture, and approximately 19% were victims of economic oppression, with 5% experiencing sexual harassment in the household.
According to the survey, violence at workplace or institutions was highest among the Tripura (53%) while at domestic households, the highest number of violence was found among the Mro (59%).
More than 50% of respondents claimed experiencing GBV on the road, in transport, and at public places. The highest figures for violence were found among the Marma (55%). District-wise, Khagrachori saw the highest level of gender-based violence and Rangamati the lowest.
The study found both the Bengali and indigenous ethnic community members being widely accused of such crimes.
Impact of violence
Professor Ainoon Naher said whatever the reason and nature of violence, gender-based violence adversely affected women’s life in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
She identified the impact in four stages– personal level, family level, professional level and societal level.
According to the professor, 20% of the respondents attempted to commit suicide after being victimized in gender violence.
The violence affects the women in that they lose concentration or interest in the workplace, go through loss of confidence and a general feeling of insecurity, said Dr Naher.
The impact is more adverse at a societal level as it causes loss of social dignity and creates major problems for girls or women getting married (13%) while 12% of the victims of gender violence were forced to migrate from the locality.
Seeking legal help
The study found that indigenous women, not unlike most city and rural women, were unaware of the legal privileges they could avail in their respective areas.
More than three fourths (79%) of the CHT women did not have any knowledge about District Legal Aid Office (DLAC) while 88% of them were not aware of One-stop Crisis Centre (OCC).
Around 56% of the surveyed population did not know about the Department of Women’s Affairs (DWA) and 57% did not know about the services provided by the Department of Social Welfare (DSW).
The survey notes that in terms of availing government services, only 28% of respondents or their family members went to hospitals for GBV related services, 7% to Department of Women's Affairs, 6% to police, 4% to Department of Social Welfare, slightly higher than 1% to DLAC and less than 1% to OCC.