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Changing times: Men struggle to accept women’s growing role

  • Published at 05:50 pm December 11th, 2019

Bangladesh has been a role model in women’s empowerment over the past decades, and so is experiencing a remarkable transformation in society because of its determined promotion of women’s participation in national life

Nearly two decades into the twenty-first century, men in general remain perturbed by women’s increasing ability to take decisions and earn money and in some instances out-earn their male counterparts.

Bangladesh has been a role model in women’s empowerment over the past decades, and so is experiencing a remarkable transformation in society because of its determined promotion of women’s participation in national life.

Despite everything, though, women continue to struggle for empowerment and development in a society that remains largely patriarchal, say experts.

Changes, they reckon, have resulted broadly through the economic and social development of the past many years. But impulsive resistance from men has generally downplayed such positive changes. Nevertheless, it helps them voice against the longstanding gender role of men. 

Women still face the same challenges their parents did, with a yet significant wage gap, limited access to health, education and social acceptance of women in leadership roles.

Bangladesh Mahila Parishad Acting General Secretary Rakhi Das Purkayasth said women’s liberating persona and independence through active employment may turn out to be the reason for men being uncomfortable with them. 

"The reality is, the patriarchal society in which men hold primary power is confused because it did not notice the changes as they occurred.” 

Prof Zia Rahman, a leading criminologist, said men’s failure to adapt to the changes have resulted resentment and violence.

In a 2018 article in the American Journal of Men’s Health, Rajshahi University Social Work Professor Rabiul Karim identified fear on the part of men of losing authority, worries about female domination of the family, of family cohesion being disturbed as  common perceptions of women’s participation in socio-economic matters.

 The research also found that elderly men hold fast to a belief-system that female-focused development and economic liberalization are discriminatory towards men. 

Rezaul Karim, a member of Nirjaton Protirodh Committee (NNPC) at Jamalpur’s Patharshi union council, said: "It appears that women’s participation in income generating activities is annoying men enough to have them hold on to ages-old patriarchal traditions."

According to Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), among 337 incidents of domestic violence, 173 women were killed between January and October this year. 

In 2018, 193 women were killed due to domestic violence.

A 2015 report of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics said around 72.6% of married women were abused by their spouses at least once during their married life with controlling female behavior being the most common form of violence inflicted upon them. 

Why a sense of insecurity prevails among men 

Women’s engagement in economic activities is not new, but their active participation in income generating activities, particularly in the RMG sector, have brought about a key transformation in the new millennium.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, the number of working women jumped to 18.6 million in 2016-17, up from 16.2 million in 2010. 

A 2009 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that violent behavior is strongly influenced by cultural and social traditions and so efforts to prevent violence must consider how societal pressures and expectations influence individual behavioral outcome.

Expert’s take

Experts and right activists said that a failure to provide proper orientation to men about changing social values is not the only reason for domestic violence. But it is certainly one of the major reasons why men are have failed to adapt to changing times. 

Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua said while processing several divorce petitions, he has observed that women rarely discuss the violence they endured, which is an impediment to an expediting of legal proceedings.

"There are far too many more stories that remain untold and confined inside the four walls. Women are tortured physically, psychologically and mentally.”  

He lamented the lack of research on changes in male attitudes to social changes with reference to women's involvement in income generating activities in Bangladesh.

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