Addressing gender based violence
Gender based violence against women is an existing curse in our society. Women in our society are constantly exposed to domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, acid attacks, dowry related violence, sexual harassment and early and forced marriage etc. In 2019 both Amnesty International and human rights organization Odhikar in their annual reports warranted noticeable rise of gender based violence against women in Bangladesh. In 2020 even during this pandemic, we have witnessed glaring incidents of such violence against women.
Gender based violence against women is an indication of discriminatory disposition towards women and a scurrilous weapon of exercising subordination, manipulation and control over women. According to the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women 1993, gender based violence against women impairs women's right to equality, their fundamental rights and freedoms.
Ensuring women's right to equality is a constitutional commitment in Bangladesh. Also there are several noteworthy laws in force to protect women from violence. But it has been a long-drawn struggle to substantiate women's rights in our society. Existing societal and cultural norms, practices and attitudes towards women work become delimiting factors in ensuring such rights. In our society gender stereotypes are deep seated, women are portrayed as passive and tolerant, an entity devoted to men's desires, lusts and aggressions, despite having major contributions towards family, society and nation women are still impersonated as less worthy and inferior to men; thus allowing an easy access to gender based violence.
Gender based violence is not a matter of quick fix. Even, legal implications alone can fight against this evil. It is no wrong to term gender based violence as an outcome of societal failure to uphold the dignified status of women and this fairly demands a holistic approach to address this evil in our society.
Article 4 of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993 strongly recommends for transforming social and cultural attributes that cherish gender stereotypes and gender inequality or any such practice holding on inferior condition of women. This article strongly referred education as a prime apparatus to foster major transformation in societal attitudes towards women.
The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence known as Istanbul convention maintained a similar idea of addressing violence against women through education. Article 14 of the aforementioned convention recommended the inclusion of teaching materials on equality between men and women, non-stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, gender based violence against women, right to personal integrity etc in formal and informal education system.
The idea of an education system, addressing gender issues are applauding in present context. In schools of Kaushambhi, Uttar Pradesh, India special sessions are conducted every Wednesday on issues of respecting women, nurturing proper ethics while dealing with women, building strong character, addressing existing gender stereotypical sentiments etc. In Mamboue, Western Burkina Faso educational programs are carried out to address gender based violence in the community. Male members of the community are taught issues of human rights of women, women empowerment and having respectful relationship with women.
Going critical about our current education system, it seems to be incurious towards addressing such social and cultural stigmas. The whole system seems to get usurped by unhealthy competitions; notions of passing in the exams, obtaining good grades and thriving for ensuring livelihood remain key mottos. Teachings of ethical codes and conducts, gender norms, gender sensitivity etc are barely prioritized as part of our education. The current system is failing to render a sound perspective of non-discrimination, equality between men and women. Thus we are producing in the name of education, certified literates devoid of proper values. To quote CS Lewis: "Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a cleverer devil".
As part of the process of addressing gender based violence in our society, it is high time teachings of gender issues incorporated in curriculas' of primary and secondary education. Textbook representation of women, interactions with male and female students in educational institutions, the conditions and ambience that male and female students are exposed to etc. should be meticulously considered. Apart from the educational campaign on gender issues, it can be introduced to create awareness among the community with special emphasis on rural population.
None has ever opposed the role of education in introducing a paradigm shift in a society. Once rightly observed by the proponents of "Reconstructionism" supporting the idea that the problems of society should be addressed by education and the aim of education is to reconstruct and reform the society.
Addressing gender based violence through education is a root level effort towards ending gender based violence and reshaping our society for the ultimate welfare of our women.
Adiba Tahsin Raha is a student, Department of Law, University of Chittagong