Every time the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are mention and progress reviewed, Bangladesh is cited as the best example in Asia. The government has managed to achieve most of the MDGs, but very little has been done to curtail violence against persons of the female gender. For example, violence related to dowry almost doubled between 2002 and 2012. The Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center observes that “Bangladeshi women endure oppression and deprivation in their own family, community or in the society at large. They are also subjected to violence and discrimination.”
Culture as an excuse for women oppression
Unlike the rest of the world, Bangladeshi women are the ones who pay dowry to the families of the men they marry. The latter take advantage of this setup to exploit women who are desperate to get married. Numerous cases of acid attacks against women have been reported, especially as men attempt to get rid of current wives to marry new ones and get additional dowry.
According to a website called Women Living under Muslim Laws, “Bangladesh is a very patriarchal society, where the male plays the dominant role within the family, the community and the society as a whole.” There is a general belief among Bangladeshi men that women must be ‘disciplined’ to a certain extent. Over 80% of both rural and urban men believe in the need to beat their wives at one point or the other, to be viewed as real men.
Religion helps culture to downgrade women
The same website also states that, “Religion has also been used traditionally to limit the economic, political and social role of women.” Women are required to be subjective to men to the point of justifying their own suppression through religion. As such, they fear reporting cases of domestic oppression or other forms of exploitation by men to authorities, lest they appear to be irreligious.
Weak and unjust redress options for seeking redress
If religion and culture do not stop a woman from seeking justice after domestic or sexual violence, the legal system and the police will. As Women Under Siege asserts, “Victims of intimate partner violence, as well as non-partner sexual assault, are often stigmatized. Still others might choose not to report because of the widespread impunity for perpetrators. In many countries, law enforcement and legal infrastructure are underdeveloped or under-resourced to investigate and prosecute these types of crimes.” It becomes better to retreat and pretend the crime never took place.