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Patriarchal mindset responsible for women's vulnerability PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 28 January 2008

Staff Correspondent

Terming the insensitivity to gender discrimination a national malady, former Chief Justice KM Hasan said the country's patriarchal society has to change its mindset to bring to an end to injustice, discrimination and atrocities against women.

'To me it appears that to overcome this malaise we need to educate and sensitize the police force, the judiciary, the medical practitioners and the general mass to the ill-effects of gender discrimination,' said Hasan while addressing a national advocacy meeting on 'Putting an end to acid attacks and rape' at the Spectra Convention Hall on Saturday.

Hasan, who was supposed to head the 2006 caretaker administration but refused to do so because of the political turmoil, opined that election or appointment of women to important public positions, along with enactment of special laws, would be valuable mechanisms to protect and empower the country's women.

'But, above all, what we need is a revolutionary change of mindset before we can start making an impact,' he told the inaugural session of the daylong advocacy meeting, presided over by New Age's editor Nurul Kabir, who talked about lack of social and political empowerment of women that has kept them subordinate in the given social conditions.

Organised jointly by ActionAid Bangladesh, a non-governmental organisation, and Odhikar, a coalition of human rights organisations, the meeting was addressed, among others, by attorney-general Fida M Kamal, additional inspector-general of police NBK Tripura and the ActionAid's country director Farah Kabir.

An executive committee member of Odhikar, Dr Saira Rahman Khan, gave the thematic presentation on ending impunity to perpetrators of acid violence and rape.

Lawyers, police officers, representatives of the Directorate of Health, rights defenders and development activists took part in the working sessions. The former chief justice said that the law of the land should come down heavily on those who commit dreadful crimes like rape and acid attack.

He said that at present the whole process of bringing offenders to book is not at all above criticism, and called upon the people involved in the criminal justice service to be more sincere in dealing with these crimes. 'It should be the endeavour of police, the judiciary, the legal profession and society as a whole to ensure that no case of rape or acid attack, however influential its perpetrators may be, goes unreported and unpunished.'

Hasan lauded the role of the non-government organisations which exercise social control and ever careful vigilance in the remote areas where the law enforcers' vigilance is almost nil.

'They can help impede the unbridled progress of such crimes. They can lead the law enforcement agencies to areas where the latter just do not have a presence and are unable to give enough attention.' Referring to a study conducted by Odhikar, attorney-general Fida M Kamal said that a gradually declining trend of acid attacks and rapes has been observed in the last few years.

'But it should not be a reason for complacency.' He suggested that the ongoing efforts against these two horrendous crimes should be intensified. 'We should look into the ways of how to keep these abuses at a minimum level and persecute the perpetrators according to the law.'

There should be zero tolerance of the perpetrators of rapes and acid attacks, said the government's chief law officer, adding that the strict implementation of laws would help reduce the number of these crimes. He said most of the victims are from the poor sections of the society, and poverty plays a vital role in the vulnerability and helplessness of the women who are the victims.

NBK Tripura, the additional inspector-general of police, said timely intervention against any sort of abuse may help heal the social wounds. He said the government has introduced various forms of support for the victims of such crimes. In Dhaka, he told the audience, centres for traumatised victims of such crime have already been opened, and gradually their number will be expanded across the country according to the government's plan.

The rape and acid attack victims will get the police's unstinting support at these centres. Besides, he said, the police department has opened a cell at its headquarters to receive complaints on rape acid attacks. Nurul Kabir said that masculine ego, prevalent in a patriarchal society, culturally inspires many a man to impose their animalistic sexual desires on women's body.

'To address the problem of rape of and acid attacks on the women, we therefore need to, fight against along with many other enemies, patriarchal systems – political and economic,' said Kabir. 'While fighting patriarchy, we should also remember that women could well be the prisoners of patriarchal thought process'.

In this regard, he cited a couple of examples to show as to how Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, two former female prime ministers of the country, subscribed to the patriarchal ideas while running their administrations.

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