From Crisis to Action: UNFPA, UNICEF, & UN Women shed light on key Essential Services to support Gender Based Violence survivors in Bangladesh

On the framework of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a meta-analysis report jointly was released today by UNFPA, UNICEF, and UN Women, focused on how women, girls, and children, including  adolescents, in Bangladesh face the brunt of the growing risk of gender-based violence (GBV) as an aftermath to COVID-19 pandemic.

This report titled “Justice Accountability and Support: Essential Services for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence,” marks a collective effort by the three UN agencies to take decisive actions, supporting the Government of Bangladesh, aiming to end all forms of violence against women and children in the country.

The report highlights the urgent need to bridge the gap between health, police, justice, and social services and survivors, emphasizing the delivery of essential services to a GBV survivor.

A crucial recommendation from the analysis underscores the importance of providing survivor-centered and trauma-informed services. This approach is instrumental in empowering women and children including adolescents to seek help, thereby preventing all forms of harmful practices such as child marriage, trafficking, and various forms of gender-based violence (GBV).

“Now more than ever, it is critical to have a comprehensive and coordinated response to address the multifaceted challenges faced by GBV survivors,” said Emma Brigham, UNICEF Deputy Representative to Bangladesh. “Let’s strengthen our prevention and protection mechanisms, ensuring that women and children have access to the services they need to thrive,” she added.

According to a 2021 UN Women report, 93% of women in Bangladesh reported having experienced or knowing another woman who has experienced violence against women and girls (VAWG).1 Moreover, Bangladesh also continues to witness one of the highest rates of child marriage, with more than half of women aged between 22 and 24 married when they were still children.2

“Essential Services Package (ESP) for Women and Girls Subject to Violence’ is a UN global guidance supporting national systems to respond to gender-based violence across four key sectors: health, social services, justice, and police. On behalf of UNFPA, and together with UNICEF and UN Women, I reaffirm our collective commitment to support Government efforts to address gaps identified. Closer partnerships with the relevant Government institutions, non-governmental and civil society organizations, and development partners are key to achieving all of them,” said Masaki Watabe, Deputy Representative, UNFPA Bangladesh.

During her presentation, UN Women Programme Coordinator, Shrabana Datta, shared “It is essential to work holistically, work in an intersectional and coordinated way, and involve all stakeholders to strengthen prevention and response programming for ending violence against women and girls. We need to scale up investments in prevention efforts. UN Women stands ready to work with the Government, civil society partners and development partners to advance prevention and response to gender-based violence efforts in the country.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Legal Framework Gaps: The justice services assessment identifies gaps in the legal framework, with child marriages and marital rape exempted from the definition of rape under Section 375 of the Penal Code 1860.
  • Policing and Justice Service Challenges: The assessment emphasizes the need for training and capacity building of police officers, urging a survivor-centered and trauma-informed approach.
  • Health Services Coordination: Stressing the crucial need for coordination between medical and justice service providers, the health services assessment aims to ensure an appropriate response to GBV.
  • Social Services Investment: The report calls for increased investment in social services, advocating for a workforce capable of community outreach, awareness campaigns, and psychosocial support for GBV survivors.

Recommendations from the report for government, civil society, women’s rights organizations, the media, and UN agencies, include capacity strengthening, improving accessibility of information related to GBV essential services, ensuring the safety of survivors, and enhancing data collection and management.

The proposed solutions advocate for the implementation of mutually reinforcing policy interventions and programs, fostering a comprehensive and collaborative approach to address the multifaceted challenges faced by GBV survivors in the country.

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