Domestic violence: a carcinogenic social disease

Economic Social and Cultural Rights

Focus Keyword: Domestic Violence in Bangladesh

Domestic violence which generally purports to mean the violence taking place within the four walls of home among the family members has become a common phenomenon in our lives to such an extent that it doesn’t make a big deal whenever we see news of women/children being tortured, murdered or raped in the newspaper.

Salma Khatun, a garment worker residing in Tejgaon Railway Slum says, “My husband beats me up every night pressurizing me for bringing more money so that he can collect the drugs which he is addicted to.” She further said that in order to maintain peace and harmony for the sake of her children she won’t take any legal action either.

Once religious stigma was the main obstacle for women to come out of their cocoons in order to serve the nation and now when with the modernization of the entire world that obstacle is demolished, another hindrance has come into the path of women- Domestic Violence.

Domestic violence- defined
According to Section 3 of the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2010, domestic violence means physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse or economic abuse against a woman or a child of a family by any other person of that family with whom victim is, or has been, in family relationship.
According to the Office of the Law Commission of Bangladesh,
Domestic violence may be defined as violence perpetrated by a man upon a woman and vice versa in course of leading a domestic life. Domestic violence is not confined to married couples only, but extends to cover other couples who are jointly living together. It may also cover men and women other than husbands and wives, such as parents, brothers, sisters or co-tenants, domestic servants etc. Domestic violence may also be caused to young girls who may become victims of sexual assault within the family. Male or female domestic servants may also become objects of domestic violence. Domestic violence is experienced more or less in almost all countries in one form or another and considered as a serious social problem. It is found to exist in almost all status of social classes, cultures, social status and ethnic background. Victims of domestic violence in the under developed countries are mostly found to be wives who are economically disadvantaged.

UNICEF (2008) includes different forms of abuse and exploitation in defining domestic violence
perpetrated by intimate partners and other family members-
Physical abuse such as slapping, beating, arm twisting, stabbing, strangling, burning, choking, kicking, threats with an object or weapon and murder. It also includes traditional practices harmful to women such as female genital mutilation in African society or honor killings as well assexual abuse such as coerced sex through threats, intimidation or physical force, forcing unwanted sexual acts or forcing sex with others. Psychological abuse which includes behavior that is intended to intimidate and persecute, and takes the form of threats of abandonment or abuse, confinement to the home, surveillance, threats to take away custody of the children, destruction of objects, isolation, verbal aggression and constant humiliation. Economic abuse includes acts such as the denial of funds, refusal to contribute financially, denial of food and basic needs, and controlling access to health care, employment, etc.

Historical background of domestic violence
As it can be seen, the historical background of Domestic Violence consists of two individual aspects-
1. Male dominance in our society is the key reason to domestic violence. Due to the socio-economic and physical condition, male has always oppressed women and children considering it to be their right.
2. Ignorance of people are interpreting the religious lines in their own way which is a hindrance towards the modernization of society as well as emphasizing domestic violence.

Present picture of domestic violence in Bangladesh
According to Janet E. Jackson, the former Deputy Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to Bangladesh, 'sixty-five per cent of Bangladeshi males think it is justifiable to beat up their wives, 38 per cent have no clear idea what constitutes physical violence and 40 per cent support keeping women socially dormant'”
It clearly tells us the ‘sad but true’ story of domestic violence in Bangladesh.

Several studies have indicated that domestic violence against women, especially violence perpetrated by a woman’s husband, is a serious problem in Bangladesh. For instance, a study shows that most of the violence is done by husband. Although domestic violence includes child abuse, parent abuse and in-law abuse committed by male aggressors on female victims, available information from research indicated that the most common type of violence in Bangladesh against women is domestic violence done by intimate partners or ex partners. Most of the women and children in Bangladesh experience domestic violence in their lives which takes different forms of abuses, i.e. physical (slapping, beating, arm twisting, stabbing, strangling, burning, choking, kicking, murder), psychological (threats of abandonment or abuse, to take away custody of the children, verbal aggression and humiliation, threats of killings), sexual abuse (coerced sex through threats, intimidation, forcing unwanted sexual acts), economic (denial of funds, refusal to contribute financially, denial of food and basic needs, controlling access to health care and employment) etc.

Women experiencing domestic violence or living with its consequences are under-reported because in most cases violence is considered as personal or family matter. Moreover, the way of treating women socially is not gender-sensitive, and sometimes the fears of increasing sufferings or vulnerability by the victim reduce the number of violence to be reported and even expressed to others. A significant number of domestic violence in Bangladesh is under-reported due to social stigma; women are accused of provoking the violence by their disobedience, failure as a wife, or infidelity; in fact, they have to consider the trade-offs between sufferings of violence and losing reputation in the society which contributes to the fewer reporting of the DV in Bangladesh. Though, women report about domestic violence only when it becomes a serious problem or threats to life. The magnitude is so high that Bangladesh ranked second in 2002 (The Independent, 2002) and fourth (The Daily Star, 2003) in 2003 in the world in terms of different forms of violence against women.

About 87 per cent of Bangladeshi married women are abused by their husband, this according to a nation-wide study conducted by the government that involved a sample of 12,600 women. Only 8 per cent of respondents said that they were never abused by their partner. Titled Violence against Women Survey 2011, the research was conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund. The picture it paints is alarming.
The survey found that domestic violence is present in most Bangladeshi households. Last year, 77 per cent of respondents admitted that they had been abused. Of these, 50 per cent had sustained serious injuries, but one in three women refused to go to hospital for fear of retaliation by the husband.
According to the archive of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), 58 women were murdered from January to March 2015, only being the victim of domestic violence.

Factors contributing to domestic violence

In a study, it is revealed that the most frequently-mentioned reasons for violence included questioning the husband in day-to-day matters, failure of the wife to perform household work satisfactorily, economic hardship of the family, failure of the wife to take proper care of the children, not conforming to veil or other expected behavior, inability to bring money from parental home, not taking good care of in-laws and relatives, and husband’s frustrations in relation to his various activities even dark complexion of children.

Women are even violated by the husband and in-laws if she is incapable of giving birth to a child or a son. Another most common reason in Bangladesh that initiates domestic violence is the increasing prevalence of dowry for which is strictly prohibited. But due to socioeconomic hardships and treating women as the economic burden to the in-laws or husbands’ family, dowry is widely prevalent among all social sections in different names. In addition, covetous nature of men and society perpetuating dowry and violating wives for not getting the expected dowry causes many deaths of women.

Combating domestic violece through national law 

To fight the battle against domestic violence in Bangladesh, different Acts and sections has been commenced.

the Penal Code 1860 has the following sections for the prevention of violence and violence against woman:
286,312-338, 359-374,493-498 and 509.

Nari o Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain 2000 has clearly stated provisions of punishment for the crime of violence against domestic oppression on women and children.

Since unfortunately, acid throwing has also become a part of domestic violence, Section 36, 41 and 42 of Acid Niyontron Ain 2002 is also referable here which contains the provisions of punishments for the crime of throwing acid.

And most importantly, the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2010 has features the following key features:

Persons who are allowed to seek protection under this Act :
a. Any woman or children who are or have been at risk of being subjected to domestic violence.
b. Any victim who is or has been a family relationship with the respondent.
c. Any handicapped adult who is or has been subjected to domestic violence. Any person can file a complaint on their behalf.

Perons against whom a complaint can be filed :
a.Any adult person who has been in a family relationship with the victim
b. Relatives of the husband or intimate male partner including his male and female relatives.

Forum of relief (Sections 4, 5 & 6):
a. For the purpose of this Act after receiving a complaint a Police Officer, Enforcement Officer or Service Providers shall inform the victim about the availability of the services including medical and legal aid services.
b. Upon receiving complaint the first class Magistrate shall grant an interim Protection Order or any other order under this Act.
c. Multiplicity of forum reliefs can be sought in other legal proceedings such as petition for divorce, maintenance.

Court's power to pass protection order:
The Court may pass a decree of compensation ascertainment of victim's injury or damage or loss as a result of domestic violence. The court may also pass at any stage of proceedings for a protection order or for any other relief under this Act, a temporary custody of children of the victim will grant to the victim or the applicant.

Consequences of breach of protection order (Sections 30 & 31)
a. Breach of protection order deemed is a punishable offence though cognizable and bail able.
b. First contravenes: imprisonment six months or fine up to taka ten thousand or both or engaging in a service benefiting to the community for a period.
c. Subsequent contravention-imprisonment up to twenty four months and fine up to taka one lakh or both or engaging in a service benefiting to the community for a period.

Domestic violence is such a social malice that gradually is being predominant over most other major social problems of Bangladesh. Child from an abusive family generally grows up being an abuser and thus, plays a drastic role in the arena of crime. So, domestic violence is carcinogenic to the society and to the world as well. National laws alone are not enough to solve this issue. Sensibility and Humanity has to be practiced from the very beginning in every single family and only then, the increasing percentage of domestic violence can be ceased to exist.

Cite this article as: Meherba Sabrin, 'Domestic violence: a carcinogenic social disease' (Bangladesh Law Digest, June 25, 2015) <>


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