Women in CHT ethnic community face domestic violence

Womenfolk of ethnic groups in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region are experiencing different forms of domestic violence due to patriarchal mindset, reports BSS.

Although women in CHT region are widely known for their hard-working qualities, they face repression by their male counterparts at their homes.

ChanglaMro (not real name), a 26-year-old woman of Mro ethic group living in a remote area of Rumaupazila in Bandarban, is often tortured by her husband.

“My husband drinks a lot of locally-made wine. When he drinks a lot, he loses his control and beats me up mercilessly after starting a quarrel even on a small issue. And it has been happening for quite a long time,” Changla said.

“And I am bearing the brunt of his torture. Sometimes I think I should get separated to get relief from this torture. But I cannot do so due to my two minor children,” she said.

KangchagMro, another woman of the ethic community, said ethnic women frequently face violence and tortures in their families but they do not raise their voices due to the long-practiced customs. “When we go out for work, we also face economic oppression, inequality and violence by both Bengali and ethnic community men. We experience both domestic violence at home and physical violence outside the home,” she added. Like Changla and Kangchag, a huge number of women of ethnic minority groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) experience domestic violence in their locality every day.

A recent study shows that about 44 percent ethnic women in CHT face domestic violence at least once in their lifetime and of them, 82 percent cases are in the hands of their husbands.

The study titled “Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Access to Justice for The Ethnic Women and Girls in CHT” says about 33 percent faced physical violence, while 38 percent experienced mental torture, 19 percent went through economic oppression and 5 percent faced sexual violence.

The study was carried out on 1,171 women of ethnic groups, including Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Tanchangya, Mro, Bawm, Khumi and others in three hilly districts Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachhari during March to April last year.

Presenting the findings of the study at a recent function here, Professor of Anthropology of Jahangirnagar University Dr AinoonNaher said economically insolvent women having no education, those subjected to early marriage and family members of alcohol addicts were the most vulnerable to domestic violence. She said about 52 percent of the ethic women, who were surveyed, experienced gender-based-violence in public transports, on the roads or in the public gathering places and both Bengali and ethnic community men were widely accused in their accounts.

Dr Naher said the women were victimised after touching or attempting to touch their bodies, throwing objects to sensitive parts of their bodies, getting sexually indicative languages, suggestive songs and whistling, and men standing too close to them.

Over 45 percent women experienced multiple forms of violence at workplaces and/or at educational institutions, 61 percent felt most vulnerable at marketplaces, 45 percent at crop fields, 6 percent in educational institutions, and 3 percent in offices, according to the study.

Local goons, influential people, colleagues, ex-husbands or unknown persons were found to be the main perpetrators during the study. According to 70 percent women, the perpetrators came from other ethnic groups than their own.

The study also found that women from ethnic communities only seek remedies through the formal justice system for grave cases, mostly for rape or severe physical torture.

Only three percent went to court, while 35 percent survivors and their families approached the traditional justice system, 28 percent approached Union Parishad and 14 percent sought justice through local or community salish (village arbitration council).

Speaking at the event, JesminAra Begum, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, said in most cases, witnesses are reluctant to come to the court as they do not get proper protection.

At the same time, she said, due to the power and position of perpetrators, an overwhelming majority of the cases are settled out of court in exchange for money.