By: Sara Pellegrom, Women Deliver
Bangladesh is witness to some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) against women in the world. In the past several years, the Bangladeshi government, donors, non-governmental organizations, and community advocates have introduced a variety of interventions to promote gender equality, increase women’s empowerment, and reduce violence against women. These efforts have led to an expansion in girls’ access to primary and secondary education, an increase in Bangladeshi wives’ contributions to their family’s income, and reduced gender disparities. Now, research is also showing that these changes have had an impact on the incidence of IPV.
Building on prior studies, this month’s issue of The Population Council's international quarterly journal, Studies in Family Planning, features a new study. Gathered through group discussions, interviews with men, and life story narratives of women in four villages in central and northern parts of Bangladesh, findings show that IPV has declined substantially. In a discussion group, one female villager said that “...wife beating has decreased very, very, very, very greatly. Nowadays husbands do not beat their wives much. I think within a couple of years it will have stopped completely.” It is important to note, however, that IPV has not disappeared entirely in the villages.
People in the villages attribute the decrease in the incidence of IPV to several factors, including:
- A change in the balance of power between men and women
- Increased economic prosperity due to women’s greater involvement in generating income
- Government efforts to promote gender equity and access to mediation and legal sanctions to help protect women
- Lower levels of community and village poverty as a result of women’s increased employment
- More shared household responsibilities and gender equity within the home
These findings suggest that IPV in Bangladesh is declining as interventions expand women’s economic roles and provide them with a stronger sense of their rights. The researchers recommend that the government and donors continue to promote economic empowerment and employment opportunities for rural women through their policies and programs and continue to support scholarships and other initiatives that expand educational opportunities for girls and women. The authors also suggest that a national-level survey be done to confirm their findings and that periodic surveys be conducted to measure trends in the incidence of IPV in places where issues of gender norms and roles are in transition.
Flickr photo via IRRI Images.