COVID-19 taking its toll on Women and Children in Bangladesh

The pandemic and its cruelty are making the women and children of our country increasingly vulnerable to its impacts on their physical, mental, sexual health and rights. Numerous research studies show evidence how coronavirus is not only a threat to our health, but also to the social security of the women and children in the society of a developing country like ours.

The One-Stop Crisis Centres (OCCs) as part of the Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence Against Women (MSPVAW) is implemented jointly by the Government of Bangladesh with support from the Danish Government. The OCCs provide medical, legal, social and psychological support for women victims of violence. According to one key informant working at one of these OCCs, the rate of cases received has seen an unprecedented spike during the lockdown imposed to tackle COVID19. “The number of cases quickly rose by more than one third after the first few months of the lockdown. We have recorded the highest number of cases in 2020 during September-October,” she informed. (Akhter S., Naser A., 2020).

A recent study titled “Life in the Times of Coronavirus:  Gendered Perspective”, was jointly conducted by Manusher Jonno Foundation and Brac James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) and supported by Share Net International. The study reveals that, although gender relationships and sexual and reproductive health services suffered the most throughout the pandemic, very little attention has been paid to these.

Many respondents chose to cut their daily meal from three to two. The study also found that women had to make compromises to consuming nutritional food. Due to economic impacts, women had to spend their small savings on family expenditures. The falling economic conditions causing financial insecurities, mental stress and anxiety also increased domestic violence and abuse. The burden of poverty made many parents get their children married before they are of age. The study was conducted in Rangamati, Bandarban, Netrokona, Kurigram, Patuakhali, Barguna, Nilphamari, Dhaka Metropolitan and Savar from July 2020 to March 2021. 

Regrettably, child marriage has increased by 13% during Covid-19 pandemic in Bangladesh, found in a study conducted by the gender justice and diversity department of BRAC, on women and adolescents in 11 districts across the country in 2020.

According to Chowdhury Mohiman, manager of the Child Helpline 1098, run in collaboration with UNICEF, the reported cases of child marriages received by the helpline have seen an alarming rise during the pandemic. The helpline received 450 calls in April 2020 related to child marriage. “Going by the number of pleas received from adolescent girls to stop child marriages, we see a trend of increase in attempted child marriages in recent times as opposed to pre-pandemic days. Now, we are getting more than 150 such calls in a month”, the manager added.

The data from the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs ministry finds an increase in child marriage in Kurigram, Natore, Jessore, Kushtia, Narsingdi and Jhalokati districts. As per the data, during lockdown between March and June of last year, 231 child marriages took place across the country, the highest number (61) being in Kurigram district.

It is thus a matter of great concern that the women and younger population of Bangladesh as a developing country are suffering from severe negative impacts in terms of their physical and mental health, safety, and rights to adapt during the ongoing pandemic.

As the deadly virus has been infecting record numbers of people since last week, the impact further might aggravate if proper measures are not taken.


One-Stop Crisis Centres (OCCs) clients:


Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

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