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Domestic violence 'logical' to many Bangladeshi wives

Activists blame patriarchal society and state failure to ensure empowerment of women for problem

Domestic violence 'logical' to many Bangladeshi wives

Many women in Bangladeshi society think it is their husband’s right to punish them physically or psychologically. (Photo: AFP)

A recent nationwide survey in Bangladesh found that about 25 percent of married women accept physical violence by their husbands, triggering a soul-searching debate over women’s rights .

One in four married women considers beatings by her husband "logical," according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019 conducted by the state-run Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).

The study, carried out among 61,242 families from January to June 2019 and released on Feb. 24, identified five major causes behind physical violence against wives by their husbands — leaving the house without the husband’s permission, failing to take care of children properly, arguing with her husband, cooking badly and disagreeing to sexual intercourse.

The findings also refer to a previous BBS study in 2013 which showed 87 percent of married women face various forms of domestic violence in their lifetime.

Women and rights activists have blamed Bangladesh's ingrained patriarchal social system and state failure to ensure proper empowerment of women for constant domestic violence against women and their acceptance of such abuse.

The survey results are frustrating but also there are reasons to cast doubts, said Rita Roselin Costa, convener of the women’s desk at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh.

“I doubt whether the survey really reflects the reality. There are reasons to suspect whether women who find physical violence against them by husbands logical really understand their dignity and human rights as equal human beings. I think the notion of domestic violence is not clear to many women,” Costa, a development activist and mother of three, told UCA News.

Many women in Bangladesh society think it is their husband’s right to punish them physically or psychologically. Both men and women take it for granted that wives must accept abuses including beatings by husbands. It is largely because these women are dependent on their husbands for almost everything because they don’t have an income, Costa explained.

“Even women don’t realize that as human beings they don’t deserve it and that this is a violation of human rights. The patriarchal mindset is strongly ingrained in many women even today. Both men and women need to transform the way they look at each other. We need a massive change in our behavioral attitude,” she said.

The scenario in the minority Christian community is not much different from the national picture, she noted.

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“There might be less physical violence but psychological abuse is rampant. Insulting and disrespecting women is an everyday reality for Christian women. But these remain silent because abused women feel it might further complicate their lives,” Costa added.

Prominent rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer Sultana Kamal echoed similar sentiments.

“In our culture, both men and women think that when women fail to carry out their responsibilities or get desired results or make any mistakes, men have the right to resort to violence or punitive actions. This is a largely accepted notion in the family and society. Even the state largely turns a blind eye to it,” Kamal told UCA News

“So, when violence against women occurs, the state machinery does not take measures to punish the perpetrators. Thus, this malpractice has been ingrained in society and never addressed. Women cannot get away from it, and even they too think that they deserve such violence when they are unable to perform their duties as their husbands demand.” 

The survey findings are disappointing but are also an eye-opener about the conditions of women, said Nirmol Rozario, president of the Bangladesh Christian Association, the country's largest Christian forum.

“The survey results show we have failed collectively to empower women properly and thus domestic violence continues unabated. It is ironic that we have women in top positions in the country but many women are still victims of a patriarchal system and they accept violence as part of their life,” Rozario told UCA News.

“It is a warning for us and it reminds that there is still a long way to go in order to end violence against women as a way of ensuring their empowerment in a society that is still feudalistic and male-dominant.” 

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