August 14, 2014
The Development of Women's Social Status in Bangladesh
The phenomena that I will discuss in this paper is, how women had developed their social status in society and how it was established. Bangladesh is the 3rd largest Muslim country by population after Indonesia and Pakistan. Its population is over 150 million, with over 90% with over 90% of those Muslim. Islam plays an important role in the culture, economy and everyday life of the people in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, Bangladesh is a poverty stricken, backward, and illiterate country. More 80% of the population falls under poverty levels due to lack of income and resources. Since Bangladesh is officially a Muslim country, they do not treat women equally to men, using Sharia law as legal pretext. There is extreme gender discrimination and low status for women in society. This low status is dictated by the society and stems from cultural norms and traditional values. Bangladesh is a very recently developed country, gaining it's independence in 1971 and has yet to make many reforms.
In Bangladesh, giving birth to a baby girl is known to be bad luck. At such high poverty levels, providing for a daughter is a burden. What is surprising is that women have a lower life expectancy than males in Bangladesh because families would rather feed their sons than their daughters. From the lack of food and nutrients, women are often the most malnourished. When left with no other options, families tend to sell their daughters as slaves to smugglers. Other cultural norms are to marry off their daughters at the age of 11, 12 or 13 to relieve them of their burden on the family. To prevent such illegal marriages from taking place, the Child Marriage Restraint Act was put in action in 1929. The act was ineffectual as it was difficult to enforce. This was their tradition and cultural norm and was not going to be abandoned. This increased illiteracy rates, subjugation and brutality of women. Marriage prevented women from going to school, work or having any voice in society. The status of women in Bangladesh was therefore dictated by man-made laws, social norms and societal traditions.
Pre-Islamic and non-Muslim practices and traditions are so well entrenched in Muslim societies that people often mistake man-made rules for the Sharia law. In spite of such laws, gender hierarchy is nowhere to be found in the Sharia. For example, Sharia law as it is practiced in Islamic states, allows polygamy. Yet, nowhere in the Quran does it state that polygamy is allowed. It clearly states that "only if all wives are able to be treated equally" polygamy is allowed. Nevertheless, it is impossible to treat all wives equally, turning polygamy into a haram deed. Another example of a man-made law would be women's use of the hijab. Nowhere in the Quran does it state that the use of the hijab is mandatory for women. The prophets of Allah had their wives use the hijab as protection. In the judicial court, one male witness is...