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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 185
September 4, 2010

This week's issue:
Reviewing the views
Human Rights advocacy
Law campaign
Laws For everyday life
Rights corner
Rights monitor
Law Week

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Human Rights advocacy

Combating domestic violence
Urging for a community based mechanism

Salma Ali


THE Government during the regular cabinet meeting has approved the proposed law on domestic violence, which reflects the demand of the women folk of the country and met government commitment to adopt a legislation to criminalise violence against women at domestic level. We all congratulate the government for considering the demand of the women rights organisations since decades. Bangladesh has a good number of laws conducive to the rights of women but still weakness in the existing laws are factors that help perpetuate Domestic Violence and thus BNWLA involving other women rights organisations had been advocating for the Domestic Violence [Protection & Prevention] Law 2010, which was passed by the Cabinet and still waiting to be passed by the National Parliament. The law is a combination of both the criminal and civil in nature where all the protection orders to be made under the law will be of Civil in nature and disobeying of such protection order will be treated as Criminal Offence for which punishment has been suggested in the law. BNWLA experiences suggest that it's not about enactment of new laws but the challenges lies in the implementation of the law. The proposed law which has been developed reflecting the opinion from the grassroots and different professionals including legal experts also suggested for ensuring training of the personnel to be involved in the implementation process and urged for allocating adequate resources needed for setting up the implementation mechanism.

Bangladesh has a number of laws conducive to the rights of women but the state is not completely able to ensure rights of woman at domestic level. In reported incidences that takes place each and every day implicate that Violence against Women still remain as the deadly fact in our society where women are persecuted by close associates like husbands and relatives at domestic level at large. Domestic violence is the most unrecognised form of violence and a very pervasive, serious social malady in every cluster of the society whether rich or poor, literate or illiterate, developed or underdeveloped. Domestic violence especially wife beating has been found as the most widespread form of violence against women. The forms are gargantuan and not covered under the existing laws of the land. The saddest part of the existing legal instruments is that woman has to wait to be brutally tortured or injured certified by a registered doctor to get justice, without which complaints of torture/violence are not taken into cognisance. This is because immediate reforms are needed to bring the required change in the legal arrangement so that in one hand domestic violence can be addressed according to the intensity of the committed offence and prohibiting misuse of that arrangement in other hand.

Only the physical violence are visible that includes threats and ends up with emotional disaster and psychological disorder of the concerned individual or family, which are not commonly attributed in our existing social norms and practices. Spouse battering is not an isolated incident. Typically Domestic Violence is directed against women which includes physical, sexual, economical and emotional or psychological.

More absolutely it has been found as a fashion existing as if such behaviours heighten the value of being man in the society. Interestingly it prevails both in the affluent and lower class of the society, the difference is that when it happens in the slum we notice quickly as the women come out of their homes shouting but in the affluent class of the society we notice only when it turns into a suicide or when any body is brutally murdered. Such circumstances pose a serious threat in designing social programmes for addressing violence against women and girl child in general and Domestic Violence in particular. So called social prestige also found as one of the inherent causes of such silent violence against women and in most cases woman has to faces indecent queries like, “What did you do to make your husband angry”? People at large continue to believe that domestic violence is a private matter between a couple, rather than a criminal offence that demands a strong, swift and integrated response to resolve. We should help the society to keep up such superstitious believes and extending support to possible sufferers.

Family as multisided reality now a day has become a topic of controversies cutting in all directions. The concept of joint family has been fading away giving birth of nucleus families, which has turned into center of violence. BNWLA records suggest that families have become one of the most common contexts of violence in our society. If any individual fails to respect his or her family members s/he can never respect the norms of a society. Behaviours among the members in a family construct the social attitude at large which is said to be changed for addressing Domestic Violence and restoration of piece in family. So without attempting to make respectful of every individual towards other members of their family programming against domestic violence may not succeed as aspiration.

Traditional way of accounting for marital violence was either to ascribe it to lower-class culture or else to describe it as psychologically pathological and deviant. As we have experienced, there is some support for the idea that the lower class is especially prone to violence, but this cannot be the whole story, since violence also occur in middle class. What it implies, sociologically, is that there is a wide spread cultural belief that women should behave in certain ways; if they do not, it is legitimate to violence against them. Laws actually gave a husband the right to physically chastise his wife for nagging or other offence against her unless it is not mentionable or serious in nature.

There is evidence that intergenerational transmission of violence affects women. A woman who was abused by her own parents is more likely to stay in a violent relationship with her husband. This is because she tends to perceive violence as normal, or because she has low self-esteem and little sense that she could improve the situation and cumulatively lives in greater social insecurity. She does not have any option to leave her violent husband and return to her parents. Perhaps even more importantly, husbands who were subjected to a great deal of physical punishment when they were children are especially like to assault their wives. The more violent a husband is to his wife, the more likely she is to use violent punishment on her children. Violence husbands are also more violent to their children. This closes the circle and sets off the likelihood of children growing up to become spouse abusers in the next generation. This vicious cycle has to be broken for addressing Domestic Violence, which cannot be attained only through ensuring strict enforcement of laws. We need to device an integrated social response very immediately.

In addition programming against Domestic Violence requires measure to change social attitude and beliefs that legitimate male violence and essence of male superiority. The measure might include changes in education, incentive to enhance the moral quality during the tender age. Urgent initiatives needed to board creating a social safety net based on community participation that includes supports like counselling and legal aid as protective measures. In addition to that integral services for identifying the possible victims and enhancing local government initiatives so that they can handle such victims within their capacity and jurisdiction. Largely media can play a pivotal role in framing the attitude of the society along with the Domestic Violence [Protection & Prevention] Law 2010, which requires urgent and immediate response for implementation.

The author is an Advocate and the Executive Director of Bangladesh National Woman Lawyer's Association (BNWLA).


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