|WOMEN EMPOWERMENT & SELF-RELIANCE
The UN Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women defines this social issue “any act of gender-based violence that results in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.”
Violence against women is not confined to any specific political or economic system. It is rampant in every society around the world, a universal abuse that is recognized as a major public health concern and a violation of human rights. Violence is spurred by women’s vulnerability regarding social aspect. Women are afflicted with violence often for not conforming to the accepted standards of femininity generally wrongly established because of stigmatized society where they are confined. The accepted beliefs, norms and standards of much cultures legitimize and perpetuate this kind of violence that can bring devastating consequences in the lives of women, on their reproductive health as well as physical and mental well-being. The underlying cause of this violence lies in gender discrimination and the denial of women’s rights and equality with men in all areas of life.
Violence against women is more frequent in poverty-stricken society and households where the access to education and other horizons is difficult even unimaginable.
At least one out of every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in her lifetime.
Combating violence against women is the central point of MDGs goal 3, which aims at providing gender equality and empowering women, both are essential for the elimination of violence against women.
The international conventions and protection treaties should be ratified and enacted by all the countries all over the land. The self-reliance and self-sufficiency of women as well as their empowerment are the basis to counter their plague and to enable them to take their future in hand.
As well as advocacy and communication campaign aiming at changing norms and attitudes, and law reforms on issues relating to women such as property rights, divorce, political participation and credit.
When the issue of violence against women comes to the forefront, Bangladesh takes the second position just after Papua New Guinea.
Every day newspaper reports on violence against women. The mistreatments range from assault to acid throwing, rape, trafficking, harassment, etc.
47% of women in Bangladesh are assaulted by men and 50% of murders incidence of women are related to marital violence, dowry demands and polygamous marriages. Despite the assertion of equal rights of women in the constitution of Bangladesh, women are continually exposed to gender discrimination and gender-related violence.
Dowry-based marriage system refers to a marriage practice where “dowry” (gifts, valuable items, cash, property, furniture, etc.) is “offered” by the bride’s family to the groom’s one. In other term, Dowry (also known as “groomprice”) from the woman's family is demanded by the man as part of the marriage agreement before, during, or sometimes even after the marriage ceremony. But delayed payment raises the problem of abuse against the women. Along with the time dowry is becoming a practice from custom and in point of fact the countries affected by the dowry-based marriage are also facing the violence and detrimental consequences resulted in this system.
In Bangladesh dowry-based marriage system has became commonplace, this practice was not so used by the previous generation. Indeed, until the early 1970s, the “Mohr system” was run as marriage contract by the Muslim communities. “Mohr” was paid by the husband to his wife as an honour and respect and to show that he had a serious desire to marry her with sense of responsibility. This practice has been supplanted by the dowry system although this has no Islamic basis, but a social practice and arisen due to the impoverishment of the society. Some theories raise the increasing number of marriable women as main cause of the new criterion for marriage
It represents now an essential criterion for marriage in every community and is near universal in Bangladeshi society. This social practice has been and is still carried out both in urban and rural areas in different manner according to the expectation.
What is the meaning behind Child marriage?
Early marriage, otherwise known as child marriage, is the arranged or “forced” union of a young person (typically a girl) before the onset of adulthood. Anyway the girls are too young to make a sense of a marriage, for them it simply means “shifting home” as they have generally to go to the in-law’s house after wedding ceremony.
A male child is more likely to gain a full education, pursue a working life and therefore he still tends to marry later, while girls most of all issued from poverty-stricken and uneducated families are prone to marry at an early age.
Families have different motivations for marrying their daughters early, one of them is the economic factor, girls are often seen as an economic burden that can be relieved through marriage. The young age is also one reason as it ensures obedience to the husband’s household and the Dowry generally remains less important. However the decision is generally abetted by fallacious beliefs and stigma as well as by the high social value given to virginity.
Some examples for better understanding
Despite many countries have enacted a marriageable age ranged from 16 to 18, customary marriages are widespread: currently 51 million female children below 18 are married according to official statistics, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where marrying off a girl at 13 to 14 years old is prevalent.
The extreme cases of Child marriage reported includes the Niger, Chad and Bangladesh, three developing countries where poverty, taboos about pre-marital sex, traditional beliefs, and fears of HIV-AIDS still create a strong incentive for child marriage.
In some countries a false belief that a man can be cured of AIDS by sleeping with a virgin leads to marriage at a really young age.
Consequences of Early marriage on the bride and broadly on the family:
Lacking status and power, the girls are often subjected to domestic violence, sexual abuse and social isolation. Moreover early marriage deprives girls of access to education or of meaningful work, which contributes to persistent poverty. Their rights are also curtailed or denied: right to give full and free consent to marry, freedom of mobility, right of access to education, right of dignity… all these rights enshrined by the principal international protection instruments and recognized by almost all the countries.
When Child marriage is closely observed another pattern should not be forgotten. Indeed the child brides have to pass from childhood to adulthood, the denial of adolescence prevents personal development and acquirement of a full sense of selfhood.
Therefore they face greater health risks and experiences trauma and physical violence as they are forced to deal with adult obligations and duties before the age of maturity. The early sexual activity and the strains and pains of premature pregnancy and childbirth remain the main source of health problem.
The accumulation of the mentioned abuses conduces to physically and emotionally harmful environment for the victims of child marriage.
|International Protection Instruments and Early Marriage:
The international community recognizes Child marriage as a severe development problem.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) stated in the Article 16 (21) “Marriage shall be entered into effect only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses”.
The supplementary of the Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices similar to Slavery considers child or forced marriage similar to slavery practice (article 1).
The Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriage (article 1, 2 and 3)
“No marriage shall be legally entered into effect without the full and free consent of both parties”. It specifies also a minimum age for marriage as well as the Convention of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Children, which mentioned that a marriage with somebody below 18 years old should have no effect and be prohibited. Legal and effective action should be taken against the parents, guardian or family.
Child marriage, a very current practice in Bangladesh
Child marriage is an illegal but recurrent and traditional practice throughout rural Bangladesh.
- Many girls are married off soon after puberty even earlier; still 10-years-old-girls-marriage with mature men are common cases.
- Nearly 70% of girls are married before 18 and over 40% before reaching 15 years old
- Although the median age of marriage for girls is 15, the incidence of child marriage spikes earlier at 13 years old.
Families are struck in poverty where they are unable to progress and hence accept child marriage as an unavoidable reality in their country. Therefore they give their daughters at a young age generally considered as an economic load. While also in order to keep them "safe" from unwanted sexual advances or assault and to avoid pregnancy outside marriage, even though child marriage represents one of the prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation.
In Bangladesh, if a girl’s family is very poor or if she has lost her parents, she may be married off as a second or even third wife to a much older man, mostly to fulfill the role of sexual and domestic servant. The girl remains mostly illiterate, mistreated and psychologically traumatized. In the country more and more cases of suicides in the aftermath of child marriage are reported.
Child marriage is illegal in Bangladesh, but the main cases are either undisclosed or non-complained as there are no marriage registrations, or in the case of registration, the age of the bride can be hidden or modified by the registrar.
PEACE Foundation Responses:
- Heighten understanding of what constitutes child marriage and its consequences
- Provide necessary information and aware about the importance of the education
- Protect children psychologically and physically (child protection laws and conventions/health services/legal support in case of mistreatment)
- Lobby for the increase of secondary school enrolment rate for girls
- Boost the value of the girls in the eyes of their families and potential husband
- Introduce alternatives to child marriage and increase employment opportunities for young women/livelihood opportunities and skill development training. (income generating activities/primary and secondary school/non-formal education/professional and life skill training…)
- Provide reproductive health services for adolescents
- Cooperate with religious community leaders who should help to decrease the number of child marriage and lead to mentality change.
- Advocate and lobby at national level for policy enforcement and social involvement