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Our social norms foster violence against women

Published : Sunday, 19 May, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 341

Our social norms foster violence against women

Our social norms foster violence against women

Bangladesh, like many other nations, has several social practices and beliefs that contribute to the sequel of violence against women. These norms are frequently the results of deeply rooted cultural practices, traditional gender roles, and societal expectations, all of which contribute to an environment in which violence against women is endorsed or even encouraged.
According to ActionAid Bangladeshs 2022 survey, 63.51 percent of women had experienced violence in some way. Some of its strongest and most constant causes are serious social norms that contribute to gender inequality. These norms are founded on common beliefs and expectations about how a person should act. There are hundreds of such social norms in our society, some of them are very common and we are always protecting them unconsciously or consciously.
The most prevalent of these is rigid gender norms that require women to be subordinate to their male family members. When women in Bangladesh marry and go to their in-laws homes, they are expected to be obedient to their husbands and in-laws in any condition. If they break any of such rules, their husbands can implement violence as a form of punishment or correction. According to a survey carried out by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 87 percent of married women are being violated by their husbands. 81.6% of women have experienced mental abuse and 64.6 percent have experienced physical cruelty. Where women and girls are expected to be submissive, men are also expected to exert power and control over their families and relationships.

Here is a strong belief among both men and women that violence is acceptable and even necessary when men discipline women for not fulfilling their perceived responsibilities or for breaking any social norms.  Forced intercourse with a wife is a felony in several countries and it is punishable. This sort of sexual assault is referred to as rape or marital rape. Even the United Nations deems it a serious type of domestic violence. But Bangladeshs law makes no mention of such a crime.

Social belief is largely responsible for this vulnerability. Most women and men in our country think that wives should always be ready to satisfy their husbands sexual urges. That is, even if a husband has physical intercourse with his wife against her will or compulsion, it will not be considered sexual violence or sexual crime.

Therefore, rape in a marital relationship is not identified as a crime in any law of Bangladesh.  In some cases, even the existence of strict laws does not help much. Recently our state minister for Ministry of Women and Children Affairs,  Simeen Hussain Rimi said during the National Parliaments discussion period that the nations rate of child marriage under the age of 18 is 51.40%. This rate is 15.50% for those under the age of 15. Child marriage not only disrupts womens education but also increases the chance of maternal death. A mother dies every 20 minutes, and a newborn dies every hour. Even if the newborn lives, they often experience a variety of physical and mental difficulties.

People who blindly trust in the norms of society put some justifications behind it, such as since child marriage has been going on for a long time, thus it is not harmful, and many believe that the risk of sexual abuse of girls reduces when they get married.

Blaming the victim for the crime is another aspect of destructive societal stereotypes. Mens sexual rights and violence are frequently justified in our country by blaming womens behaviour. Additionally, those who have experienced violence are frequently stigmatized. For example, some men here are carrying out sexual assault due to their mental deformity. Ignoring the issue of mental distortion and capitalizing on occurrences of rape and violence against women around the country, a part of fundamentalist Muslims are propagating misconceptions that womens attire is to blame for rape in an ingenious attempt to tie down women. Victim blaming is very common here.

To prevent social norms that promote violence against women in Bangladesh, it is important to question and change existing gender norms and beliefs. It is visible to us that traditional gender roles and expectations often justify or normalize violence against women.

Therefore, promoting gender equality and combating harmful stereotypes can help build a more just society. Education and awareness programs are essential to changing societys attitudes towards gender-based violence. Implementing comprehensive education and awareness programs aimed at people of all ages, including youth, community leaders, educators, and policy makers, can help change social norms that perpetuate violence against women.

By incorporating together to combat violence against women, males can be key stakeholders in questioning negative social norms. Promoting a positive masculinity that emphasizes respect, empathy, and equality can create a culture where violence against women is considered unacceptable. Enforcement of existing laws on domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other forms of gender-based violence is critical to preventing such acts. By strengthening legal processes, ensuring survivors access to justice, and initiating criminal charges against those who participate in such behaviour, we can provide a clear message that such behaviour will not be tolerated in society.

This situation will undoubtedly improve if we can raise public awareness of violence against women through all forms of collaboration.

The writer is a Student, Institute of education and research, University of Rajshahi

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