Gender Based Violence (GBV) is an extremedemonstration of unfair power relations. It stalks from gender hierarchies thatbrings about and provides authority to VAW. The Declaration on the Eliminationof Violence against women (1993) defines VAW as a subcategory of GBV thatresults in or is likely to result in physical psychological harm or sufferingto women whether occurring in public or private life. VAW is an infringement ofwomen’s human rights and a blockade to women’s full and equal participation insocial, economic and political life.
In Bangladesh, VAW essentially originatesfrom social patterns, lack of access to legal protection, – lack of effectivelaws and religious propaganda. The content of social syllabus is based on oneformula that is “women are made vulnerable by men but they can be made safeonly by men which ultimately makes women dependent on men”. As a consequence thesystematic nature of patriarchy supports VAW both in private and public waysbehind closed door and on city streets. For me violence is an expression ofclass, gender, heterosexual dispensation and a problem of dysfunctional orpathological families. In Bangladesh, VAW is a very common practice whichdenies women’s equal prospect, safety, self-worth, and stateliness in thefamily and in the society as a whole. Although Bangladesh is a signatory tovarious UN conventions on gender equality, has in place policies and legalprovisions that address VAW and has formulated a National Action Plan toPrevent Violence against Women and Children (2013 – 2025) however, thesituation of women in terms of violence is very bleak. A Bangladesh Bureau ofStatistics (BBS) survey on Domestic Violence in 2011 revealed that 87% ofmarried women are subject to some forms of violence.
1 The problem is theconservative policy that has proven to be largely futile in reviewing thecomplexities of patriarchal structures which thus crafts gender as asymmetricendowments, risks and constraints and as a result it compels women to remainwithin its limitations. The empowerment of women as a way of mounting femaleagency is an obligatory requirement to stop VAW in Bangladesh. There is arequirement for a holistic approach using multidimensional strategies thataddress the root causes of women’s susceptibility as well as its impact. At thesame time, it is decisive for any strategy that seeks to empower women to takecontrol over their lives and transform gender and power relations to alsoinvolve men.
This is because a women’s empowerment strategy without theinvolvement of men is at best a partial solution and at worst could createfurther divergence and more problems by increasing men’s feelings ofestrangement. Admiration for human wellbeing and rights cannot be discretionaryin development; it is fundamental to the kind of development that willdetermine full potential of the society. Governments, NGOs and internationalorganizations have a key role in addressing more directly the question of humanrights so that the quality of development receives as much attention as its morequantitative aspects.
We need to remember that sustainable developmentcannot be achieved until women of a country can obtain their due rights.Although, adequate legislation are in place, the most significant hurdle of thenext few decades will be to change public attitudes so that GBV becomessocially unacceptable linked to the issue of substantive equality must be therecognition that women are not a homogenous group. Women do not experience violence and discriminationin the same way-thus we must take it into account that women is a heterogeneousgroup. Issues must be analyzed by gender lens and lens of intersectionality. Inaddition traditional expansion interventions have failed to engage menlucratively or deeply enough in women’s rights movement. This is because awomen’s empowerment strategy without the involvement of men is at best apartial solution and at worst could build further clash and more troubles byincreasing men’s feelings of hostility. At the same time, it is crucial for anystrategy that seeks to empower women to take control over their lives andtransform gender and power relations to also involve men.
Men’s rolesresponsibilities, attitudes as well as behavior are needed to be brought intowork on GBV and it is very important to note the political framework takinginto account the gender power relations. Various movements like ‘He for She’has highlighted the role of men and boys in taking leadership in changinggender stereotyping. So there is a need for all men to speak out againstviolence and for women and men to work together to challenge the existingdefinitions of masculinity that provide the foundation for violence. At thesame time it is important to avoid the trap of thinking that all men areviolent by nature.
We will have to think that while some men are part of theproblem, all men are part of the solution or can be part of the solution. Themost significant impact should come from the construction of nonviolentmasculine distinctiveness and a cultural harmony in which GBV is delegitimized.Finally, a gender sensitive lens only reveals thefrequency of gender hierarchy, which thus brings some hope. We demand therealization of justice and whatever our commitments we cannot pursue towardsjustice.
There is no single enemy to fight or simple strategy to follow -butthere is much that we can do. We turn now to consider different aspects of thischanging context, which are cumulatively raising new questions about VAW andits future. Why society does not hold women responsible for their violence?Women should be pointed out and therefore required to be held responsible.Wieringa claimed in the question of transformation that ‘women should learn todefine their own problems’.2 Women therefore shouldshare their responsibility for their behavior of acceptance of violence.Therefore gender equality and women empowerment cannot be attained in theabsence of equal rights and women themselves have to be the active agents forthis change and only then GBV can only eliminate these gender inequalities. Itis therefore essential for women to engage in constructive debate with policymakers and negotiate the conceptual and policy issues that affect themdirectly. Noting Fraser’s suggestion to shift focus from “who gets what” to”what people need” in a welfare state, policy makers should consider.
3 There is no doubt thatsocial dialogue can easily address the illogical discrimination against womenbecause dialogue takes different roots, new ideas and brings diversity.Egalitarian views need to develop between men and women so that thedifferentiation between femininity and masculinity is resolved. Thereforeachieving gender equality in Bangladesh means countering cultural and hegemonyof masculine power. The policy in Bangladesh is silent on addressing thecultural inequalities that can challenge adverse social system.This is the biggest challenge of the policies designedto heighten the position of women, the intent is good but when it comes toimplementation there are neither clear channels of execution or monitoring.Upgrading of women’s situation cannot be achieved without an acceptance of theimpenetrability they face and the needs they have. Therefore effectual relevantaction to improve the underprivileged position of women requires synchronizationof research, policy and action. Therefore the planners should deem that woman isa social agent and that it is necessary to take an agent oriented approach onwomen’s agenda.
4Therefore women need to be assisted through holistic approach and comprehensiveprogrammes that not only address their lack of productive resources but alsotheir subordinate situation within households and society at large. In sum,there is a need for multipronged policies to address the needs of differentcategories of women in Bangladesh. Thus social dialogue and public debate ismore powerful for transforming traditional mindset or cultural norms. Wieringaclaimed that on question of transformation women should learn to define theirown problem.
5Gender equality cannot be attained in the absence of equal rights and womenthemselves have to be the active agents for this change. Therefore, a moreserious understanding and analysis of political, economic and social realitiesbeing faced by men and women in developing countries is needed, otherwisegender equality interventions designed towards that end will always be afallacy. 1 Bangladesh Bureauof Statistics (2013). Report on Violence against Women Survey 2011.
Accessed: 9 January 2018, available at: http://126.96.36.199:8008/WebTestApplication/userfiles/Image/LatestReports/VAW_Report_2011.pdf2Wieringa, Saskia.
(1994). Women’sinterests and empowerment: gender planning reconsidered, Development and Change. 25: 829-848.3Fraser, Nothing. (2003).
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5 Wieringa, Saskia. (1994). Women’s interests and empowerment:gender planning reconsidered, Developmentand Change. 25: 844.