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When Will Attitude towards Women Change?

By Piya Mayenin

Society-made, insurmountable obstacles hinder the progress of gender equality. With one step forward and leaps back the ugly mountain blocks our future unless some real changes are made worldwide. ..Quantitative actions are not turning into qualitative change because of insurmountable obstacles of society. 

 

Why do women have to bang on about Women’s right?  Well, firstly as women they would have experienced inequality and, at some time in their life, they would try to find a reason for those inequalities and solutions. Secondly, the status quo that is harming women, economically and socially has proved to be one that is almost impossible to shift inspite of achievements in equality by society.  Despite achievements of women, worldwide, the inequality mountain stands almost still. In the new era of ‘Trumpism  – when a Man like Donald Trump gets the Presidentship of in the US after making all the despicable comments about women – we need to put down our feet firmly for real quality changes!

Quantitative actions are not turning into qualitative change because of insurmountable obstacles of society. Quantitative changes mean that there are more women working today then say there were in the 1940’s. So does that mean that work around equality by our foremothers is really paying off? Comparators across indicators of qualitative change show that this is not the case. I have put that down, I am sure many many others have too, to a lack of respect for women. This lack of respect, globally, for women is simply from deep rooted ideas of women’s inferior place in society and the economy. This is seen, all over the world, where women are still usually working more and getting paid less than men irrespective of the major global women’s rights treaty that was ratified by the majority of the world’s nations a few decades ago.

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Bangladeshi-British women, including the author of this piece, in East London hold placards against sexual violence against women in 2015. Situation has worsen since. Courtesy: P V Dudman

In the US and pretty much in other western countries, women begun to enter work for many reasons including the rise of wages that made couples see that it is more beneficial for them, deindustrialization and men moving offshore or getting out of work.  Women earned about 60-65 percent of what men earned from the 1950s to the 1980s. After 1980, this began to equalize so that by about 2000, women earned 76 percent of what men did. Since 2000 there hasn’t been much more progress toward equality.

Women still earn less than men for many reasons which are unbelievably discriminatory. One explanation is, for instance, that employers pay people when they have more years of experience, and women’s child rearing breaks make them unsuitable. A report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee concluded last year that responsibility for childcare and the concentration of women in low-paid sectors were key causes of the pay differential. This means that some employers discriminate against women when hiring in higher-paying jobs, leaving the women no choice but to seek lower-paying jobs.

The glass ceiling is broken by a very few women and some when they get there are not very appreciative of feminism. ‘Far from “smashing the glass ceiling“, she was the aberration, the one who got through and then pulled the ladder up right after her, noted the reporter correctly in the Guardian on 9 April 2013.

So women have been given access to enter into a man’s work world only to stretch and fit, and as a result there is no qualitative change. The numerical pointers are not necessarily the indicators of success, while substantive changes are.

A woman now has to juggle working all day in overarching sexist structures and environments and tackle the bulk of housework and childcare after, doubling the stresses she previously had. Here’s another reality: Inequality is glaring when one sees that with most well off couples, the woman having the worse car while the husband flashes the better one. These indicators are evidence that attitudes and mentality have not changed around women although the benefits of their income have been realized by many.

Another achievement globally is where more girls are entering education and even higher education. However appalling safety levels and poor resources of the schools and incidents against women in developing countries do not allow for a real difference for girls.

The Independent in January 2017 has reported that ‘Russian lawmakers are being urged to reject a “dangerous” law that could decriminalise all acts of domestic violence, with the exception of rape and serious bodily harm.’  Let’s not forget that a large percentage of the world refuses to recognise rape within marriage as a criminal offence. In Turkey , for example, a draft law stipulates that men who sexually abuse girls under 18 without “force, threat or any restriction on consent”, and who marry their victim could go free.

Bdnews24 in Bangladesh reported on 27 February this year that ‘Bangladesh Parliament passes law allowing child marriage in “special circumstances”. Prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has defended the law by saying the critics “know nothing about Bangladesh’s social system” and that her government was “making the law considering the ‘realities’ of society”. In Explaining the “special circumstances, the prime minister in Bangladesh who is a woman herself, said:

We’ve fixed the minimum age for girls to marry at 18. But what if any of them becomes pregnant at 12-13 or 14-15 and abortion can’t be done? What will happen to the baby? Will society accept it?

She added then, the girl could go for marriage with her parents’ consent in such circumstances in order to give the baby a “legal status” in society.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) have responded correctly, “Accidental or unlawful pregnancy suggests the law could lead to a situation where girls who have been raped are forced to marry their rapists.”

The same Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, promised in the 2014 Girl summit that child marriage will be eradicated by 2024. Bangladesh reports the highest case of child marriage at 66% on girls under the age of 18 getting married and over one third getting married before the age of 15. The recent law has just given for child marriages to rise and also the unintended consent to abuse of children.

Here in the UK, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimates that 8.2% of women and 4.0% of men reported experiencing any type of domestic abuse in the last year and 2.7% of women and 0.7% of men had experienced some form of sexual assault (including attempts) in the last year.  (2017). Two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner (Office of National Statistics, 2015)

The Guardian on 5 January, 2016, reported that Women outnumber men in 112 of 180 degree subjects, with females from poorer backgrounds 50% more likely to go to university than their male counterparts.

Papworth Trust in 2016 found that ‘one study shows there is evidence that Indian Asian people are significantly more likely to experience higher rates of disability than Europeans’., quoting Emily D Williams study Ethnic Differences in Disability Prevalence and Their Determinants Studied over a 20-Year Period: A Cohort Study.

This rather depressing state of affairs shows that issues of poverty, race, disability, sexual orientation and gender, amongst many other things, often combine to create a reality of extreme disadvantage for certain groups. Most of the time, these groups are female’, according to the New Statesmen 2013.

The status quo, the place where it is accepted that the poor, the physically weaker and people who are different get it rough, is tough and is so outdated and simply cruel. With regards to women, this is not helped by the large proportion of male banter concerning women around how they look and what they would like to do with them – usually violently when they have an issue with them.

Society-made, insurmountable obstacles hinder the progress of gender equality. With one step forward and leaps back the ugly mountain blocks our future unless some real changes are made worldwide.

UN Women have suggested the strategy for states to come together in working in their economies so that it works for women and equality by making macroeconomic and political changes with women’s development at the centre of it. They say that ‘they would have equal access to opportunities and resources – a good job with equal pay, or access to land – and social protection, which together would provide enough income to support a decent standard of living, from birth to older age. Their life choices would be unconstrained by gender stereotypes, stigma and violence; the paid and unpaid work that women do would be respected and valued; and women would be able to live their lives free from violence and sexual harassment. They would have an equal say in economic decision-making: from having a voice in how time and money are spent in their households; to the ways in which resources are raised and allocated in their national economies; to the broader economic policies set by global institutions.’  In their progress report in 2015 of the world women – 16 ‘Transforming Economics, Realising Rights’, they urge member states:

 To support substantive equality, economic and social policies need to work in tandem. Typically, the role of economic policies is seen primarily in terms of promoting economic growth, while social policies are supposed to address its ‘casualties’ by redressing poverty and disadvantage and reducing inequality. But macroeconomic policies can pursue a broader set of goals, including gender equality and social justice. Conversely, well-designed social policies can enhance macroeconomic growth and post crisis recovery through redistributive measures that increase employment, productivity and aggregate demand.

Let us call for a more equal world this International Women’s Day with the UN Women’s proposals listened to in order to help forge a better working world, a more inclusive, gender equal world. We can only keep trying and urge governments to enact and enforce these policies that would also change attitudes towards women and we can gradually get to see the qualitative change as and when the insurmountable obstacles are removed.


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‘Rising Silence’ – A crucial film on the Birangona

A Documentary Film on the Birangona by Komola Collective Needs Urgent Donation 

Rumana Hashem

Birangona means ‘Brave Woman of War’. This was the honourific granted to the hundreds of thousands of survivors of the campaign of rape carried out by the Pakistani Army and their Bengali collaborators in the war of liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Their individual stories are largely hidden and forgotten by a society in which rape is considered to be a source of shame for the victims like other rape survivors in conflict situations.

RS Artwork (2)In the aftermath of the war these survivors were not only overlooked by the international community but also were silenced by their very own communities in independent Bangladesh. Having endured brutal rape, torture and enforced pregnancies and abortions many women of war were made to return to their villages, communities, families and husbands, but were never allowed to speak about the brutality that they had had to endure for the nation during the war of liberation.

There are thousands of Birangona living in extreme poverty, being rejected by local people for the religious ‘sin’ (zina) and shame of having been raped by Pakistani military. Their children and grandchildren, as eye-witnesses and as generations of rape-survivors, also experienced endless discrimination in a nation-state that was supposed to be secular and progressive. The Director of Komola Collective, Leesa Gazi, notes correctly: ‘with each day that passes, the Birangona of Bangladesh die out, and with them, their stories: stories that contributed to the making of a nation, and stories which we, as part of an international community striving to end sexual violence in conflict, cannot afford to ignore.’

Komola Collective, a London-based theatre and art group, has therefore taken a timely initiative to document the stories of Birangona. They are producing a film, called ‘Rising Silence’ , in partnership with Openvisor, Making Herstory and Jatrik, that aspires to document and preserve the lived experiences of survivors of rape and the narratives of great survivors of brutal abuse: the Women of War – The Birangona.

Other community women’s rights campaigners, including East London-based organisation such as Nari Diganta, provided unwavering support to the initiative and is trying to raise fund for the important film. A panel of experts and women rights campaigners and Nari Diganta members Pushpita Gupta and I have discussed the significance of the film.  Speakers agreed that this film is about the Birangona‘s will to survive and honouring their insurmountable courage. It is a way of bringing a crucial part of a nation’s history – that has been ignored for too long, made taboo and silenced – to the forefront. Above all, it is about documenting the voices of these women and the national reproducers of a nation-state that has 20,000 populations who rarely talk about Birangona.

If readers of this blog can see the significance of the potential film, please donate whatever you can afford. We deeply appreciate your support to make this film happen. Let’s make a history by making a historical film on rape survivors and the ‘women of war’ in a nation that is so proud of its liberation war.

To watch the ‘Rising Silence’ promo film on Birangona click on   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nlm_saJURKY

 


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Bangladesh Government Must Apprehend the Perpetrators of mass sexual assault on Women

An Open Letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister from International Women’s rights campaigners

We wish to echo the outrage expressed by women’s rights campaigners in Bangladesh against the organised sexual assaults on 20 women in Dhaka by identifiable perpetrators on the evening of 14 April, during the celebration of Bangla New Year 1422. It is appalling that on the auspicious occasion of Bangla Nobo Borsho, women were subjected to such a horrific event in a nation-state which is led by a woman Prime Minister. These organised sexual assaults went on for about two hours within the premise of Dhaka University where women should feel able to be safe.

The University has described the organised violence against women as a ‘normal incident’ and ‘nothing so severe’. It seems incredible that the Proctor of the University has denied having evidence of sexual assaults on women when four surveillance cameras were operating on the premises. Instead of supporting the protesters and detaining the perpetrators who conducted the heinous crime, both police and the proctor have accused the survivors of violence for not having been dressed appropriately in a plural society! It is unacceptable that the police were silent bystanders during the vicious incident.

Attack on a student Ismat Jahan Jo during demo on Sunday 10 May 2015. Courtesy: The Daily Kaler Kontho

Attack on a student Ismat Jahan Jo during demo on Sunday 10 May 2015. Courtesy: The Daily Kaler Kontho

Additionally, Police cracked down and brutally tortured the protesters against sexual assault on women during a demonstration on 10 May 2015. These demonstrate deep-rooted misogyny in Bangladeshi institutions.

Masculinity is pervasive in Bangladesh even in times of relative peace. It is deeply concerning that a secular regime which has vigorously attempted to bring war criminals for rape in the Bangladeshi war of independence in 1971 to justice fails to prevent sexual violence against women.

We stand in solidarity with the survivors of sexual violence and with the protesters in Bangladesh. The following demands should be implemented urgently:

  1. Immediate arrest and punishment of the perpetrators. But we oppose the use of capital punishment for anyone convicted in this instance.
  2. A public apology from the local police and administration of Dhaka University for failing to support the women who were tortured for one and a half hours.
  3. Immediate suspension of Police who tortured and humiliated demonstrators.
  4. Immediate suspension of the Proctor at Dhaka University for his controversial statements and for attempting to hide evidence from CCTV footage.
  5. Emergency support to the survivors of sexual violence including provision of economic, medical and mental health resources to overcome social stigma attached to sexual violence
  6. Ensure immediate support to and security of the protesters.

We, the undersigned:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Bangladesh_Prime_Minister_Apprehend_the_Perpetrators_of_mass_sexual_assault_on_Women/

Readers are encouraged to sign the open letter and share with friends who may support our campaign.

Read published report on the Daily Star : ‘A mothers’ day gift from Police’ http://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/mothers-day-gift-police-81752

Watch how Police van ran over human demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUxO6QX0bII&feature=youtu.be

Watch how protesters were tortured during a demo: https://www.facebook.com/naridiganta?fref=ts

Further news: ‘Silencing Outcry’  http://www.thedailystar.net/op-ed/politics/silencing-our-outcry-82102


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Rumana Hashem Tells the Story of Her Bangladeshi Sisters

Nari Diganta Calls Everybody to Join the Protest against Sexual Violence of Women

To condemn and call for action against the brutal sexual violence which were committed against 20 women in Dhaka during the celebration of Bangla New Year on Pohela Baisakh, a protest meeting has been arranged by Nari Diganta and Bangladesh Youth Union, UK.

When? Tuesday, 21 April, at 5.30pm.

Where? Altab Ali Park Shaheed Minar, Tower Hamlets, London E1 1, United Kingdom.

Please join us in the protest with your friends. Tell Bangladesh government to take action against the rapists. The perpetrators must be apprehended.

Please check out the facebook event page and indicate your joining here https://www.facebook.com/events/357725651099101/