Gender discrimination continues
 Sultana Rahman Putul

Ten-year-old Kona’s brother, Sagar is only two years younger. Even though they are almost of the same age, there is an ocean of difference between them in their attitude and behaviour.

Their parents also treat them differently. Sagar is encouraged in playing football, cricket as well as computer games. He has no bar to move freely. Above all, his parents take special care of him.

But Kona is not allowed to pursue any outdoor sports only because she is a girl. She has some dolls for playing in leisure time. Moreover, she has to keep her room clean, has to keep Sagar’s toys and clothes in order.

This made Sagar ever delightful but forced Kona to become quiet and self-centered. She has already got some sort of frustrations as her parents always ask her to move carefully. She is not as free as Sagar.

Their mother Laila Afroz, a resident of Mirpur, is a model of all middle-class mothers in Bangladesh. They don’t know what’s gender discrimination and how far its adverse impact can be on one’s life.

Psychologists say children are not born as perfect boys or girls. Of course they are born with physiological difference, but the family and society make them boys or girls in real terms. Discrimination occurs overtly and covertly. In our society differentiating boys and girls by parents and other family members is considered as part of social norms and values. From the very childhood the boys get preference in all activities while the girls become victims of discrimination with various restrictions. They are deprived of different facilities from their own families.

According to psychologists, this gender-biased situation makes the women frustrated and negligible in society. It also generates inferiority complex among the females and causes an imbalance in society.

Gender discrimination also affects the man-woman equality in all sectors, including education, culture, economy and social amenities.

Bangladesh is placed 140th among 174 countries in the worldwide gender-related development index although the country’s constitution does not support any sort of discrimination between men and women.

Rejecting such differentiation the Section 28 (1) of the Constitution says: The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of only religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Section 28 (2) says - Women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the State and of the public life. But discrimination exists because of gender-biased laws formulated many years ago. Most of the laws were formulated during British or Pakistan period or on the basis of Muslim Shariah rules.

The clauses in laws responsible for gender discrimination need to be amended but an initiative is hardly taken in this regard. Another reason behind Bangladesh’s place in the bottom of the gender-related development index is the slow progress in women education despite some government programmes and incentives to encourage it.

According to a survey of BANBEIS, country’s literacy rate of female (aged over 7 years) increased to 45 percent from 25.5 percent during 1991-96 as against male education from 38.9 to 51.3 percent.

Similarly, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) reveals that the current literacy rate of women (aged over 15 years) is 49.5 percent as against 67 percent of men.

These figures show how the women are still lagging behind in education. Official statistics show 52 percent primary students and 54 percent secondary students are boys. Dropout rate is also higher among girls. Only 51 percent girl students continue their study upto class eight.

Professor Hamida Akhter of Dhaka University said girls are neglected in family and society in many ways. "Even they are not allowed to choose a profession on their own." On the other hand, all professions are always kept open for the boys. They have the liberty to choose. Women are also deprived of healthcare facilities. According to a survey of BBS, average monthly treatment cost of a male member of a family is Tk 24 as against Tk 18 for a female member. A 1998 survey of FPAB shows that only six percent women get medical facilities in health centers during delivery while 8 out of every 12 newborn babies die for delivery-related complications.

The maternal mortality rate is still the highest in the world and all these are results of gender discrimination. Employment opportunity is also in short supply for women. A survey on working population (over 10 years) shows that only 18 percent women are engaged in different sectors while the percentage of male is 77. The women have to do hard work but they get less wage. About 77.4 percent women are engaged in non-salaried jobs, mainly as helpers in agriculture sector.

Although 70 percent workers of garment sector are female, 45 percent of them are considered as unskilled workers with minimal wage. The government has kept 10-15 percent of gazetted and non-gazetted posts for female but most of the quotas are not fulfilled accordingly. The rate of quota utilisation is between 60 and 80 percent. According to a survey on the 13th to 19th BCS examinations, 74.86 percent selected candidates were dropped out in the final stage. As a result, the women quotas remain unutilised.

Commenting on the situation, Dr Sadeka Halim, a professor in Sociology Department of Dhaka University said the women quotas remain unutilised due to gender discrimination in education at all levels.

"Participation of women in all sectors will increase if the discrimination does not exist. We’ll have to remove discriminations and help the women contrib


Source: The Daily Independent, Dhaka, March 8, 2002


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