Gender equality is a procedure for sharing out resources, programmes and decision makings in a way that ensures equal distribution of the resources, facilities between men and women and each have equal access to the same. While the aspiration of taking care of everyone in a similar manner may seem splendid, the notion of equal handling has a propensity to close the eyes to the fact that every individual is unique and dissimilar. People are divergent in their capacities, interests, resources and experiences and hence, it has been rightly observed by many that time has come to understand the importance of the difference between gender equality and gender equity.
Gender equity is the process of handing over resources, programs and decision-makings fairly to both males and females. This requires ensuring that everyone has access to a full assortment of opportunities to attain the social, psychological and physical benefits available in a society.
The Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, 1972 have also incorporated the principles of gender equality and equity. Women in Bangladesh have these rights recognised by the Constitution.
Article 27 of the Constitution stands for every citizen, to be treated equally before law and to be entitled to equal protection of law in Bangladesh. Further, article 28 of the Constitution authorises the State to make special provision in favour of women or children or for the advancement of any backward section of citizens.
Then why still a substantial number of women in Bangladesh are struggling to get their rights established and often find them in an arbitrary position when they seek to establish their rights?
Story of Naina may put some light on the answer we are seeking. Naina is a girl from a middle class family who got married with one of her classmates. Her husband got a chance to do his doctoral degree abroad. Naina went with her husband but came back Bangladesh within six months as she got a good job offer in Bangladesh. Her in-laws did not like the fact that she is not staying with her husband as a homemaker. She fought for what she wants. She came back to Bangladesh to start her first job but the salary was not of an expected level.
During the passage of time, her husband started bullying her for her low income and harassing her on every step. Naina had to answer everyday why she is continuing her job when she is incapable of running the family with her salary. The Husband forgot that Naina loves her own identity. May be she is not earning enough but her job gives her an identity. When she wanted to raise her voice that she does not want to be a homemaker, the traditions and family culture prevailing in this country did not want her to speak up for her own identity.
Victims like Naina in reality cannot resort to any law to establish their right to make choices of their own life. The prevailing dominant culture of our society tends for a woman to be raised in such a way that she actually believes that her male guardian knows what is better for her than she does herself and she agrees that he should make decisions for her on matters that affect her life. The patriarchal beliefs try to hold back every woman who wants to reach the peak of success.
In Bangladesh justice for women can only be ensured when women can seek and obtain a remedy for grievances in compliance with human rights standards. Cultural and social practices in Bangladesh discriminate against women and inhibit their access to opportunities. People have not yet sufficiently understood that human rights are meant to be entitled by every human being, irrespective of her sex, gender, religion, colour, race, nationality and, above all, cultural beliefs etc.
Women are also human beings who deserve to exercise the right to make choices of their own lives. People of Bangladesh are prone to stick to their own horrific culture of social injustices that dominate and discriminate against women. Hence, the justice fails to peep into the life of many women in Bangladesh.
It is time to remove this evil culture of social injustices and establish that justice is ensured to all the women through being fair to both men and women as per their need and desire. To guarantee justice, measures have to be put in place to recompense for the historical and social culture and traditions, beliefs that prevent women and men from operating on a level playing field.
By: Tasmiah Nuhiya Ahmed, Advocate and Research Assistant at Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA)