On 16 days activation against gender based violence started from 25th November, Share-Net Bangladesh has intensive interview with prominent human rights activist and gender specialist Sheepa Hafiza, Executive Director of Ain and Salish Kendra in Bangladesh. On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Share-Net Bangladesh has inquired about the condition and consequence of domestic violence and the measurable steps for reducing the violence.
- What are reasons behind domestic violence in Bangladesh?
The perception of the society about men and women is mostly responsible for the domestic violence on women. Domestic violence is not perceived as crime in our society rather the society considers the abusiveness as a quality of the men. Most of the women in our society get married at a very early age without being fully acknowledged about their sexual orientation. The girls become pregnant at a very early age. The girls with better education can manage their relationship with their spouse in a better way.
2. What is your perception about increased divorce rate in the urban area?
Because of unhappy and forced marriage, women face abusiveness in the relationship. Women get divorced mostly in the urban area. If the girls are economically solvent and have the support from their family, divorce becomes easy for them. At present many women are living happy life after divorce. Even women get support from different online blogs where they write about their marital problems. These are helping them to have the courage to get rid of the abusive relationship.
But sometimes women remain in the controlling relationship since they do not have their income source and therefore depend on their husband. They have some legal restrictions too. Though divorce is happening in the society, women still do not have guardianship over their children. So, they stay in the disrespectful relationship hoping the situation turned out to be positive. The fear of social stigma and isolation also bounds them to continue the disparaging journey. Our laws also do not give protection to the women. Most of those are full of high thoughts without any proper implementation and monitoring capacity.
3.Is there any law on marital rape in our country?
There is no law existing for marital rape. In the new Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017, there is no special mention of the age. Therefore, ambiguity lies in between the Child Protection Act and the Child Marriage Restraint Act since it does not mention the age bar.
4.What is the economical impact of the domestic violence on women?
Economic impact of violence on the women is yet to measure in our country. The multiplying effect of the economy in any comprehensive way needs to be thought. This kind of research was first complete idn Canada in 1995. It measures three components ; loss of tax revenue because of death, income loss, the loss for incarceration which cost 106 million Canadian dollar in that year.
In Vietnam , intimate partner violence costs 3 billion dollar. This includes money expenditure and earning loss. The amount of economic loss is 7 million US dollar in Morocco.
In Bangladesh, Care has executed a study in 2011 which shows the loss of 14 million taka equivalent to 2 percent GDP. But it has only showed the loss for the medical care. If there is comprehensive study on expenditure for lost cases , mental agony, disruption of education of the children, the amount will rise higher.
5. How ASK is contributing for reducing the violence on women?
We work for the law formulation and reformation with the government. We also took part in legislating the Domestic Violence Act, Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, Child marriage Restraint act and currently we are working on the Hindu Marriage Act. We have also worked on the registration of Hindu marriage. We are affiliated with number of organizations working on the same issue. Apart from that we also work on the litigation, mitigation and provide legal aid support.
6.Are you addressing the drawback remaining in the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017?
This is very unfortunate thing. The CSOs ( corporate social organizations) did not know about the finalizing of the act and this came out as a surprise to us.Immediately, we raised our voice against it.Though we have included lots of comment in the draft version during the preparatory session, the ministry did not call us in the final meeting.
7.From your experience,what measure needs to be taken to stop violence against women?
From our experience, comprehensive approach is the best way to mitigate the domestic violence on women. We have experience of working on domestic violence with 390,000 households, 2 million students and 1 million community people. Our work has involved journalists, advocates, lawmakers and others.Sexual harassment cannot be reduced only just talking with women. The community people are also eager to be involved with the program since they also dream of living in a peaceful society. Teachers, school management committee, guardians also need to be involved. During our campaign, we have circulated the TOT and modules to the parents and the teachers and made them aware about the sexual harassment. For example,we have built up watch committee to monitor sexual harassment in the area. After our project is over,those people came together and built district sexual harassment elimination center with their own initiative. They are very motivated and prepare harassment mapping with the students and aware the people about it.
I also want to mention another significant example. Once a husband broke the wrist of the wife for giving birth to fourth daughter. Then the husband is brought to the awareness session on domestic violence along with the wife. After three days, he has realized his fault and turned into an active member of the group. Now he is working hard to reduce violence in the community. There are many examples as such. If we can address the exact issue though proper research and work on it engaging the community, it will create a larger impact. Unfortunately, our researchers are mostly urban based and there is lack of quality research in the field level. Comprehensive program involving the local government, community people, parents, religious leaders, police, journalists can create a sustainable impact to ensure gender equality and reduce the violence against women.