To mark Human Rights Day 2020, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh (NHRCB) and Article 19, with the support of the Asia Foundation, organized a virtual discussion session on "Women's Progress and Challenges in 25 Years of the Beijing Declaration" on Wednesday.
Women and human rights activists, journalists, teachers, and lawyers took part in the event, where the progress and challenges of women were broadly discussed, said a press release.
Article 19 is a UK-based human right organization.
The event highlighted the roles of individuals, families, society, and the state to establish human rights, as well as equal economic, political, and legal opportunities for women, third gender, hijra and LGBTQI at every level.
Nasima Begum, NDC and chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Bangladesh, was present as the chief guest, while Faruq Faisal, regional director of Article 19 Bangladesh and South Asia, moderated the event.
Professor Dr Tania Haque, Department of Women and Gender Studies at the Dhaka University, presented the keynote presentation at the event.
Jasmine Ara Begum, Member of NHRCB, chair of the Committee on Violence against Women and Children at NHRCB; Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, and Mohammad Zakaria, representative of The Asia Foundation discussed the issue from multiple perspectives.
In her remarks, Nasima Begum stressed that, "Everyone regardless of gender, must come forward to protect the rights of women; parents must follow their children's activities; cyber-bullying and crimes must be prevented, and the exploitation of women must be stopped."
She added, "Women are often victimized and subject to violence and harassment during disasters, wars and epidemic situations. Due to COVID-19, I thought violence against women would decrease, but it did not."
She further said, "Again, it was expected that the new act against rape, with the death penalty provision would deter rapists. However, that has not borne out in reality. New, brutal forms of rape have drastically increased."
She said, "NHRCB is working to identify causes that trigger violence against women during epidemics. To uphold human rights, the NHRC plans to set up human rights protection clubs in every Upazila in the country. These clubs will include school and college students."
Professor Dr Tania Haque said, "Despite the progress of women in education, work, socio-economic, political spheres, women are still lagging behind men. The ratio between male and female participation in household chores is still not equally distributed."
"As a result, women struggle to achieve work-life balance. Our statistics on women's empowerment may be impressive, but we are still unable to make adequate qualitative progress in terms of women's lives and livelihood. We need to change our mindsets to accept equal rights for women, and we also need to engage men and young boys in this regard," she added.
Shaheen Anam said, "Dignity of women as human beings has still not been appropriately recognized. Violence against women has increased, though few women in the society can successfully raise their voices for their rights, while many are still facing exploitation and deprivation."
Jesmin Ara Begum said, "To prevent violence against women, we need to add extra-curricular activities, such as martial arts for adolescent girls. Also, we need to focus on the root-causes behind rape. We will not be able to stop violence against women without identifying the causative factors behind rape."
Md Zakaria, Programme Manager of Asia Foundation, Bangladesh said, "Violence against women and girls has increased during COVID 19. This pandemic has provided an opportunity to re-evaluate the position of men and women in our society. In light of the Beijing Declaration, we can work on women's rights in full swing."
Faruq Faisel said, "Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares equal rights for men and women, in reality, women as human beings, do not enjoy the same rights as men; neither do members of third gender LGBTQI communities."
He urged, "This is a time to raise our voices to ensure human rights for all, irrespective of sex, gender, class, caste and sexual orientation. We need to stress on implementation of existing laws to establish human rights for women, men, Hijra and LGBTQI. But before that, we need to spread a positive social attitude in society."
"The state needs to take the lead in this. Article 19 calls on relevant stakeholders to take appropriate steps to ensure gender equality in all spheres of society" he added.