Bangladesh must address lack of protection for women from violence – UN expert

Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

30 May 2013 – A United Nations independent expert today called on Bangladesh to ensure the effective implementation of laws and measures that protect women from violence, stressing that in addition to the enforcement of policies, changes in attitudes need to occur regarding women’s role in society.

“The absence of effective implementation of existing laws, the lack of responsive justice systems, and impunity for acts of violence, was the rule rather than the exception in cases of violence against women,” said the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, who just finished a 10-day visit to the country.

Ms. Manjoo noted that the most pervasive form of violence against women in the country is domestic violence, with a high percentage of married women having experienced violence at the hands of their husbands and/or in-laws. Other manifestations include rape, discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and caste status, sexual harassment, forced marriages and trafficking.

Stereotypical views regarding the role of women in society are obstructing efforts to empower women, Ms. Manjoo said. “Such attitudes and behaviour have the effect of perpetuating discrimination against women and girls, and contribute to the continuation of violence against them.”

Ms. Manjoo commended the steps taken by the Government towards legislative, policy and programmatic measures to address the development needs of women, and violence against women specifically. However, in spite of some positive developments, discrimination and violence against them continues in law and practice.

To increase accountability regarding cases of violence against women, and address the systemic and structural causes of inequality and discrimination, social transformation needs to occur, Ms. Manjoo said.

During her visit, Ms. Manjoo met with Government authorities and representatives of the civil society in Dhaka, Chittagong, Rangamati, Khulna and Jessore.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. Ms. Manjoo will present a report to the Council on her visit in June 2014.

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