Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world with a population of approximately 160 million. The rates have poverty in the country have declined since the 1990s. However, Bangladesh still faces problems such as being prone to flooding every year, affecting on average about 18% of the country, killing several thousand and damaging millions of properties each time. Bangladesh has also been hosting Rohingya refugees from Myanmar for almost three decades. However, the influx since 2017 due to escalating violence in Rakhine state, has resulted in more than doubling of the total refugee population. There are now nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar (a port city in Southern Eastern Bangladesh), the majority of whom are women and girls.
Status of Women and Girls
Bangladesh has a significant history of women's rights movements mobilising themselves to speak out on issues affecting women and girls. Due to investment in improving the lives of women and girls, there has been some progress on some gender indicators. For example, maternal mortality has dropped 60% since 2000 as a result of effective prenatal care. There has also been progress in secondary education e.g. secondary school enrolments jumped from 39% (1998) to 67% (2017). However, there are areas, which are still of great concern where further action is needed:
- Violence - the rates of violence against women remain high in Bangladesh and the criminal justice system continues to fail women who survive violence – the conviction rates of abusers remains very low. Although acid attacks have dropped since legislation was strengthened, women and girls continue to be targeted. Other statistics include:
- - Almost two out of three ever-married women have experienced some form of partner violence in their lifetime.
- - Over 3,300 women and girls murdered over dowry disputes between 2001 and 2019 (according to a prominent Bangladesh human rights group, Odhikar).
- - Almost 60% of girls are married before their 18th birthday.
School drop out – Despite increased secondary enrolment, the dropout rates for girls at secondary schools is high (42%) with low completion rates. The reasons for girls not completing their secondary education include: child marriage, household responsibilities, high levels of pregnancies, lack of access to appropriate information about sexual and reproductive health, mental health issues and school-based violence.
Modern Day Slavery – The lower education levels puts girls at increased risk of child labour e.g. 7 million children aged 5 to 14 in the workforce. Also women who do not have education are also more vulnerable to exploitative labour (long hours, unsafe conditions, abuse and low pay). Only when a better-educated female labour force is achieved that women will propel their own and their country's economic and social progress.