Access to justice for domestic violence survivors have become limited as courts and other related judicial institutions are closed across the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a study revealed.
The study also highlighted that the virtual courts do not entertain domestic violence cases and the available judicial framework such as local "Shalish", failed to help the domestic survivors properly in most cases.
The research titled "Access to Justice for Survivors of Domestic Violence During COVID-19" was carried out by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and the Rule of Law Programme of GIZ Bangladesh, supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
As part of the research, 12 cases were studied throughout November 2020 to March 2021 in Rangpur, Mymensingh and Patuakhali districts. The results and recommendations were unveiled in a virtual programme on Saturday.
Out of the 12 victims, only 2 were satisfied with the outcome of the legal proceedings.
According to the research result, increased economic hardship and job loss due to Covid-19 were behind the rise in domestic violence on women.
The victims were subjected to verbal, psychological, economic and sexual abuse and even violence perpetrated by multiple persons, most commonly husbands and in-laws.
Most of them sought help from UP chairmen rather than visiting the court for legal complexities. However, local government representatives could not live up to their words and unable to understand women's struggle, according to the case studies.
In addition, local communities expected the victims to not approach the court and maintain the social status quo.
"The rural communities in most cases labelled that divorce is a wrong choice for women," said Maheen Sultan, senior fellow of practice, BIGD, while presenting the research results.
She highlighted that access constrained due to Covid-19 and it also affected mediation activities by paralegals and non-governmental judicial aid services.
"Movement restriction and closure of courts have limited survivors' access to the formal judicial institutions," she said.
German Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Fahrenholtz in his speech said the Bangladesh government addressing violence on women is necessary to aid the country's transition to a middle-income country.
He also noted that increasing domestic abuse is a concerning matter to the German government as well.
"We saw a 15% increase in 2020 compared to the previous year. Due to Covid-19, we can foresee a scenario that women and girl child will be subjected to gender discrimination which will increase child marriage and other social vulnerabilities," he said.
The study also found a positive aspect as access to health services was relatively easy for the victims.