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Gender violence and development discourse in Bangladesh


  • Farida C. Khan is Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin–Parkside. Her writing focuses primarily on trade and industrial policy and more recently, on problems arising from social and economic change and state-led development policies for women and non-dominant groups in Bangladesh.


During the last 30 years, rapid social change has dramatically altered the conditions and meanings of women's lives in Bangladesh. After generations of public neglect and exclusion, women are now widely exposed to a globalised world of foreign aid, migration, trafficking, factory work, and urbanisation. The sharp rise in women's participation in the labour force, involvement in governmental and non-governmental programmes, and migration to urban centres as well as other countries augment their greater social and political visibility. The presence of women in the marketplace and public space has improved opportunities for greater access to resources and the capacity to act, but exposed large segments of the population as highly vulnerable targets of sexual violence, repression in workplaces, and religious persecution. This paper frames the realities of escalating violence against women within the contemporary discourses of gender empowerment and development. It argues that current development policy in Bangladesh assumes increased welfare for women in the process of economic development when, in fact, women are subjected to new and intensified forms of violence during these changes in the economy and society.