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Mental Torture on Women and the Legal Cure in Bangladesh

Dr. Rashid Askari - January 24th, 2011

As far as legal positivism is concerned, the law- making process is an open-ended process which develops through different socio-political and cultural phenomena. To guard against possible occurrences harming human existence on earth, laws should be made, altered, and developed in keeping with the flux of time and situation. Moreover, the creation of law is not enough in itself to ensure its effectiveness. The total success depends on how effectively it can be enforced. Only for the lack of proper implementation people are not fully enjoying the fruit of law in many respects. But if people cannot have any means within the law to get legal cure or if there is no specific law for certain things, what would they expect from judicature? Improper implementation of law makes things bad but no law makes them worse. Mental torture on women in Bangladesh is such an issue with no specific law about it and hence the victims are the worst sufferers. It is however time for the issue to be seriously addressed. Circles relating to our law-making and enforcing processes have got to play a key role in this regard.

The position of women across the globe is more or less fragile. From the cradle to the grave they are subject to myriad problems and vulnerable to numerous physical and psychological exploitations. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm rightly remarks: ” The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says,” It’s a girl”.   With the rise of Human Rights awareness and Feminist movements, the overall condition of women is gradually improving. But that is much below the expectation line especially in countries like Bangladesh.

The position of women in Bangladesh is doubly fragile, first for being a woman and second for being a Bangladeshi woman. Most of them are in a pitiable condition. They are prey to numerous physical and mental tortures. The condition of the women in the villages is so worse it beggars all description. Like the sitting ducks they become easy target for the male hunters. The shattering blow to their womanhood first falls down upon them in the guise of dowry. Although a penal offence, the dowry system is rampant in the rural Bangladesh. Daughters are liabilities to the family while the sons are assets. The parents feel relieved of their liabilities by marrying them off for dowry in cash or kind. The full payment of this dowry sometimes takes longer time or the venal husbands grow greedier for more.  Both cases lead to tortures on the wives that range from physical punishments to mental torments. They are routinely abused and beaten .The beating sometimes stays suspended but mental torture is a constant companion. The bruises on the body caused by beating disappear in course of time, but the marks of mental suffering are ever-lasting and more excruciating. The women grin and bear it. They cannot protest because they have to live with their tormentors under the same roof. The US journalist Evelyn Cunningham precisely puts it: “Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors”.

But how long can flesh and blood endure these years of mental torments? They sometimes give up completely and seek refuge in suicide. There are numberless suicide incidents resulting from prolonged mental torture. When the burden of torture becomes unbearably heavy, the victims kill themselves by hanging with their sari around their neck or by taking poison. Following things are the routine procedures. The forensic analysis of the dead bodies testifies to the suicide and they are laid to eternal rest .Although their men are the root cause for their abnormal death, the long arm of law cannot touch even their tuft. The men however, shed crocodile tears to the deceased’s near ones but do not forget to wear the wedding crown before the funeral rites are properly observed. This time the rate of dowry is lower than before. But it is there. Because, they are males and therefore the ‘golden rings’ which are better even if curved. This is the popular belief to the countrymen where are rooted the seeds of all forms of women exploitations. The society is always forgiving of men’s behaviour towards women and therefore the ‘curved rings’ tend to gain the upper hand. The author Raine Eisler agrees: “For the most recorded history…men’s violence against wives was explicitly or implicitly condoned.”

Anyway, if any physical violence is meted out to a woman in the society, our legal system at least takes cognizance of it. But cases of mental violence are usually outside the province of the prevalent law. There is no direct legal management as such to impose effective sanctions against the mental tormentors. The victims of mental tortures cannot justifiably bare their soul to the law-enforcers and get legal cure. If anyone tries for legal justice indirectly, she fails to produce adequate evidence of her mental persecution. So the blind law does not hear their cries from beyond the absence of tangible evidence.   Finally she comes back home with empty hands and sore heart. The torture multiplies and justice cries in the wilderness.

(To be continued)

Dr. Rashid Askari writes fiction and column and teaches English at Kushtia Islamic University.

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