Human rights activists have said the responsibility lies in all of us to ensure gender equity at all levels – from our daily lives up to the policymaking level.
They stated this at a webinar, hosted by human rights organisation ARTICLE 19, that explored the obligations of the individual, family, society, and state in preventing gender-based violence.
The webinar was organised on the occasion of the International Day of Eliminating Violence Against Women (VAW), read a press release from ARTICLE 19 on Friday.
The event, organised as a part of 16 days of activism, covered important themes such as the freedom of expression regarding demanding equal rights for all genders – beyond only women and girls plus men and boys, reporting assaults and violence as well as the right to know plus have access to information for women and members of the third gender.
The panel of discussants at the programme included Nina Goswami, senior deputy director of programs, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK); Ho Chi Minh Islam, trans-feminist, rights activist and nurse; Abdullah Al Noman, activist and advocate of the Supreme Court; Snigdha Rezwana, faculty at the Department of Anthropology at Jahangirnagar University; and Selina Ahmed, program head of the Gender Justice and Diversity Program at Brac.
The discussion at the webinar provided an understanding of the gaps in legislation that cause gender justice and the challenges women, trans-gender, and non-binary people face – in the country – to go unaddressed.
Additionally, the discussants focused on how identity and societal perception play into exacerbating violence and hamper the reporting of gender-based crimes and discrimination.
Particular emphasis was made on the state's obligation regarding the issues.
Ho Chi Minh Islam, a strong proponent for transgender rights, criticised the contemporary feminist movement in the country and said, "So far, this movement has not been inclusive. The rights of transgender women, and discrimination and violence against them have always been neglected by the leaders of the feminist movement here."
"The definition of femininity here still depends on physicality. Changing this mindset and attitude is very urgent now," she said.
She also emphasised the need to address the root causes of gender-based violence, saying, "Vulnerable and marginalised people, regardless of gender, are the first and most common victims of violence. The seeds of this violence are hidden within the existing discriminatory power structures of the society."
This was reiterated by Snigdha Rezwana, who said there is a lack of a gender-sensitive perception – especially in the case of reporting violence – among law enforcement officers and media personnel, as reports of rape and sexual assault are spoken about in the public arena in a manner that results in victim-blaming.
Mentioning a lack of access to justice, Nina Goswami said, "Law enforcement officers are not sympathetic to the women who are victims of violence. For these reasons, women have very little access to justice."
"The victims are blamed by their own families and society. Trials take a long time to reach a verdict due to the tardiness of the judicial system. These long-standing cases are not good as they violate the human rights of the victims by delaying justice," she added.
Faruq Faisel, South Asia regional director of ARTICLE 19, said failures of Bangladesh's system have resulted in a failure to address these challenges for many years; these have now been exacerbated during the past year with the increase in rape and violence against marginalised gender due to the Covid-19 crisis.
He called on the authorities to make sure that gender equality is ensured in all aspects of our society. He also called for better steps to be taken to ensure the security of all genders and the protection of women, transgender and non-binary people.