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Bangladesh Background

The People’s Republic of Bangladesh sits at the northern end of the Bay of Bengal and is otherwise bordered on all sides by India, except for a small border with Burma. These borders were established by the 1947 partition of India, when the region became East Bengal (later East Pakistan). Political, economic and linguistic discrimination resulted in populist uprisings against West Pakistan, which culminated in the Bangladesh liberation war leading to Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. In the past 38 years, Bangladesh has seen substantial political turmoil and crippling natural disasters.

In December 2008, Bangladesh held is first democratic parliamentary election in seven years, marking the end of two years of emergency rule led by a caretaker government. However, with a population of 158 million, the country still face tremendous developmental obstacles—significantly in the treatment and condition of women. Bangladesh is home to significant gender inequality, a lack of respect for and enforcement of women’s rights and, most dramatically, high rates of domestic violence. The prevalence of domestic violence in rural Bangladesh is especially high, with between 32–72 percent of married women reporting violence in the marital relationship according to academic studies. Yet, the number of women who seek assistance is shockingly low—only one percent.