The World Bank’s Bangladesh Development Series has published a report examining gender equality in Bangladesh, which has improved significantly over the past few decades. Gender equality in Bangladesh has seen achievements in education, infant mortality rates, lower fertility rates, and many other areas. This transformation has arisen from both implemented policies and as a side effect of other policies and events. It has also been strongly influenced by the growing women’s movement. However, Bangladeshi women still face many obstacles to gender equality. One of the most important obstacles cited by the report is violence against women, which remains a serious hindrance to their ability to achieve equal power in Bangladeshi society.
Domestic violence against women, while decreasing in Bangladesh, is still a cultural norm in that it is largely considered acceptable by both men and women as a “last resort.” The report finds that over 43 percent of male heads of households report having used violence on their wives, and that women in Bangladesh who have experienced domestic abuse are the least likely, compared to those in other countries, to seek help. Women are considered by the majority of both men and women to be unsafe in public places as well. According to the report, certain factors can be predictors of whether a woman will experience violence. These include poverty, the region in which she lives, the fact that a dowry was paid for her marriage, and marriage at an early age. Women with beliefs that defy cultural and societal norms are also more likely to be at risk . The report offers suggestions of policies and programs to combat violence against women in Bangladesh based on these findings.
For the full report, click here.
Compiled from: “Whispers to Voices: Gender and Social Transformation in Bangladesh,” The World Bank South Asia Sustainable Development Department, March 2008.