One of the issues that often provokes thought is whether women, especially if they are poor, are able to exert any agency over their sexual lives and decision-making in a patriarchal society. Are women only victims or can they be powerful actors of their own lives? What might be the realities of women's sexual lives when they live in an environment that is not conducive to gender equality? This article considers whether women living in an urban slum in Bangladesh can assert their sexuality and use their own power to negotiate their rights in an oppressive environment? What are the parameters by which we assess power and decision-making vis a vis sexuality? Do the women living in the slum think about these the same way that we do? Listening to young women's narratives, it is concluded that a divergence appears between traditional gender ideologies and social roles and the situation young urban women find themselves in, where not only are love affairs occurring, but some young women also exert agency as they act on their sexual desires and feelings in their married life and also express dissatisfaction with their husbands inability to satisfy them. Although the numbers of young women speaking out may not be many, this speaks volumes in a society where women are not expected to be sexual beings but rather passive and docile and men are seen as the sexual ones. As some of the stories highlight young women may also use their bodies as a way of holding on to men in the insecure slum environment.
S. F. Rashid. Shades of Grey. Sexuality and Rights: Lives of Young Women in an Urban Slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Plainspeak (2007) 1.
Shades of Grey. Sexuality and Rights: Lives of Young Women in an Urban Slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh.