December 01, 2020

BRAC releases new data on gender-based violence in conjunction with 16 days of activism

Data underscores that gender-based violence is rising amid COVID-19

A girl from a BRAC youth program in Bangladesh

DHAKA, BANGLADESH —BRAC today released new data on gender-based violence in conjunction with 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The 16 Days are recognized annually from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, Human Rights Day.

Over 25,000 complaints of gender-based violence received by BRAC through October 2020

Even with restricted mobility because of lockdowns for a limited time, a total of 25,607 complaints of gender-based violence were received by BRAC’s 410 Human Rights and Legal Aid Clinics across Bangladesh in the first 10 months of 2020.

Of these complaints, 15,047 were resolved through alternative dispute resolution; legal counsel was provided to 3,239 survivors, and 1,724 complaints led to civil and criminal cases being filed. In addition, almost $USD 4 million in dower and maintenance was recovered for survivors.

Community-based women’s groups report spike in incidence of violence against women

This spike is supported by data from Polli Shomaj, BRAC’s community-based women’s groups. Polli Shomaj are active in 54 out of 64 districts in Bangladesh and work to stop violence and help women understand their rights. They reported a 24% rise in incidents of violence against women in 2020 compared to 2019.

Greater pressure on teenage girls in Bangladesh to submit to child marriage amid COVID-19

The number of child marriages reported by Polli Shomaj in the first 10 months of 2020 grew by 68%, compared to the same period in 2019. There was also a 72% rise in the number of child marriages prevented by the women’s groups during the same period.

In the third quarter of 2020, with COVID-19 widespread, the number of child marriages prevented was 219% higher than the same period in 2019. The number of child marriages prevented rose by 571% from the first quarter of 2020 to the third quarter of 2020.

Child brides more likely to experience gender-based violence

The reported rise in child marriage is particularly concerning because child brides are more likely to experience gender-based violence. Globally, girls who marry before the age of 15 are almost 50% more likely to experience physical or sexual violence from a partner than girls who marry after 18. Child brides are also more likely to believe that a man is justified in beating his wife.

“Combating gender-based violence and ensuring gender equality are top priorities for BRAC, and the COVID-19 pandemic is only making the fight harder,” said Asif Saleh, Executive Director, BRAC Bangladesh. “BRAC has major initiatives, highlighted above, that demonstrate that with community mobilization and awareness, significant progress can be made in tackling this challenge. During COVID-19, it is more important than ever that  a more concerted commitment and effort are made from all tiers of government and society to  ensure that gender-based violence is  stopped and rights of women are protected.”

New study in Tanzania reports exciting progress in combating intimate partner violence

A new study from Tanzania highlights exciting progress in the effort to improve sexual and reproductive health among adolescent girls and young women and reduce intimate partner violence. The study was conducted by UCLA’s Global Lab for Research in Action in partnership with BRAC in Tanzania, where one-in-three 15-24-year-old females experiences intimate partner violence. BRAC operates 150 Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) clubs for girls and women throughout Tanzania. Engaging those ELA clubs was crucial to the research.

A key finding of this study is that the two interventions that significantly reduce intimate partner violence are ones that are rarely used in these types of health programs across Africa or other parts of the world. Fortunately, they are both low-cost and easy to replicate: engaging and inspiring adolescent boys and young men to make better choices around their sexual and reproductive health; and empowering adolescent girls and young women using a goal-setting exercise focused on staying healthy. More information on the study is available here.


Notes to the editor

About BRAC

BRAC is a global leader in developing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based programs to assist the most marginalized people in extremely poor, conflict-prone, and post-disaster settings. These include initiatives in education, healthcare, microfinance, women and girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, and more. BRAC’s vision is a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential. In 2020, BRAC was named the number one NGO in the world by NGO Advisor for the fifth consecutive year. Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC currently operates in 11 countries in Asia and Africa, touching the lives of over 100 million people.


Based in New York, BRAC USA is the North American affiliate of BRAC. BRAC USA provides comprehensive support to BRAC around the world by raising awareness about its work to empower people living in poverty and mobilizing resources to support its programs. BRAC USA also works closely with its international counterparts to design and implement cost-effective and evidence-based poverty innovations worldwide. BRAC USA is an independent 501(c)(3) organization.


Media contact


Sarah Allen
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