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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Household exposure to violence and human rights violations in western Bangladesh (I): prevalence, risk factors and consequences

Shr-Jie Wang*, Jens Modvig and Edith Montgomery

Author affiliations

Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT), Copenhagen, Denmark

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Citation and License

BMC International Health and Human Rights 2009, 9:29  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-9-29

Published: 21 November 2009



The ruling parties in Bangladesh have systematically used violence against political opponents and criminals. It is essential to 1) determine the magnitude and burden of organised crime and political violence (OPV) and human rights violations in the affected community, and to 2) identify the risk factors and key indicators for developing effective health intervention and prevention measures.


The population-based study consisted of two parts: a household survey and OPV screening at mobile clinics (presented in Part II). A cross-sectional, multistage cluster household survey was conducted in the Meherpur district in February-March 2008; 22 clusters with a sample size of 1,101 households (population of 4,870) were selected.


Around 83% of households reported being exposed to at least two categories of OPV or human rights violations: 29% reported that the family members had been arrested or detained; 31% reported torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Crude mortality rate was 17.9/1,000 and under 5 mortality rate was 75/1,000. The annual injury rate was 36%, lifetime experience of violence-related injury was 50%, and pain experience within 2 weeks was reported by 57%. Over 80% of the population over 35 years old complained of pain. High prevalence of injury, lifetime experience of OPV-related injury and pain complaints are related to the level of exposure to OPV and human rights violations. A financial burden was imposed on families with an injured person. A geographical variation was revealed regarding reports of torture and lifetime experience of violence-related injury. A combination of individual, relational, community and societal factors, including variables such as political party affiliation, conflict with other families, household income and residential area, affected the risk of victimisation in the household. The odds ratio for reporting extrajudicial execution of a family member was 9.22 for Awami League supporters, 9.15 for Bangladesh Nationalist Party supporters; and 3.97 for Jamaat-e-Islami Party supporters compared with families with no political involvement.


The level of violence and human rights violations is high. The affected population suffers from violence-related injuries and traumas, which could be a factor contributing to poverty. Victimisation is not random.