Violence against women and girls is a social, cultural and economic problem in Bangladesh, where nearly two-thirds of women have experienced gender-based violence during their lifetime. Domestic violence is common, but social stigma means it remains seriously underreported. National data on prevalence of physical violence against women and girls in intimate relationships does not exist, but estimates vary between one in two to one in three women.
90% of the population of Bangladesh are Muslim. The status of most women in Bangladesh is therefore subject to the principles of sharia law – through Muslim Personal laws. Muslim personal laws cover marriage, divorce, guardianship of children and inheritance, whereas ‘secular’ law covers the rights under the constitution, penal codes, and civil and criminal procedures.
Bangladesh introduced the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act in 2000 and the Domestic Violence Act in 2010. The Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act targets rape, trafficking, and kidnapping and the Domestic Violence Act criminalises domestic violence. This legislation is an important step toward ending violence against women in Bangladesh, but the influence of religion, tradition and patriarchal societal attitudes remains strong, resulting in continuing high levels of violence and negative stereotyping of victims.
Sisters For Change, as a member of the Equality & Justice Alliance consortium, worked with women’s rights advocates and legal experts from Bangladesh in 2019 to identify legal gaps and laws in need of reform in order to strengthen equality for women, and protect women and girls from violence and abuse.