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Gender discrimination in Bangladesh begins at birth. Most parents want to have children so that they can, when they are older, supplement their family income and/or help with the domestic work. In the existing socio-economic set-up, male children are best suited to this purpose. So girls are both to an unwelcome world.
However, they are assigned, rather confined to, domestic chores. Some of these girls may be at school. But all their work—domestic or academic—stops as soon as they are married off, which is the prime concern of the parents about their daughters.
This discriminatory treatment has some long-term negative- effects on the body and mind of the girl children and women in .a family. They are given to understand that they should keep the best food available for the male members in the family; that they should eat less than the male members; that they should not raise their voice when they speak; that they should not go out of their house without permission from, and without being escorted by the male members. All these shape the girls thinking about life and the world, and go to establish their relationships with the male members in the family As a result:
• They suffer, more than their male counterparts, from malnutrition and anemia which make them vulnerable to various diseases, resulting in a high mortality rate.
• They develop a sense of self-effacement, self-denial and inferiority that persists throughout their lifetime as an inevitable benchmark of the weaker sex. As a result, married off even at 9 or 10 to a man of 40 or 50, a girl rarely has any say in decision-making in the family, let alone in society.
• Marriage being such an unequal contract often becomes an institution of inhuman tortures meted out to the silent, patient wife by the dominating husband for many of his demands such as those for a male child, for dowry and so on.
• To encourage female education the government has taken some positive steps, such as giving stipends to girl students, recruiting more female teachers, etc. But yet girls cannot receive the full benefits of education, mainly because of the following reasons:
• Religious misinterpretation and social strictures discourage, often prevent girls from going to co-education schools. Even in urban schools girls are not allowed by many parents to live in student halls because they fear for their girls‘ safety.
• Early marriage and child birth make women tied to home, with no possibility of going back to school. Any expenditure for sending girls to school is considered wastage by many parents, while that for boys is regarded as an investment.
• Many parents believe that their main responsibility in life is to prepare their daughter for marriage and childbearing— not for her own individual life.