Some of us are lucky enough to live in societies that value women and men equally, but what about Bangladeshi women who have not been so fortunate, either from birth or afterwards?
On 24th November 2021, with UN General Assembly resolution, Bangladesh has finally graduated from “least developed country” classification. It has been a long journey but still, there is much progress to be made. In order for this country to develop the problem of “female discrimination”, which devalues women in the social, political and cultural fields, should be eliminated.
Bangladesh culture and institutions do not permit women to live as full free individuals. Even though Article 28 of The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh prohibits discrimination based on gender and indicates that men and women are equal in all areas of public life, this right exists on paper only. Women in that country do not feel that they can practice their sacred right to live as free independent women because of the patriarchal society structure. Unfortunately, thousands of women in Bangladesh are exposed to various kinds of violence every day. According to UN, the rates of violence against women remain high.
For example, when a woman expresses a different opinion on any subject, she can be punished by a man throwing acid on her face. In order to prevent this, the Bangladesh government approved two laws: The Acid Control Act of 2002 and The Acid Crime Control Act of 2002. Even though these reforms seem to decline this horrendous attacks, there has been no real change in the status of patriarchal domination. Of course, there will always be a need for reform in both legislations and justice systems to ensure that victims are dealt with genuinely in court. Moreover, every individual associated with the justice system should not approach women regarding the patriarchal society structure. However, unless this patriarchal structure is destroyed, women will continue to be victims in such less developed societies.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently stated that this male-dominated mentality needs to change: “Most painful issue is that violence against women . . . we’ve enacted laws but it is not enough, rather mentality has to be changed along with switching thoughts”. Indeed, the government has developed policies focused on women’s rights in recent years. In particular, the National Women’s Development Policy, developed in 2011, included specific objectives such as helping women entrepreneurs, as well as aiming to ensure equality between women and men.
In patriarchal societies women are seen as property rather than as an individual. The patriarchy, which assumes that men have a natural superiority over women, defends the subordination of women to men in all areas of life. This social structure has been imposed on people for centuries without being noticed. This shaping starts at a young age, for example, what is always told in children’s books is the obligation of women to be saved by a prince. As in the Cindrella fairy tale, young girls are told that they need the handsome prince in order to climb the social ladder.
One another major issue in the Bangladesh is lack of women participation in politics. If the Parliament represents the people, the representatives should be the composition of the society. The women, being in the minority is an important political issue because even though there are powerful female politicians in Bangladesh, such as the Prime Minister Sheik Hasina Wajed, still it is not easy for women because they go to a setting where most of their colleagues are actually men. In 2020, only 20.92% of seats were held by women.
All in all, how democratic can a country be that does not properly involve women in its decision-making processes and believes that politics is a man’s job? It is quite ironic that Bangladesh, which has recently celebrated 50 years of independence, claims that they are implementing democratic principles, and yet their attitude towards women remain the same. It is time for the patriarchal ideology to undergo a radical change all over the world, especially in countries such as Bangladesh, and for women to be able to live freely and fearlessly in all areas of society.
 General Assembly resolution 76/8, Graduation of Bangladesh, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Nepal from the least developed country category, A/RES/76/8 (29 November 2021), retrieved from undocs.org/en/A/RES/76/8
 United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, UN Women Bangladesh, retrieved from https://asiapacific.unwomen.org/en/countries/bangladesh
 Begum Rokeya Padak, PM Calls for Changing Mindset About Women, available from https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/pm-calls-changing-mindset-about-women-340984
 Jack Silvers, 6 Facts About Women’s Right in Bangladesh, retrieved from https://borgenproject.org/womens-rights-in-bangladesh/
- Begum Rokeya Padak. PM Calls for Changing Mindset About Women, The Business Standart, retrieved from https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/pm-calls-changing-mindset-about-women-340984
- General Assembly resolution 76/8, Graduation of Bangladesh, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Nepal from the least developed country category, A/RES/76/8 (29 November 2021), retrieved from https://undocs.org/Home/Mobile?FinalSymbol=A%2FRES%2F76%2F8&Language=E&DeviceType=Desktop
- Jack Silvers. 6 Facts About Women’s Right in Bangladesh, The Borgen Project, retrieved from https://borgenproject.org/womens-rights-in-bangladesh/
- Statistica Research Department, Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments in Bangladesh from 2010 to 2020, retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/730649/bangladesh-proportion-of-seats-held-by-women-in-national-parliament/
- United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, UN Women Bangladesh, retrieved from https://asiapacific.unwomen.org/en/countries/bangladesh
The need for more gender equality in Bangladesh is a troublesome issue, as highlighted in this article as well as many others that are precedent. Moreover, when measuring democracy through the rate of democratic erosion, one could use the “three leg” benchmark that values this rate. These three legs are: comparative electoral procedures, civil liberties, and accountability. In this post, you prioritize the need the accountability part through passionately criticizing the gender inequality in the mentality behind Bangladeshi men and the “20%” of women holding seats in Parliament.
However, it is not enough a measure to continually refer to the lack of “fair or 50/50” quantitative results when it comes to determining a fair democracy. By focusing on outcome versus process, you won’t initiate the change that you wish to see. From a general standpoint, Bangladesh has improved its numbers and policies considerably in the past 50 years, but more work needs to be done. For example, why hasn’t Bangladesh addressed the religious bias among male mentality and how it infringes on women’s rights? If religious bias and gender discrimination bias were considerably removed in the aptitude needed for governance, would there be such a high percentage of violent attacks on women? And, would this rate increase the democratic process and decrease the rate of democratic erosion?
Such factors and measures need to be considered before claiming that one or two reasons is causing major democratic backsliding. Not only would this help identify the root causes of this stagnant growth of gender equality but would also add to point you were trying to make.