Violence in Women, Education, and Gender Inequality in Bangladesh

stop_violence_against_womenPamelia Khaled: Perusing further education two women were bit, battered, and chopped by their husband in Bangladesh very recently.

Romana Manjur who was studying in Political Science in University of British Columbia was pinned to a bed in a jealous rage, gouged her eyes out with his fingers and bit off part of Romana’s nose by his educated husband whilst she went to visit her daughter and husband in Bangladesh.

Other women Hawa Akhter, 21 tied up, taped up her mouth and then cut off the five fingers of her right hand by her husband- a migrant worker after she started studying for a college degree without his permission.

“The attack is the latest in a series of gruesome acts of domestic violence targeting educated women in Muslim-majority Bangladesh”, AFP reported. While we are talking about gender parity and quality education from a gender perspective in Bangladesh how these two stories fit in gender equity component in education.

Bangladesh entered in 2013, though there are legal provisions on violence against women, but there is no sign of social justice and democracy in Bangladeshi women’s lives. There is a serious lack of statistics on this issue because most of the violence cases are not reported to police; however, the majority of women in Bangladesh (rural and urban) are living in a cubicle of violence- they are either raped, battered, or chopped; however, there is no indication of policy reform to prevent violence and establish justice as fairness.

Women in Bangladesh- Are they Logger head? Historically, efforts to achieve and assess equity in primary education have focused on access and parity—that is, on closing the enrollment gap between girls and boys—while insufficient attention has been paid to retention and achievement and a broader range of social differences and needs. In other words, equity is often pursued and measured without regard for the quality and relevance of education for all social groups, while quality and relevant education tend to be made available to only privileged sectors of the population.

There is a noticeable difference in enrolment figures according to gender, but the picture is very different in the developing country like Bangladesh where girls and other genders are severely under represented. There is no planning and design and scope of meeting the practical needs of other genders. There are multiple elements regarding gender equity in education. Gender parity and gender equity are the major foundations of gender equity in universal primary education.

While we focus on gender and education we need to be clear about the concept of parity and equity. Gender parity and gender equity in education refer to different understandings. Achieving gender parity in enrollment remains a critical issue and is a basic component to gender equity.

Parity and Equity “Parity is attained when the same proportion of boys and girls—relative to their respective age groups—enter the education system, achieve educational goals, and advance through the different cycles (UNESCO 2003). Gender parity in enrollment is essential, however, parity in enrolment solely is not adequate to achieving equity in education Equity is a critical tool that is used in gender studies to achieving gender parity in enrollment.

In my view equity is the important mechanism that can reduce the gap between the genders moderately; however, proper indicators, justice, and policy must be designed for those children/ genders who are historically and socially underprivileged. Equity does not always lead to justice in education as gender has social dynamics and many issues could assist to deprive children to achieving equitable outcomes.

Equity and Quality ‘Equity’ and ‘Quality’- these two notions are facing many challenges in educational context. From the feminist perspectives, Equity and Quality is no longer a question of gender parity between boys and girls, or equal access to education for females and the underprivileged (marginalized tribal minorities, homeless children, isolated rural children, and children who live in remote areas) only.

There are other categories of gender who needs to be included in terms of Equity and Quality. Equity is the part of quality: There are significant challenges to implement a gender neutral approach in educational facilities. In educational setting, “equity” is a new challenge that creates a greatest dilemma is feminist theory. There is a struggle to articulate equity as the part of quality; the access, needs and space, and planning for the multiple genders that simultaneously deconstructs the concepts of gender and roles of gender. Up until now implication for policy and design of educational environment for the different needs of men and women are articulated, but the persistent inequalities with other gender and power relations are existed.

Questions of Equity, Social Space, Quality, Relevance: In a Muslim country like Bangladesh all types of gender exercise social space differently since they have specific responsibilities and experiences; therefore, there is a danger of limited educational space, which is designed only for girls and boys. The social space and practical needs that are not designed and planned neutrally that may exclude women and other genders who are not recognized socially and politically.

Thus, it may lead to jeopardize the notions of equity and quality. The importance of girls’ enrollments in education could make a major difference in health, marriage age, lower fertility, longer life, infant mortality, and economic productivity. As well as importance of other gender could make the difference in terms of quality, and it may create more equitable environment in the society. The relevance of education is an important dimension of quality in education. Relevance includes how students can apply what they learn both in and outside of the school environment, including in the labour market, and how teaching methods and curricular design respect and respond to children’s diverse needs, interests and backgrounds. As needs, social expectations and economic opportunities vary across different social groups and locations, attention to social differences—including gender, class, ethnicity and ability—must necessarily be an integral component of attempts to achieve and assess relevance, including considerations of appropriate school systems, teaching methods, curricular design and spatial accommodations Needs to Deconstruct the Concepts of Gender It is acknowledged that gender and “gender relations” is socially constructed, it is useful to consider social differentiation in any educational settings than solely focusing on gender differences.

Taking into consideration that Equity is the part of quality, it is central acknowledging the practical needs and social space for all genders and their equal access that could transform equity to quality establishing social justice in education. It is considered that equity in the education system must be both constitutive and indicative of quality, and it is therefore essential to acknowledge diverse practical needs and to consider the different use of social space across gender, ethnic and class lines when designing and evaluating the education system.

Quality and Equity issues are despite a growing interest in the education and social justice over recent years among the researchers and policy makers, especially in the areas of sustainable educational development, health, safety, and access. However, a few studies have been conducted on the issue of gender equality and educational services in Bangladesh. While we debate that equity is a part of quality education, to make the arguments stronger perhaps we need to elaborate more on that argument from a feminist’s point of views.

Political feminists need to be more critical of how the concepts of quality and equity maybe have perpetuated or reinforced gender inequality. Then a few women must have a voice at the design or policy levels, so they could propose a critical re-conceptualization of these categories from a gender perspective. It is necessary to identify how the concepts of quality and equity may have perpetuated, or reinforced gender inequality.

Therefore, I consider a need of critical reconceptualization of these categories from a gender perspective. Perhaps the conventional benchmarks for quality and equity do not consider entrenched gender inequalities, or perhaps a focus on one to the exclusion of the other has typically been a problem. Specifically how have these notions worked to exclude groups such as women? However, only focusing on access of female children can undermine the importance of the quality of education and its relevance.

To secure equity and ensure quality there is a need for “equilibrium” between quality, access, and relevance of education for all genders. Otherwise, the educational settings are based on the traditional social norms that will continue to produce and reproduce gender roles. It can also lead to exclusion of other groups who feel that they do not fall into either of the gender lines that perhaps reinforce gender inequality.

In fact lack of education, lack of awareness, and lack of gender relations leading to gender violence, it is evident that violence in women is deeply embedded in the Bangladeshi culture, tradition, and social structure. There is a need of urgent response of women’s organizations in Bangladesh to stop violence against women and Bangladesh Jatiyo Mahila Ainjibi Samity – the National Association of Women Lawyers – must organize legal awareness classes aiming to reach millions of helpless women.


The writer is a Doctoral student in OISE, Faculty of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning, University of Toronto, Canada.

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