10/04/2016, 16.40
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More than 80 per cent of Bangladeshi women victims of domestic violence

by Sumon Corraya

The findings come from a survey of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. This represents an improvement over 2011. Violence is no stranger to Catholic families, where a woman in two is mistreated.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – In Bangladesh, 80.2% of women are victims of spousal abuse, this according to the Violence Against Women Survey 2015 by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).

Catholic families are not exempt. Fr Albert T Rozario, convener of the Dhaka Archdiocesan Peace and Justice Commission, told AsiaNews that “50 per cent of all Catholic women are mistreated because married men do not live their family life in the faith.”

Findings in the national survey were made public on Sunday during a meeting at the National Economic Council auditorium in Dhaka.

Although very high, domestic violence is actually down compared to the last survey carried out in 2011, when 87 per cent of women reported incidents of mistreatment.

One story is that of Nomita Rozario (not her real name), a Catholic. "My husband beat me cruelly when I refused to have sex with him. He tortured me almost every day. He was an alcoholic. I was not worth anything in my family. My husband dominated me and my life was a living hell."

Eventually, Nomita found the courage to get away and has lived alone for several years. Like her, more than 80 per cent of surveyed married women have experienced physical, mental, economic or emotional abuse by their husband at least once in their lifetime.

Fr Rozario, who is also a Supreme Court lawyer, reports that "almost every day Christian women come to the parishes to seek the help of priests against their husbands' violence."

For this reason, "family outreach by the Catholic Church is important in Bangladesh. Our bishops are aware that different problems exist and therefore the family is discussed at every pastoral meeting."

A disturbing trend is developing among Catholics, according to the clergyman. "In Dhaka, many Christian leaders have two or three wives and those who lead a disordered life do not speak with priests and do not participate in pastoral work."

For Angela Gomes, 64, founder of Banchte Shekha (Learn to survive), a non-governmental organisation, “violent attitudes stem from a deep-rooted traditional mind-set that accepts that men dominate women. Only men make decisions for the family. To subvert this, we must change society. The government and organisations involved in development must work hard on this issue."

The Catholic activist’s association, which received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1999 (the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize), is present in 18 districts across the country. "We want to transform the lives of thousands of women," she noted.

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