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On course of de-empowerment of women!

Khawaza Main Uddin | November 06, 2019 00:00:00

Parents all over the world, not excepting Bangladesh, have reasons to be worried about the future of their girl children. What they see - even if they don't know more about how women are victimised - is to some extent a backward journey of history towards de-empowerment of women from progress made over a few centuries.

So far 18 women members of British parliament have deserted politics, announcing that they won't contest the next elections in December, to escape abuse, especially by 'online persecutors'. The female politicians cite, as Guardian columnist Catherine Bennett pointed out, 'threats' and 'vile colleagues' they face in public office as reasons of their stepping down.

This is the situation in a European country that stands 7th in Women, Peace and Security Index 2019. Bangladesh's ranking there is 142nd out of 167 countries that were judged on the basis of women's autonomy and empowerment at home, in the community and in society.

The index, prepared by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security in partnership with the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, has placed Bangladesh in the category of mixed performance. The country of a President who reportedly boasted abusing women, is in the 19th position, according to the index.

It mentioned that while the overall picture has not improved much, several countries show promising gains - most notably Bangladesh, which recorded the largest increase in women's employment worldwide since the 2017 index (4 percentage points. In Bangladesh, women's employment rose by almost a third over the last two decades, to 38 per cent in the 2019 index.

However, another report, the Women's Workplace Equality Index, says 59 countries provide no legal protection whatsoever against sexual harassment in workplace.

The Women, Peace and Security Index has bracketed Bangladesh in the category of countries that follow 'discriminatory norms' against women's pursuit of career. "Disapproval exceeds 50 per cent in Bangladesh, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanis," it observed.

The Workplace Index added that women are more likely to be financially and economically active in nations that prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace.

While Bangladesh's attainment in women empowerment is applauded worldwide, reports of violence against and repression of women and girls at home show a different picture of the overall social progress. On the economic front, as a recent survey reveals, only 3.01 per cent of institutional credits goes to small female entrepreneurs.

The Women, Peace and Security Index appreciated Bangladeshi women's exposure to mobile phone and internet, saying that about 89 per cent of these women who access the internet do so using a cellphone.

Simultaneously, Internet, especially the social media, has become a powerful weapon for stigmatising women including girls in Bangladesh as elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, women's serious issues have been largely limited to so-called rights activism and development jargons.

Certain indifference to women's issues, despite project-oriented campaigns, and perhaps a lack of proper education on upholding respect for women as mother, sister and daughter have stagnated female empowerment in society.

Many of the powerful elements, socially and otherwise, may not be willing to listen to bitter truth about the environment where girl children are not safe for a sound growth.

The UN Women sees Bangladesh's progress in women's status mainly in the normative and policy framework and regrets that the incidence of violence against women and girls is rampant.

One in five adolescent girls between 15 and 19 years of age reported experiencing partner sexual violence, the UN Women added. "The normative system needs to be strengthened and implemented; there is a strong need for capacity building of institutions, coupled with education and awareness." Solution to the issue of gender-related violence is not possible only by motivating women -- men, too, need to be more sensitive to the cause.


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