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Bangladesh presses for ending violence against women

-Dhaka Tribune
Published: March 13, 2014
Sheikh Shahariar Zaman
Gender violence costing country 2% of total GDP

With the backdrop of recent studies finding that 87% married women in the country experience violence by their spouses, Bangladesh has been pressing for a stop to violence against women and the elimination of child marriage at the ongoing session of the Commission on Status of Women.

Bangladesh has put forward its proposal to the UN for post-2015 development agenda, which includes two goals on ensuring equal opportunity and benefit for all women, and ensuring the role of women in decision-making process.

The matter will be discussed during the 58th session of the Commission on Status of Women that started on March 10 and will continue until March 21 in New York.

Speaking on the issue, Christine Hunter, country representative for UN Women Bangladesh, told the Dhaka Tribune: “I am really hoping that Bangladesh will continue to advocate for these positions.”

The session in New York creates a very good platform for advocacy, she said, adding that the conclusions agreed at the session were binding for all member countries.

About the role of women in decision-making process, Hunter said: “We have taken some good steps, and now we have to take our next steps.”

Citing an example, she said out of 12 posts in the local government council, three were reserved for women.

“There are nine men on a council and each man covers one constituency. And those three women cover three of those. So constituencies covered by three men have to be covered by one woman, but her budget is same,” Hunter pointed out.

Saying the civil society and development partners were concerned about reproductive health and rights issues, the UN official added that although Bangladesh had done well in reducing maternal mortality, there was still more to do.

Child marriage was linked to early pregnancy and the chance of dying in childbirth was higher for young women, she added.

If adolescents had the full understanding and education about reproductive health, and were able to discuss it with their parents and get the services they need, it would greatly help in reducing maternal mortality, Hunter said.

Recent studies had also found that the cost of violence against women constituted 2% of the total GDP in Bangladesh, while the country was ranked third in the world and first in Asia regarding child marriage, with 65% women being married before the age of 18.

She also said Bangladesh has achieved many of the Millennium Development Goals despite being a poor country.

In the discussion on the post-2015 agenda, the Bangladesh government was making a strong point that the post-2015 goals have to be in equal partnership between the wealthy and the poor countries, and that the wealthier countries would have to live up to their commitment, she said.

“We should invest the resources. These are important because if we believe in human rights, we should not have people living in extreme poverty and destitution. We should not have people excluded from social processes; so, we need to invest on that,” Hunter added.