When I was returning from one tuition it was almost pitch dark. I was walking along the road. Suddenly I noticed someone came forward and blocked my way with his hands. I got frightened, and wasn't sure what to do at that moment. I screamed loudly and somehow managed to escape. My full body started trembling with fear. This incident could have led to something else
This was posted by one of my batch mates on her social media timeline a few days ago.
This random incident is a common phenomenon for most women worldwide. Studies have suggested women face such incident more than two times a day. The World Health Organization (WHO) found that at least 35 percent of women experienced physical or sexual violence by their intimate or non-intimate partner in their lifetime.
Recently, in Bangladesh, the recent series of rape incidents drew the attention of netizens.
According to Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), a total of 975 rape cases took place in the first nine months (January to September) of the year 2020. On an average 4 women are raped per day and rape cases saw a 58.28 percent jump from 2018. Within this time frame, 43 women were murdered after rape, and the most saddening fact is that about 399 of the reported victims were children.
The actual number is higher than statistics, as most of the incidents are not recorded and kept under wrap.
Most studies on sexual violence discuss the effects of sexual violence on personal and social life but it lacks the outstretched inspection of sexual violence and its impacts in monetary value, broadly personal income, business, government, and even the growth of a country.
The finding from the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention shows that the lifetime cost of rape is $3.1 trillion, $122,401 per victim in the USA. In Bangladesh, Care International only estimated the cost of domestic violence is $2.2 billion, which was 2.1 percent of the GDP and equal to that year's nutrition budget.
Every violence contains a minimum cost, whether or not it is direct or indirect. Direct cost refers to the cash exchanged for goods and services. It additionally includes labor, capital, and material inputs. Though indirect costs do not interact with any monetary exchange, it has an imputed monetary value: reducing personal profit and income. It also includes intangible costs such as premature death, mental trauma, and suffering from society.
The easiest way to accumulate all the economic costs of violence is broadly looking at the categories on the consequences of violence. A report by the United Nations pointed out that all the economic costs of violence against women are often found in seven major categories. These are justice, health, education, social services, business cost, personal and household cost, and intangible.
Justice cost includes court operations fees, advocate fees, costs in arranging saalish (village trial), baksheesh (tips) to the police etc. Sometimes victims from lower socioeconomic levels give up the case and endure all the injustice done by the perpetrator. There are also capital and labor costs. Buildings for the police, office for the judge, are considered capital costs, and the salaries given to those who work for the justice system are labor costs.
Health costs can be both direct and indirect. Medicine fees, doctor honorarium, taxi fare to hospitals or clinics are the direct costs and generally borne by victims. Spreads of HIV or any other sexual diseases may increase costs two or three times larger than actual. The examples of indirect health costs include unwillingness to come back to normal life, the impact of choosing a poor lifestyle on health, and reduction in life expectancy. Like justice, there are also capital and labor costs in health; buildings, apartments, other infrastructure for doctors, nurses are the examples of capital costs, and salaries to doctors, pharmacists, lab technicians are labor costs.
Education is one of the key determinants of productivity, heavily affected by sexual violence. A study by the New York City Alliance found that one of the main reasons for decreasing lifetime income for survivors is not to complete education. The study also indicates that the women who have faced sexual assault are three times more likely not to complete high school compared to other women who do not.
Due to less productivity, sexual violence abstains from a nation to reach its maximum economic potential. That means society cannot use its optimal use of full resources used as input to produce goods and services. It causes less business output, less export, and fewer investment and savings that result in enormous shocks in the supply side. Overall the entire economy faces monetary losses due to sexual violence against women.
A number of NGOs provides shelters, counseling supports, emergency response team, and other social services to the victim. Governments also pay transfer payments who leave abusive situations, a huge opportunity cost of using tax revenue to another sector. Time and money spent on creating laws, policy analysis, public awareness programs are also included as government cost resulting from sexual violence.
Stress-related illness, sufferings from relatives and society, emotional loss of an intimate partner, the tension in the family, and negative impacts on self-respect and confidence level are examples of intangibles
Why care about the economic costs of sexual violence?
- First and foremost, sexual violence against women is a major human rights violation for women, recognized by the United Nations and other international bodies.
- Measuring economic cost can give a clear view of how violence drain resources from individuals to the business, then government, consequently, a country's growth.
- Measuring the cost of sexual violence also reduces its social acceptability. It raises man's awareness of how they pay for their own and other violent works.
- To make a rational decision, policymakers now have a clear idea about how much funding opportunity affects the outcomes. They can also easily detect that early prevention of sexual violence economically costs less than later stage crisis.
- As it affects the business outputs, now business owners become more concerned about violence against women and will be encouraged to make a gender-sensitive environment in the workplace.
Bangladesh is one of the emerging economies expecting graduation from the LDC category in 2024. The female labor force participation rate increased 23.9 percent to 36.3 percent during 2000-2017. The World Economic Forum ranks Bangladesh 141th in the Women's economic empowerment and opportunities, which was 107th in 2006.
According to the World Bank, Bangladesh will maintain 1 percent of GDP growth if the female labour force increased by 45 percent in 2020. However, it is a matter of regret that the sexual violence across the country is rising day by day. If this culture continues, women will gradually reduce their participation in the labor force due to insecurity in the outside or even the workplace, which will adversely affect the economy.
Given the scenario, the government needs to frequently invest in a regular survey on sexual violence and monitor its impacts on the economy and increase data collection capacity to get the actual scene of violence. Ensuring the gender-sensitive budget may reduce sexual violence and fulfill Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
The author is an undergraduate student of Economics, Noakhali Science and Technology University