Dhaka, May 6, 2020: A total of 4249 women and 456 children have become victims of domestic violence in the ongoing lockdown during the month of April. Of these, 1672 women and 424 children have never been abused before. Ninety-two percent of children have been abused by their parents and relatives.
Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) has collected this information by contacting women and children in its two project work areas on mobile phones to find out how women and children in Bangladesh are doing in the corona-induced lockdown situation. Data were collected during the whole period of April 2020 from 16,203 women and children via mobile phone by 24 partner NGOs in 27 districts, covering 602 villages and 4 City Corporations, revealing a horrific picture of domestic violence against women and children.
Revealing this information through a Zoom press conference today, MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam said: “It is gruesome picture.” Referring to a global survey conducted by UNFPA, she said domestic violence has increased globally by 20 percent during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms. Anam urged the government to put emphasis on domestic violence besides focusing on other necessities like food assistance and income opportunities amid the shutdown situation.
The press conference was also attended by Rina Roy, Director, MJF and three Executive Directors of MJF’s partner NGOS from Mymensigh, Kushtia and Bandarban. Arpita Das, MJF’s Programme Coordinator presented the findings of the rapid telephone survey.
It was mentioned that collecting information on domestic violence from women and children over the telephone during the lockdown was truly challenging and difficult. According to the findings, 848 women were physically abused by their husbands, 2008 were mentally abused, 85 were sexually abused and 1308 were economically abused. Apart from this, 4 women were raped, one killed and 20 women were sexually harassed.
Out of 4259 respondents,424 children fell victims of domestic violence. During this period, a total of 33 incidence of child marriage occurred. Out of 42 violent incidents, four children were raped, 16 fell victims of attempted rape, two were abducted, 10 were sexually assaulted and 10 fell were raped while collecting relief material.
This rapid survey was conducted by MJF under two projects: Security and Rights of Women and Children, supported by UKAid and Prevention of Gender-based Violence by Swedish SIDA. The objective of conducting this survey was to provide support and assistance to victims of domestic violence during the Corona lockdown. The survey revealed that those didn’t experience violence before, became victims during the lockdown. Various global studies such as in USA, UK, Italy, Spain, China, Malaysia, India, Argentina and Tunisia found that before lockdown, the rate of domestic violence was one in three. However, it increased to two out of three in lockdown situation.
Throughout April, MJF provided counseling, legal aid and health care services to 2,202 women and children victims of violence. 2000 women and children who are vulnerable to violence are being followed-up regularly to avoid becoming victims again. Partner NGOs also prevented 141 cases of child marriage during the same period.
During the press conference, MJF placed few recommendations to prevent domestic violence against women and children during on-going lockdown and beyond. These included, among others: ensuring effectiveness of domestic violence helplines, such as 109 and 999 so that victims can quickly contact for rapid assistance from police and authorities. Due to violence, many women left homes, for whom official shelter support are urgently needed. Without this support, these women are likely to be become victims of double violence. MJF also demanded exemplary punishment to those perpetrators. To bring those perpetrators to justice, MJF recommended setting up a virtual court, set up through an Ordinance by the Honorable President of Bangladesh.
Shahana Huda Ranjana
Senior Coordinator, Media and Communication