Dhaka Lit Fest celebrates gender equality

Women-friendly investments essential to end gender-based violence

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Like Mukta, many are taken advantage of and abused, causing them to abandon their schooling and lead uninteresting, unfulfilling lives as adults. An abused youth will continue to be abused even into adulthood. Who knows whether she will be able to escape her violent, exploitative, abusive and discriminatory environments if she lacks the skills, mobility, education and contacts to move away from them? Because they don’t know what will happen to them after tying the knot, brides are never ready for this change. This puts them at high risk of experiencing violence at home.

Due to this threat, the lives of millions of young women are affected by violence. Their life and the life of their unborn child are in danger. Around the world, teenage brides are often killed because they were married at an early age. Only 2.6 married women facing violence in Bangladesh take legal action (BBS-2016). There is doubt whether girls are also included in this number or not!

Every girl has the potential to change the world. However, they were more likely to be victims of sexual abuse after being married in childhood. According to a survey conducted by the BRAC Social Empowerment and Legal Protection Programme, forty-four point seven percent (44.7%) of girls were married before they turned eighteen. Child marriage occurs at alarmingly high rates in Bangladesh.

Is there a quick solution that can end child marriage? There is no magic pill that can instantly eliminate harmful gender stereotypes on this issue. The elimination of both child marriage and gender-based violence is the focus of many government and non-government initiatives. But our culture has created many harmful gender norms, beliefs and practices so that a girl is seen as someone else’s property from the moment she is born. Our culture and upbringing teaches us that it is best to get rid of someone else’s ‘property’ as quickly as possible, and that includes girls. The prevalence of child marriage is an expression of this thinking. Girls and women’s opportunities and agency suffer disproportionately from these archaic practices.

Gender differences have persisted throughout history. Instead of focusing on women empowerment through education, health and psychosocial development, our focus is on the exclusionary responsibilities that accompany marriage.

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