Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 9 Issue 45| November 26, 2010 |

 Cover Story
 Special Feature
 One Off
 In Retrospect
 Star Diary
 Write to Mita

   SWM Home



Nasrin Pervin

Bangladeshi women have a long way to go before they can attain true emancipation.

It has been a refreshing sight, to some eyes, newspaper pictures of Bangladeshi women performing catwalks in fashion shows or taking part in beauty pageants. Equally heartening is the sight, during the rush hour traffic in the morning, the army of women workers going to work in the factories. It reminds one of similar pictures that may be seen in any town or city in the industrial world. But unlike their sisters there, here their footsteps are lot a more nervous, far less assured and undoubtedly ten times more vulnerable -- all apparent from their demeanor. Because, for many, taking this bold step to fend for oneself in the wider world outside home is like revolting against a society for crossing a demarcated line within which they must remain, and do the chores which for centuries were assigned to them - sometime with divine sanctions. Women police constables, engineers, judges and such others, novelties even in the seventies, are now a reality. Yes indeed, it is a long, slow and tumultuous walk from the veil-clad days when women's justification for existence was for their function to produce male heirs. But progress it is nevertheless by all measures.

Of course Bangladeshi women have a long way to go before they can attain true emancipation. Like pie in the sky, equality remains an illusion, - to be hoped for, chased after and cherished, but never to be found. To many, it may even be a concept in abstract, not fully understood. Some may even question: when a large portion of our male population lead a life of somewhat sub-standard existence, is it at all worth asking for equality with that? Perhaps equality is not what we should go for but equation. Women's esteem in society should be the same as that of men's.

This is a society that condemns its members to death even on the suspicion of being cattle lifters or muggers. Criminals committing condemnable acts undoubtedly, but we hardly come across any news about the society's rough justice to protect a woman when a crime is committed against her. Laws are designed to protect both property and person, but enacted more to protect property because the concept of fundamental human rights is still largely chimera. Women fare better as chattels than as persons. Sometimes her abductors sanctify the crime by marrying her and prolong a systematic rape of her mind and body, with the society's sanction, as long as he wishes. Marriage is seen as sanctuary for women, and as the ultimate solution for her inability to protect her honour. Otherwise, how can getting the victim of a rape or abduction married to the perpetrator be considered a just solution?

Insecure and paranoid, as they become, at the possibility of losing the right or privileged position in the gender game, how predictable it is, and how sickening when the men resort to nothing other than brute force. The forces of male domination, interact with this trend in the crudest fashion. In a liberal society a girl's command over her body and mind is recognised with surprising ease, and for young males one of the pain of adolescent learning is how to suffer rejection with grace. Here, however, girls get acid thrown at their faces for simply being assertive or rejecting a suitor, kidnapped and married against their wish to her attacker, or raped for just being attractive. Law or the society seems little able to help.

There is not a single day when we don't read a story in the newspaper of a woman being tortured or killed either for dowry or sexual harassment. What, in fact, do we expect from our government -wishful thinking or mere passing of laws? We have had enough of both. What we need now is an overall social shakeup to create awareness to empower women through devising opportunities for education, jobs and entrepreneurship, and that should mostly be initiated by women themselves. Women should break their shackles in their own mind, for the strength should come from within first and then from without, that is, from the community they live in and the nation they belong to. We need a Tess, that immortal character of Thomas Hardy, in our yard in flesh and blood who can challenge the sexual mores that include so called norms, virtues and values encouraging stereotyped ideas about women of our society.

Nasrin Pervin is a Lecturer (ELT) in the Department of English, North South University.



Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2010