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What’s All the Fuss about Feminism (Part 1)

Updated: 5 days ago

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Let's start with a disclaimer: feminism is a complex issue, academically and socially. Everyone should do a bit of homework to understand it better (yes, Google is your friend). This isn't a deep dive into what feminism is, its history, or implications. Instead, we’ll focus on the 'reasons' people dismiss it as a 'modern fashion' imported from the 'rowdy women of the West' and provide simple counterarguments.


So, What Is Feminism?


Broadly, feminism is about equity for all genders in social, economic, and political spheres. Feminist movements have existed worldwide, even before the 18th century, tackling everything from reproductive rights to domestic abuse to equal pay. Modern feminists agree that any attempt to obtain women's rights is a feminist act. It's about fairness for women and gender diverse folks in all sectors of society. 


While the idea of feminism sounds fantastic, it's clear that not everyone is on board—yes, even some women! We're here to dive into the various reasons (and so-called "logic") behind the backlash against feminism from all corners of society. We've taken it upon ourselves to share our wit and wisdom on these objections.


1. Women already have equal rights


a. Legal Doctrine:

Bangladesh still has numerous discriminatory laws. For instance, property rights are determined by religious laws. Under Muslim Family Law, a daughter gets half of what a son receives through inheritance. The Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 allows child marriage in 'special circumstances,' effectively removing a girl's choice and consent.

But wait, there's a silver lining! In a historic verdict, the High Court of Bangladesh ruled on January 24, 2023, that a mother can now be the sole legal guardian of her children. This ruling ensures that no student will be forced to use a guardian's name they do not wish to. It also recognizes that mothers can be as much of a guardian as fathers, marking a forward step towards establishing women's rights.


b. Social Sphere:

Sexist attitudes are social barriers at every step. Boys' opinions are often favoured at home, girls face pressures around dating and marriage, and exponentially more women are victims of domestic abuse. News reports on rape, harassment, and violence against women are daily phenomena. Many incidents happen because a woman rejected a proposal, resisted a sexual advance, or dared to protest. Public opinion often blames the victims themselves.

A prevalent myth is that rape laws are sufficient and effective. However, nationwide protests in 2020 led to significant reforms, including the death penalty for aggravated rape and the repeal of Section 155 (4) of the Evidence Act. The draft act introduced in 2021 by the Law Commission has notable provisions but lacks inclusivity for male and transgender victims and does not address marital rape. The introduction of capital punishment for rape has faced criticism for potentially increasing violence against victims.


c. Workplace Rights:

Inequality in the workplace is widespread. Despite policies for women at work, female employees in Bangladesh face discriminatory attitudes and unsafe environments. Research by BLAST found that local courts are unfriendly to female lawyers, who are paid less and not trusted with challenging tasks. There's also a lack of separate sanitary facilities or childcare for working mothers.


d. Rights over Their Own Bodies:

Abortion remains controversial. The decision should be made by the 'owner' of the body. However, many countries have restrictive abortion laws. According to the Center For Reproductive Rights, 26% of the world’s population live in countries where abortion is 'generally prohibited.' In Bangladesh, abortion is only allowed when the woman's life is in danger, leading women to resort to unsafe abortion facilities for unwanted pregnancies.

The global trend shows a growing recognition of abortion rights as fundamental human rights, with significant liberalization in countries like Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina. In stark contrast, the United States is experiencing a regression in abortion rights. In Bangladesh, restrictive abortion laws force women to seek out-of-clinic abortions when they are denied or cannot access MR services. An estimated 7-16% of maternal deaths in Bangladesh result from unsafe induced abortions, taking the number to as high as 8,000 each year.

Additionally, in August 2020, the High Court asked why five 'anti-abortion clauses' in the penal code should not be revoked and declared illegal. These clauses make abortion illegal and punishable, causing fear among doctors and nurses, leading to unsafe abortions and health complications. 


e. Political Sphere:

Yes, even if our Prime Minister is a woman. Despite the provision of 50 reserved seats for women in addition to the 300 general seats, few female candidates are nominated. Women MPs sit on every standing committee, but their effectiveness is barely visible. Female parliamentarians mention the key challenge to be the attitude of their male colleagues. Here, we can find some global examples.


So, if women do not have equal rights in law, society, the workplace, over their own bodies, and in politics, how can anyone argue that women already have equal rights?


Read the second part of the blog here: What's All the Fuss about Feminism (Part 2)

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