Women and girls in Bangladesh are facing increased domestic violence during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are facing long-term systemic barriers to legal recourse, protection, and social services.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) made this statement in a report published on Thursday saying this severely hurt the nation's plan to build "a society without violence against women and children by 2025," according to a press release.
"The uptick in violence against women and girls during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as recent protests against sexual violence, are a bellwether to the Bangladesh government that urgent structural reform is needed," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
"The government should take concrete action by creating accessible shelters across the country, ensuring access to legal aid, and removing obstacles to reporting violence and obtaining justice," she added.
The 65-page report, "'I Sleep in My Own Deathbed': Violence against Women and Girls in Bangladesh," draws on 50 interviews to document the obstacles to realising the government's goal of a society without violence against women and children. Human Rights Watch found that despite some important advances, the government response remains deeply inadequate, barriers to reporting assault or seeking legal recourse are frequently insurmountable, and services for survivors are in short supply.
HRW interviewed 29 women from six of the eight divisions of Bangladesh who were survivors of gender-based violence, including acid attacks. The government has made addressing acid violence a priority, but these cases shed light on the underlying systemic barriers that still prevent even these survivors from gaining legal recourse and protection.
They additionally reviewed case files and interviewed women's rights activists, lawyers, and academics working on acid violence, violence against women and girls, and legal reform in Bangladesh.
Many survivors never report abuse out of concern that they would not be taken seriously and fear that without available safe shelter, witness protection, or other support services, reporting abuse could only put them in further danger, Human Rights Watch found.
As the report mentioned an incident of a victim named Sadia, 28 saying, "During the 12 years that I was married, my husband would beat me regularly, but I never felt safe reporting the violence because I did not believe the police would help me. When my husband attacked me with acid in March 2016, the police responded with disbelief. Even after I lost my left eye and left ear, the officer in charge told me, they didn't believe he did it so they let him go."
The HRW urged the government mentioning the recent protests, "Protesters are in the streets calling for change. The government should seize this pivotal moment to implement real reform that could save lives and promote the equal society it envisions."