Dhaka, Bangladesh, March 16 (IPS) – The 410 legal aid centers that I manage in Bangladesh for BRAC’s Human Rights and Legal Aid Services received nearly 35,900 requests for assistance in 2020. Almost all relate to gender-based violence against women and girls .
In Bangladesh, gender-based violence comes in many forms: physical abuse; Husbands evict their wives from the home in domestic disputes; Husbands demand that their wives receive more dowries from their families, child marriage, among other things. The COVID-19 pandemic only increased the problem, as unemployment and other financial pressures increased. The Bangladesh Rural Development Commission documented nearly 31 percent (8,709) an increase in reported incidents of violence against women and girls in 2020 compared to the same time last year (4,566).
But the problem is global. The United Nations estimates That 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical and / or sexual violence from an intimate partner or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives. In some countries, this number rises to 70 percent.
From our experience, the Bangladesh Rural Development Commission has developed an integrated five-step approach to address gender-based violence. This approach includes prevention, protection, partnership, rehabilitation and monitoring. It can be replicated around the world to defeat gender-based violence.
protection It requires raising awareness of gender-based violence. It must be done at all levels – from global to local, and from seeker of justice to duty-bearer. Leaders and the public need to understand the scale and nature of the problem, the factors affecting it, and what can be done. Government leaders, civic institutions, and religious groups need help changing the norms that have made this violence so common for so long.
At BRAC, we conduct Human Rights and Legal Education (HRLE) classes with our curriculum specifically designed to inform women of their basic legal rights in cases of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, community violence, child marriage, inheritance, and trafficking, among others. In 2020, we reached 53,994 women and girls through these seasons and provided advice and advice to 10,492 women over the phone, as the epidemic isolated people. In addition, the Bangladesh Rural Development Commission is organizing workshops with community leaders on the legal rights of women and girls and the responsibilities of leaders.
The Bangladesh Rural Development Commission also supports community-based women’s groups called Polly Schumag, which are active in 54 of the country’s 64 provinces, working to end child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence and assist women in accessing relevant resources. In 2020, they banned 1,091 child marriages – an increase of 196% over the same period in 2019.
protection It should also be pursued through the proper implementation of laws against gender-based violence. Unfortunately, the Bangladesh court system has a 3.7 million cases backlog, giving perpetrators a relief that they are unlikely to be punished.
The Bangladesh Rural Development Commission provides access to justice through ADR in cases that can be adequately resolved without formal courtroom litigation. In other cases, the Bangladesh Rural Development Commission provides case support through 350 registered attorneys across the country. In 2020, BRAC’s Legal Aid Centers resolved 1,985 complaints through ADR and filed 2,469 civil and criminal cases.
partnership Enable to collaborate with government agencies and NGOs to combat gender-based violence. Through partnerships, BRAC helps survivors of violence obtain immediate medical and shelter support and to file complaints at police stations. BRAC works with other service providers to help the government fulfill its obligations to ensure access to justice.
Rehabilitation Socio-economic – another vital area of inclusion for survivors of gender-based violence. They should be supported rather than ostracized, and they must have the financial resources to survive without their abusive husbands. The Bangladesh Rural Development Commission has succeeded in recovering a large sum of money for victims of gender-based violence, through alternative dispute resolution and court cases. In 2020 alone, BRAC legal aid centers recovered $ 5.1 million (USD) for victims. The recovery of this money is not limited to the cost of the perpetrator. She supports the victim in her quest to establish a life free from this violence. A woman who is free from violence but is destitute has not received justice.
Survivors must also be re-empowered through skills training, so that they can find jobs, and through continuing education, so that they can graduate. Re-empowerment must also go along with rehabilitation. Stigma from being abused must be eliminated. The norms that perpetuate gender-based violence must change.
Watching Essential, as it provides the most recent data to raise awareness of gender-based violence and stimulate prevention efforts. Monitoring has to be done by the government but often it is the responsibility of NGOs – to collect data and provide an independent evaluation. Regardless, government participation is vital.
Advance monitoring of incidents is needed to help prevent them. Verifying a girl’s birth certificate before marriage, for example, can help prevent child marriage. Monitoring is also essential to understanding trends – in gender-based violence itself, criminal cases filed, judicial outcomes, and changing circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Everyone must come forward to end gender-based violence. This integrated five-step approach sets the course. It is time for all of us to join the march towards a new day when gender-based violence is no longer.
The author is the Director of Human Rights, Legal Aid Services and Social Compliance at BRAC, based in Bangladesh.
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