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After job loss, comes domestic violence

94pc city women domestic help, cleaners, vendors suffer at home

ARAFAT ARA | May 18, 2020 00:00:00

Nearly 94 per cent of women workers in Dhaka city are facing domestic violence as they have no income because of coronavirus pandemic, according to a study.

The Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra (BNSK) said economic lockdown has also created mental stress of male partners, resulting in torture of women.

Besides, many of the respondents reported that their husbands tortured them as they were away from their habitual involvement in gambling and addiction to drugs following economic insecurity.

Apart from women, children have also been subjected to physical torture by their fathers. Old-age parents also are vulnerable to abuse by their sons during the pandemic period.

The BNSK conducted the study on internal women migrant workers here during the March-April period this year.

The majority of women, 88 per cent, worked in informal sectors as domestic help, street vendor and cleaner. The remaining 12 per cent were garment workers.

The study styled 'Covid-19 Pandemic: Socioeconomic Situation of Migrant Women Workers' covered 154 families in Chollish Bosti, Pora Bosti, Geneva Camp, Bizlee Mahalla and Johuri Mahalla in Mohammadpur.

The families migrated from Barisal, Satkhira, Khulna, Jamalpur, Mymensingh, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Rangpur, Gopalganj and Sylhet districts.

The BNSK findings show an estimated 96 per cent of the surveyed women migrated from their places of origin to urban areas to alleviate economic hardship.

Aleya Begum, a respondent who hailed from Barishal, said her husband beats her up almost every single day as she cannot give money to her husband to buy drugs.

She is a domestic worker, but now fully jobless as her master forbids her going to his home until and unless the covid-19 pandemic is fully under control.

"My husband is used to take ganja (marijuana), but it is not available in the city because of restrictions on public movement. So, he often tortures me."

Even sometimes he sells foods that are donated from different charitable organisations. So many times she is forced to starve with her children, Ms Aleya said.

Interviews revealed that 100 per cent women migrants and their family members trapped in the corona-affected areas were being haunted by the fear of death.

It also identified that nearly 67 per cent of migrant women were the main breadwinners of their family while 33 per cent of them contributed partially.

Both these groups have lost their job or have been suspended by their employers at this moment.

The cent per cent of the respondents reported that they had no savings to procure daily food.

All the workers said they had no option to pay room or house rent for March and April as they lost their jobs.

Respondents from a domestic worker cluster said their employers would not allow them to enter their houses until the coronavirus pandemic was out of the way.

Street vendors, cleaners and tailors also have no chance to start their work shortly.

Some 95 per cent of the surveyed females said their partners worked in informal sectors and they also lost jobs due to the pandemic.

As things have got this bad, they are also not getting government support.

Some 86 per cent of the respondents said they did not get support from public service providers and 10 per cent reported insufficient food supply from local commissioners.

BNSK executive director Sumaiya Islam said women suffer more during every pandemic or natural disaster.

It was needed to ensure women's social and legal support as well as food security, she added.

Ms Islam said social security is a universal human right to which everyone, including women migrant workers who are often excluded, should have their access.

The BNSK was giving food and counselling support to the women workers, but it was not sufficient in terms of their growing number, she cited.

Ms Islam urged the authorities concerned to lend support to the workers.

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