BRIDGE Report 10: Violence Against Women in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, Senegal and Yemen

Author: R. Marcus
Publisher: Institute of Development Studies UK
Publication Date: Mar 1993
Gender-based violence is increasingly being recognised as a mainstream development and human rights issue. This report focuses on two particular areas of gender-based violence: domestic violence and prostitution. It highlights that in the countries studied, particularly Bangladesh and Pakistan, women continue to face widespread violence as a result of gender inequalities embedded in culture, society and legal systems. Moreover, many factors prevent or detract from women's ability to escape from the violence they experience or seek legal advice. NGOs and women's organisations have been active in addressing the high incidence of violence against women, especially by focussing on legal issues, specific cases and awareness raising.

Due to deep set systematic gender inequalities in Bangladesh and Pakistan, domestic violence, especially battering, is often accepted in certain forms and contexts. In particular, it is often viewed as a deserved punishment for women when they challenge traditional roles and/or transgress men's controls and demands. Violence against women in Pakistan is strongly tied to the legal system and Hudood Ordinances (which set out different legal statuses of women and men). The more specific Zina Ordinance concerning crimes of adultery and premarital sex, has provided men with a powerful weapon to subdue women into accepting a culture of gender-based violence. The following issues are faced when attempting to overcome domestic violence and violence against prostitutes: . Violence against women remains underreported and men are rarely punished. This is due to women's feelings of guilt or shame and their lack of awareness about legal rights. . Due to male domination of legal institutions, women lack faith in the legal system to take cases seriously, and fear that making charges will create greater problems with perpetrators. . Widespread battering is related to escalating dowry demands, the perceived failure of women to meet traditional expectations, and increasing male frustration linked to feelings of economic powerlessness and poverty. . Murder of women by husbands and in-laws in Bangladesh is connected with rising dowry demands and the environment of domestic violence. In Pakistan, murder is often considered a justifiable response to women's illicit sexual relations, which significantly lowers the penalty. . Acid throwing and mugging can be partly explained as men's counter- reaction to women's increasing participation in public life. . Raped women continue to be blamed and alienated from communities. In Pakistan, women making accusations of rape are often accused of adultery and convicted of the crime of adultery (zina) in return. Women's testimony is discounted in rape cases and rape within marriage is not recognised. . Prostitution is illegal in Egypt, with prostitutes facing imprisonment and possibly stoning to death under law. Prostitutes living in poverty are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by clients, community exclusion and discrimination. Attempts to combat gender-based violence have come from a range of NGOs, women's organisations, grassroots movements and groups of women lawyers. Main strategies have been: . Promotion of legal awareness, publicising and campaigning on particular cases. . Awareness raising to both women and men on gender issues, by women's groups in Bangladesh. . Focus on legal issues related to violence against women. . Mobilisation of support for raped women and women imprisoned under zina by women's organisations in Pakistan. . Awareness raising through the publication of specific cases, running of workshops and publishing of informational materials.