21 October 2010
On 5 October 2010 the Parliament of Bangladesh made history when it passed the Domestic Violence (Protection and Prevention) Act, 2010. Groundbreaking research conducted by ICDDR,B provided essential information to policy makers and human rights groups, reinforcing the need for Bangladesh to introduce legislation to address domestic violence. This new Bill is welcomed by ICCDR,B and the other non-government organizations and the women’s movement in Bangladesh, who have worked together several years on drafting the bill.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), until recently most governments and policy-makers did not view violence against women, especially “domestic” violence by a husband or other intimate partner as a major social problem. Since the 1990s, a massive effort by women’s organizations, experts and committed governments has led to a profound shift in public awareness.
In 2005 WHO published a report "Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women ", which recognized that domestic violence was the untold story of thousands of victims across the world. Bangladesh was one of the 10 participating countries. The Bangladesh Country Research Team included Ruchira Tabassum Naved, Abbas Bhuiya and Lars Ake Persson from ICDDR,B together with Safia Azim, Naripokkho. The Bangladesh component of the study demonstrated that domestic violence is not merely a western concept, but a grim reality of this country just like any other country in the world. It also showed that violence against women was most commonly perpetrated by husbands. The majority of the women were silent about their predicament and only about two percent ever sought institutional support, but support was scarcely forthcoming, which was not surprising given the absence of any legal framework for addressing domestic violence treated in this society as something lying beyond the public domain.
In 2007 ICDDR,B, along with women’s organization and human rights groups in Bangladesh acknowledged the need for a legal framework to tackle domestic violence and a coalition, the Citizen’s Initiative against Domestic Violence (CIDV) was formed. Drawing upon a bill drafted by the Law Commission, the CIDV came up with a new draft bill. After consultations with the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs it was refined and placed to the Bangladesh Parliament who subsequently passed it into a law.
ICDDR,B acknowledges with gratitude the women who shared their experiences with the ICDDR,B study team and for offering much greater understanding of the issue of domestic violence, enabling us to contribute to the process of development of and lobbying for the bill. Many of the women surveyed expressed conviction that once they have told their stories some concrete measures will surely be taken for preventing violence against women. The ICDDR,B study team was entrusted with a huge responsibility by some of the women. As one woman put it, “I have told you everything. Do see to it that women do not ever have to suffer this again.” When the study team conveyed to them that change is a slow process and would take a long time to happen, another woman said, “This survey should have been conducted 10 years back. Now I have two daughters. Hope they will benefit from it.”
The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2010 is significant because it recognises that domestic violence exists and must be prevented. Successful implementation of the law requires that authorities make available appropriate services for the survivors and openly punish the guilty parties.
As with any law, implementation of this law will be challenging and will require orientation of all concerned authorities; development and implementation of policies to ensure institutional response to domestic violence; appropriate quality of services for the survivors of domestic violence, etc. These tasks pose further research questions and identify future action points for the research community. Research will also be needed to monitor and evaluate the different prevention options for addressing domestic violence, as well as the overall impact of the Bill. ICDDR,B is well placed to undertake such research and welcomes the opportunity to work closely with the Government of Bangladesh and other stakeholders towards this goal.
For further details please contact Dr. Ruchira Tabassum Naved