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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Household exposure to violence and human rights violations in western Bangladesh (II): history of torture and other traumatic experience of violence and functional assessment of victims

Shr-Jie Wang1*, Mohammad Akramul Haque2, Saber-ud-Daula Masum2, Shuvodwip Biswas3 and Jens Modvig1

Author affiliations

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

2 Bangladesh Rehabilitation Centre for Trauma Victims (BRCT), Dhaka, Bangladesh

3 Dhaka University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Citation and License

BMC International Health and Human Rights 2009, 9:31  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-9-31

Published: 27 November 2009



Organised crime and political violence (OPV) and human rights violations have marred Bangladesh history since 1971. Little is known about the consequences for the oppressed population. This study describes the patterns of OPV and human rights violations in a disturbed area of Bangladesh and assesses the physical, emotional and social functioning of victims.


A total of 236 of selected participants in a household survey in Meherpur district were recruited for a detailed study. Interviews and physical examinations were used to obtain information about history of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (TCIDTP), and about injuries, pain frequency and intensity. Handgrip strength and standing balance performance were measured. The "WHO-5 Well-being" scale was used to assess the subjective emotional well-being of study participants.


The majority of the reported cases of TCIDTP occurred in 2000-2008, 51% of incidents occurred during winter; 32.0% between 20:00 and midnight. Police involvement was reported in 75% of cases. Incidents took place at victims' homes (46.7%), or at the police station, military camp, in custody or in prison (21.9%). Participants experienced 1-10 TCIDTP methods and reported 0-6 injury locations on their bodies; 77.5% reported having at least two injuries. Less than half of the participants were able to stand on one leg for 30 seconds. Only 7.5% of males aged 25-44 had handgrip strength in both hands exceeding average values for healthy people at the same age. Over 85% of participants scored low (<13) on the 25-point "WHO-5 Well-being" scale. The number of years since the TCIDTP event, pain frequency, the need to quit a job to take care of an injured family member, political involvement, personal conflicts and the fear of neighbourhood violence strongly affected emotional well-being. Good emotional well-being correlated with increased political and social participation.


A detailed picture of characteristics of the victimisation is presented. The participants showed poor emotional well-being and reduced physical capacity. The results indicated that the simple and rapid method of assessment used here is a promising tool that could be used to monitor the quality and outcome of rehabilitation.