Even the most open-minded families are not fully free from misogyny and sexism
The state of women in this world is often perilous. Millions of women around the world have no agency whatsoever in their lives. Their lives are run by others.
Many women live the kind of life that can only be improved by the escape that death provides. Always bound by family, rituals, traditions, and even their own kindheartedness -- many women find themselves stuck for a lifetime.
The big issue in our society that gives rise to women’s suffering is the obsession with marriage. All women must marry. In rural areas, the problem is worse because girls are married off at a young age, leading to underage pregnancy and many related health problems.
In urban areas such as Dhaka, fewer women might be getting forced into marriage, but the social pressure to marry is ever-present. Many women find themselves in unhappy marriages, all because of this need to conform.
In rural and urban settings alike, marriage can be a great source of unhappiness and dissatisfaction for women.
There are a few laws that protect women from an abusive partner or misbehaving in-laws. In rural settings, dowry is a huge problem. Dowry demands often continue well into the marriage and if the woman’s family is unable to pay, then she faces abuse from her in-laws. It is one of the leading causes of poverty in Bangladesh.
Often a family will go so deep into poverty from paying dowry that they never recover. A farmer may have to sell his land or other resources such as a tractor or cattle, in order to pay dowry.
Once the dowry is paid, the daughter is married off, but the father is left with no way to generate further income for the family. He may take loans to get back on his feet, but that does not always work out.
It is not only rural women who suffer -- women from better-off families face domestic violence too. There are laws to protect women from abuse such as marital rape, but very few, if any, will report such occurrences. Many women feel ashamed to talk about these things, and in many cases, even if they did, they face non-cooperation from authorities.
Women facing domestic violence essentially have two options: Stay or leave. When a child is involved, the matter becomes more complicated. The mother will always think that a broken family is bad for her child. So she will stay.
Even though divorce is such an obvious solution for sufferers of domestic abuse, many women will not take this route, fearing reprisals from family members and wider society. This is true for women across all economic and social backgrounds. Divorce is taboo.
No matter how down-trodden a woman is, she has to consider the social and economic implications of a divorce. A married woman is considered to be an established woman, a single woman is thought to have her life ahead of her, while a divorced woman is seen as an unaccomplished, failed being.
Even the most open-minded of families are traumatized by divorce. A domestic abuse victim is always between a rock and a hard place.
The best thing that can be done for a woman is to give her the chance to become economically independent before committing to marriage. Child marriage needs to be prevented at all costs. Society just generally needs to relax its views when it comes to marriage.
It is not the only important thing that can happen to a girl. Parents should worry less about marrying off their daughters, and more about educating them and giving them happy, wholesome lives. Marriage is a natural part of life and can be a positive experience for a woman, under the right circumstances.
Most of all, parents need to educate their sons to be better men and better husbands.
The main abusers of women are men. But a man does not come into this world alone. He will be surrounded by many people since birth. These people need to be setting the right example for him.
If a boy sees his father treating his mother well, he will learn to do the same. If his parents teach him how to deal with women as a child, he will remember that as an adult.
Women do not need to dress differently or act differently in order to have a better life. They need a world where they are treated with love and care.
Not only men, but women too need to treat women better. Women do not always treat other women the way they would like to be treated themselves.
At the end of the day, the problems faced by women are many. The only way to combat these social evils is by uniting as a society to uplift and empower all women. A lot will change if men see women as their equals and women begin to lift up other women.
These things have been said many times over, and they are nothing new. While discussing women’s issues may seem like the playing of a broken record, the fact remains that these issues are ever-present. The same issues have been prevalent in society for too long a time, which is why it is important to always keep them relevant.
Proma Gulshan is Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.