According to a study by IID on ‘Gender based violence and challenges in political participation’, among the 71% of the women who reported violence during election mentioned that they were threatened and 57% admitted of being both threatened and physically harmed. Yet, violence against women has never been much discussed in the parliament. Thus the need for a Parliamentary Caucus to promote women rights issues came out from a roundtable discussion. The discussion event was organized by IID on the 5th of May 2019 with the Daily Prothom Alo on ‘Violence against women in electoral context’ to discuss the gender perspective of violence during election and dispute among political parties.
Despite the election of 2019 is considered to have the largest amount of women participation so far, only 69 out of 1848 candidates were female, which is less than 4%. In this context, the participants of the roundtable emphasized on power balance from top to bottom of the government. Although we have a number of women leaders in the top tier of government, women’s participation in central leadership is still not prominent and must be ensured.
The participants discussed the deep rooted belief in our society that politics is not for women. Media has the tendency toward defaming women political candidates. The incident of ‘Subarnachar’ during election reemphasizes the fact that women has historically been abused whether the situation is peaceful or conflicted. The idea of presenting women as a product is creating a society without morals & values. But, strict law enforcement can play a vital role in reducing violence against women in the current context.
Sensitization of parliament members was stressed as male MPs are insensitive toward their female peers. Along with sensitization, prevention measures should come from revisiting education curriculum and updating it accordingly.
Director of Women & Girls’ Empowerment Program of Care Bangladesh Humaira Aziz, Executive Director of Nari Uddug Kendra Masuda Khatun Sefali, Secretary of ‘Bangladesh Mahila Parishad’ Maleka Banu, Policy Analyst of IID Aurin Huq, Deputy Police Commissioner, Women Support & Investigation Division, DMP Farida Yeasmin, Executive of Ain o Salish Kendra Sheepa Hafiza, ex MP Mahjabeen Khaled, Advocate Salma Ali, Sr. Research Associate of IID Falguni Reza, Senior Program Officer of The Asia Foundation Shabbir Shawkut and Associate Professor of Dept. of Peace & Conflict Studies Saber Ahmed Chowdhury were present at the round table among others.
The discussion concluded with ex-MP Mahjabeen Khaled suggesting that a parliamentary caucus should be formed and implemented by CSOs and MPs to ensure representation of the issue in the parliament and government’s policy making process.