Bangladesh girls’ abuse by family members on the rise: Unicef

UNB, June 23, 2012

More than 90 percent of the abusers of girl children are family members and close relatives, according to a Unicef study.

The joint study conducted by Save the Children and Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation in 2010 reveals that disabled children are usually at a higher risk of getting sexually harassed as they are unable to protect themselves and even at greater risk are those who are intellectually-challenged since they are unable to make out the difference between good and bad touches, and are often unable to articulate their concerns.

Another study conducted by Unicef, also in 2011, on slum upgrading and safety says that crimes against women are less visible but more deeply entrenched and possibly more all-pervading than other serious threats to slum-dwellers in Bangladesh.

“Women in slums are generally burdened with more poverty than men… and more vulnerable to domestic and familial violence,” says the report.

It says Bangladesh is a highly patriarchal society where violence is often linked to cultural practices rooted in dowry demands, child marriage and the illegality of divorce. Poor women live disenfranchised from the formal system-legally,
economically and socially-leaving them open to constant threat and harassment.

A separate study found that the prevalence of spousal abuse is higher in Bangladeshi slums (35%) than non-slums (20%). Given the unwillingness of women to admit abuse for fear of retribution, the numbers are likely much higher. With little independence outside the home, women are isolated and left without formal or even informal recourse for the abuses committed against them.

In this situation, a woman’s decision-making power and voice is restricted. “For instance, about 48 percent of Bangladeshi women say that their husbands alone make decisions about their health, while 35 percent say that their husbands alone make decisions regarding visits to family and friends,” says a Unicef study on the status of women
and girls in Bangladesh.

When it comes to violence, these statistics show why a majority of domestic violence cases may go unreported and even become socially accepted. The study further shows that Bangladesh has some of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, where men are often much older than the girls, thereby setting up relationships where young women have little say.

“In essence, these young girls are married off and may be reduced to the status of bonded laborer.” Girls in these situations often drop out of school, and their lifelong earning power becomes dramatically reduced,” says the study.