Gender-based abuse is a global concern. Girls and women are the main victims of the gender-based abuse.
It is the gross violation of human rights, which does physical, mental, sexual and economic harms for the girls and women. The recent global data claim that more than 35 per cent women are succumbed to various discriminations and injustice in their lifetime across the world. Obviously, women living in the developing and least developed countries are bearing the most brunt of gender-based abuse.
In our country gender-based violence is so pervasive. Girls and women not only endure different inequalities but also face insecurity in the family and society. As per the report of the World Health Organization (WHO), in case of intimate partner violence Bangladesh ranked fourth in the world. Different sources say that about 50 per cent females aged between 15 and 49 undergo sexual and physical violence at the hands of their partners.
Again it is evident that gender-based violence increased significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic. A recent survey report of a non-government organization has revealed that girls who were early married off were more prone to enduring physical and sexual violence from their partners than those who got married after 18.
Different media sources expose the news of gender-based abuse almost every day, which happens at every corner in the country. But many more incidents of gender-based violence remain undisclosed. Most of the women in our country experience different types of abuse in their families and society but hardly complain for this.
In many cases they are found to cope with the situation. It is true that in our patriarchal social set-up men are impliedly taught that they are superior to women while women are taught that they should be submissive to their male partners. Most women consider that they have been born to endure abuse and inequalities.
Apart from physical and sexual abuse, women undergo psychological torture inside and outside of their family. Some years back the social maladies like eve teasing and acid throwing were so pervasive in the country and every day we would hear the news of eve teasing and acid throwing across the country. With social consciousness and stern actions by the law we have been able to combat those maladies to a great extent.
But it is frustrating to notice that the sexual and psychological harassment against women have been so rampant in the digital age. Using social media women and girls are attacked with derogatory comments. In many cases they are becoming the victims of cyber-bullying. Sociologists opine that the pre-occupied social and psychological settings lead to digital sexual harassment, especially against girls and women, thanks to smartphones, social media and messaging apps.
Sexual harassment may be formed in different ways such as hacking, cyber-pornography, and blackmailing, etc. A recent study conducted by a non- government organization shows that seventy percent of the people subjected to online harassment in the capital are women whose age range is between 15 and 25 years. The ratio of harassment may be the same across the country.
It is true that women have come out of their cocoons and are entering different professions. But their journey towards becoming self-dependence is not smooth at all. At every step of their journey they face challenges from family and society. Those who are found to cope with the situation struggle a lot to manage their families and jobs at a time.
Once it was thought that the village illiterate women were the victims of marital abuse. Divorcing rate was much more among the poor people in villages but these days we see that the educated women are more prone to be abused by their intimate partners and divorcing tendency has increased significantly amid the educated class people. Studies found that gender-based abuse accelerates divorcing tendency in couples.
Any abuse against women causes long-term physical and mental health problems. Not only women are affected by gender-based abuse but it also creates impacts on their children and families. Again we see that in many cases, to escape violence many girls and women commit suicides.
In recent years the word ‘empowerment’ has been used frequently by the political and social agencies. In the field of gender and development perspective this term has got momentum. It is evident that women hardly feel empowered by merely establishing economic status.
Economic status may be one of the indicators but until we change social and political systems and above all the attitudes of the male-dominated society, women empowerment will be nothing but a paradox.
However, the adults have the potential to shape up their younger ones with values. The parental attitudes and behaviours influence children directly. If the parents show gender biasness, the children grow up with such belief that gender biasness is a normal issue. Still in this age many parents make discrimination between their sons and daughters in terms of providing opportunities.
But how far have we been successful to teach our children to be respectful to the women? At educational institutions, girls in many times do not feel secure as sometimes they experience many derogatory remarks from their classmates and the seniors. If all the male students were respectful to their female fellows, no girls would face abuse at the educational institutions. Experts opine that being disrespectful towards women is the prime cause of gender-based abuse. Patriarchal attitudes of the adults make the young people think that disrespectful and aggressive behaviours against women are normal.
However, many international organizations across the world are working to combat the gender-based abuse. Along with international agencies the present government of the country has taken many initiatives over the years and is working to increase women empowerment. The significant changes of life and livelihoods of women have been noticed in the recent years. The government has created favourable opportunities for the women that help them to establish their individual identity and contribute financially to their families.
Besides the government’s initiatives, the activities of many national NGOs help women to be self-reliant as they are providing various skills development projects for the rural women. Despite all, gender-based abuse goes unending that makes girls and women vulnerable in their life. Until we take initiatives from family and society, state’s initiatives can hardly address the malady of gender-based abuse. It is time to take concerted efforts to combat gender-based abuse that will not only ensure humble relation among men and women but will also open all doors of possibilities when men and women work together.
The writer teaches at Prime University. He is also a research scholar at the IBS. Email: [email protected]