THE United Nations declared November 25 the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women on December 17, 1999 during the 54th session of the General Assembly. The General Assembly instructed “governments, relevant agencies, bodies, funds and programs of the United Nations system, and other international organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to organise on that day activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem of violence against women.”
The general assembly expressed “concern that violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace, as recognised in the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women and the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women, which recommended a set of integral measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women, and to the full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Reiterating that, according to Article 1 of the Declaration on the CEDAW, the phrase ” ‘violence against women’ means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” The General Assembly decided to designate November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Alpha Arzu reported in October 22, 2009 in The Daily Star that 36 percent women in Bangladesh say that “wife beating is justified!” This shows how unaware the women of our country are about their human rights. The report added that 49 percent married women have experienced some form of physical violence by their husbands, 53 percent have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence while 13 percent have experienced both types of violence.
Bangladesh Mahila Parishad President Ayesha Khanam told The Daily Star: “Vigorous campaigns about the rights of women are the best way to stop such violence. It is really unfortunate that male partners or husbands here think that without torturing their female partners their power is not being exercised.” On the other hand, there is no alternative to empowering and making women aware of their rights in the family. “The law enforcement agencies should come forward to stop such heinous spousal violence,” she added.
Another report by Apha Arzu recently published in The Daily Star said that women repression was unabated despite stringent law, and that 1,479 rape cases were recorded in six months. The report added that repression on women had increased manifold over the last few months. The brutality was inflicted on them mainly for dowry, disputes over wedding and land.
UNDP held a meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 2I -22 to address gender-based violence in. It highlighted that violence against women reduced the capacity of the victims/survivors to contribute productively to the family, the economy and public life; drained resources from social services, the justice system, health care agencies and employers and lowered the overall educational attainment, mobility and innovative potential of the victims/survivors, their children and even the perpetrators of such violence.
The cost of violence against women is very large according to all studies made in different countries and with different methodologies. Women’s overall empowerment depends on their individual, familial, social and national empowerment, and includes access to food, clothing, shelter, education and treatment/ health care. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) No.3 aims to promote gender equality and empower women by 2015.
The women development policy of Bangladesh 2008 says that Articles 27, 28, 29 and 65 of the Constitution of Bangladesh ensure equal rights for women. The women development policy also mentions that the main aims of the policy are to include women in every sector of mainstream development and to establish their equal rights. The government and the organisations working for the betterment of women should address gender inequality and inequity, social inequality, economic inequality, and political and legal inequality.
Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), writes in the foreword in the report State of the World Population 2009: “Important are fundamental questions about how climate change will affect women, men, boys, and girls differently around the world, and indeed within nations, and how individual behaviour can undermine or contribute to the global effort to cool our warming world.”
In reality, women are treated as second-class citizens and as subordinates to men, making them dependent on men. Men with a negative attitude towards women should immediately change their mindset to welcome girl children and recognise women as human beings, and provide opportunities to them to practice their due rights pursuant to the constitution. In fact, women are deprived in many ways and their valuable contributions are not monitored, evaluated or recognised.
Even in this modern world women face many superstitions, and are even blamed for giving birth to girl children instead of sons! So, considering the reasons of violence against women, the government, civil society organisations, international communities and all of us must work hard to enter into the enlightened world from the present darkness where we and the women are living inhuman lives. I do believe that “we shall overcome one day.”
Parvez Babul is a poet, journalist and author in Bangladesh.
Email: [email protected]