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Topic: Eve teasing is very common social problem and everyday women come-across some form of eve teasing. In this case, do you think that women should be empowered to fight back due to end this evil act.

Preamble:

Sexual harassment, often known as “eve teasing”, is a regular occurrence for the women and girls of Bangladesh.  A recent study by the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) showed that almost 90 percent of girls aged 10-18 have undergone the experience. The harassment can take a variety of forms and the perpetrators come from multiple walks of life; they are rich and poor, educated and uneducated; according to the BNWLA study, teenage boys, rickshaw pullers, bus drivers, street vendors, traffic police and often supervisors or colleagues of the working women had all been cited as “eve teasers”. The impact of eve teasing or sexual harassment towards women and girls are enormous and consider as serious gender base violence against women and girls are facing in everyday of their life. For the girls and women who are subject to sexual harassment, the experiences are traumatic and can leave deep psychological scars. The BNWLA study also noted that in the past two years, at least 12 girls have committed suicide in circumstances stemming from “eve teasing”.  So without having proper legal action this hegemonic form of gender based violence is making further implication hindering the empowerment of women and violating the constitutional rights of woman. However the constitution of Bangladesh clearly mentioned to uphold the rights of woman and children in the article 10 and directed govt. to take necessary action in the constitution of Bangladesh to protect them.

The structure of Bangladeshi society has always been male dominated. But in the modern era, women tried to break the centuries of shackles by venturing into male dominated areas. Last century witnessed number of initiatives and path breaking steps taken by the females. Today, Bangladeshi women stand head to head with Bangladeshi males when it comes to performance and equality. However, with wave of women empowerment came new set of problems. When the women started to venture on their own without male escorts, they made themselves vulnerable to public glares. Eve teasing is a menace that has grown to alarming proportions. Not many cities in Bangladesh are considered safe for women. Eve teasing is a huge issue in metropolitan cities of Bangladesh. It depicts incidents of public sexual harassment, street harassment or molestation of women by men. Eve teasing also involves sexually suggestive remarks, groping, making lewd gestures and perverted teasing. These disturbing incidents usually take place in public transport, streets, offices and public places. Eve Teasing There has been contrasting school of thoughts about incidents of eve teasing. Some traditionalists blame it on females saying they provoke the culprits by wearing suggestive dresses. They recommend old-fashioned dresses for women. However, going by the records; it is hard to prove that conservatively dressed women have not gone through eve teasing. School girls, college going students, working women etc regularly go through humiliating comments by the unruly men. Eve teasing can leave a permanent psychological scar on women. One study shows that 35 percent of the eve teasers are anti-socials, 32 percent are students and 33 percent of eve teasers belong to middle age.[1] Large numbers of females in metropolitan cities are carrying deterrents to protect themselves. Many others are taking self-defence classes. Though the judiciary and government are taking stringent actions against eve teasers but statistics do not show any real improvement.

The magnitude of Sexual Harassment in Bangladesh and its effect:

“Anatomy is destiny, “wrote Sigmund Freud. His statement has gained new meaning in Bangladesh, as women and girls find their lives, livelihoods, mobility and independence devastated by the scourge of publicly practiced gender violence. The problem of sexual harassment in Bangladesh is devastating. Women’s participation in economic sector is crucial in for their economic empowerment and their sustainability. However, the problem such sexual harassment in school , workplace as well as in the public places discourage women to continue work, go out of home and pull girls out of school. The problem manifested more viciously when due to sexual harassment the family forcedly married girls off at their early age triggers other problems such as increasing early marriage, teenage pregnancy, including higher risk of maternal and infant death.

Sexual harassment in the workplace and school has emerged as serious concern in Bangladesh. It is increasingly being recognized as violation of human right and human dignity, which undermine equality of opportunity and treatment between men and women. The minister for education recently acknowledged that stalking of female students and teachers had reached such severity that some schools closed down and exams were postponed. Education —the path to gender empowerment —is itself a hostage to gender violence. In a country where the prime minister, foreign minister, home minister, agriculture minister, deputy leader of the House and the leader of the opposition are female, women and girls cannot walk on the streets, use public transport, or go to school, shops, parks or other public places without often being taunted, harassed, humiliated, sexually molested, groped and assaulted and in some cases, attacked with acid, abducted and raped.

Sexual harassment is a manifestation of the patriarchal cultural norms of Bangladesh. It also reinforces those norms; it is both a symptom and a cause. Inasmuch as the harassment contributes to maintaining the low status of women, it also interferes with ending hunger. A 2003 study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which utilizes data from over one hundred thousand children in 36 developing countries, demonstrates that when women’s status gets better, their nutrition improves and their children’s nutrition improves. In South Asia, where the status of women is the lowest, improvements in women’s status would have the strongest affect. The study concluded that if there were an equalization of men’s and women’s decision-making power in South Asia, the incidence of underweight children under three years old would fall by up to 13 percentage points, resulting in 13.4 million fewer undernourished children in the region. This study shows that elevating women’s overall status seems to be a crucial precondition to ending hunger. Bangladesh is not a country that can afford to dally or placate traditional attitudes when it comes to ending hunger. It has one of the highest rates of child mortality in the world and the majority of those deaths are from causes related to hunger.17 Sexual harassment is implicated in those deaths. The phenomenon must be dealt with seriously and immediately. It affects not only the girls and women who are subject to the acts but also leads to social violence, stops girls from being educated, promotes maternal and child mortality, keeps women from being empowered, and ultimately prevents the end of hunger.

Root causes of sexual harassment:

As ordinary citizens, the way we bring up our children is also relevant. Many parents do not treat sons and daughters equally. By applying different moral codes to boys and girls, they not only bolster legal inequalities but also install a sense of inferiority among girls and superiority among boys. Sexual terrorism thrives on patriarchical attitudes, prejudices, cultural norms, double standards and discriminatory laws that devalue women and deny them their rights. Eradicating it will require transformative social change. It will be challenging, controversial, complex and time-consuming. There is much that state, society and individuals can do to begin that process and make streets, schools and public spaces safe for women and girls.

Another important point is why men and boys who are mostly involved in the sexual harassment. The social psychological perception among men and boy are still having very big gap and segregation of the sexes prevents boys from learning how to relate respectfully to girls. Taboos about sex education leave no space at home or in the school curriculum for young adolescents to understand and manage their growing sexuality. Creating an opportunity in schools to discuss sexuality, gender roles and gender violence would go some way towards educating boy son why women and girls must be treated with respect and dignity.

Raising voice, response and to increase accountability:

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh firmly proclaims: “All people are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.” Besides the constitutional guarantees, Bangladesh is a state party to the UN Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the UN convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Therefore, Bangladesh is under obligation to defend equal rights of women and children and to protect women and children from all forms of violence perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. However, facts and documentation show that the obligation has not been fulfilled.  Girls have committed suicide, and parents have been assaulted and murdered over the past few months. The government has formed mobile courts to stop sexual harassment. The legal framework to combat violence against women has also incorporated the issue of stalking.

In recent time the media has made a very good coverage and get the issue very momentum which practically increased to raise voice in all wake of life. However more need to be done. Policing should be made more responsive to the needs of women, for instance with dedicated police cells and help lines for victims. State and public institutions should take more seriously the implementation of the directive on sexual harassment issued by the High Court last year – or face severe sanctions. The High Court (HC) issued a set of guidelines defining sexual misdemeanours to prevent any kind of physical, mental or sexual harassment of women, girls and children at their workplaces, educational institutions and other public places including roads across the country. The HC also directed the government to make a law on the basis of the guidelines, and ruled that the guidelines will be treated as a law until the law is made. Based on high court guideline the govt. has taken initiative to formulate district sexual harassment committee headed by DC in each district however the committee is not active yet and not functioning properly.

Civil society organizations and women’s groups should be given more resources to support and counsel victims, and launch public awareness campaigns. Several NGOs, including dedicated women’s activists, are playing crucial roles in implementing CEDAW, MDGs through acting as pressure groups. They have undertaken various programmes to strengthen the capacity building of women and of state interventions to combat violence against women. A number of NGOs are trying to address the issues of violence through providing legal aid and mobilising women to take action against dowry and wife battering, organising rallies, press conferences, workshops and seminars, lobbying for revision and reformulation of existing laws, monitoring state interventions, and arranging campaigns to protest violence against women. However, time has come for all the people in the country to combat violence against women. There is no strong alternative to social protection. People have to be made aware that the complex issue of women’s right is connected to human right in the complex socio-cultural, political and economic culture of Bangladesh.

Empowering woman:

Eve teasing” or sexual harassment of women in public places is a growing concern in Bangladesh and throughout this sub-continent. It is a crime easy to commit, but difficult to prove, as “eve-teasers” often devise ingenious ways to attack women, even though many feminist writers term it as “little rapes,” and usually occur in public places. In spite of remarkable development in many areas of women’s empowerment, women are not safe while walking on roads. Empowerment is giving lawful power or authority to act. If people were empowered they would be able to participate in the planning, execution and implementation of developmental schemes. Apart from Political Empowerment Economic and Social Empowerment are crucial. Empowerment and development are closely related. Empowerment leads to development, which further leads to greater empowerment. “There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing,” said Swami Vivekananda. But through centuries, societies in the world over have been trying to fly on only one wing, denying women their rightful place.

The very concept of women empowerment shows that society as such has given a raw deal to women – who comprise nearly fifty percent of the population and women themselves have to come forward to fight for their rightful place in all walks of life and prevent their exploitation in every field. Moreover Sexuality is another vital aspect of development. It affects woman livelihoods and security, their wellbeing, and sometimes their very survival. Sexual rights are a precondition for reproductive rights and for gender equality. Lack of sexual rights affects women to deny choicing of partner, subjected to eve teasing and restricted in their mobility.

The political empowerment is one of the significant steps to prevent women from any kind of violence including eve teasing and sexual harassment. Govt. of Bangladesh has also taken several initiatives towards political empowerment for the women are as follows:

• Under the Local Government Act, 1997 three seats have been reserved for direct election of women.

• The Representation of People’s Order 2008 provided for two elected Vice-Chairman, one of which must be a woman.

• The Representation of People’s Order, 2008 further recommends that political parties nominate 33% women to contest directly in parliamentary elections.

Though the steps are very praise worthy by Bangladesh govt. but considering equal rights of woman in Bangladesh and prevalence of violence the steps are not enough.

Social empowerment is another area where there is having considerable amount of lacking which hinder to have equal participation of women in the social life with men. Persistence of gender discrimination is very high which prevent woman to have a role in the society what mostly viewed as negatively. Therefore for increasing the social empowerment there is need a very wide range of awareness raising and increase knowledge, attitude and behaviour of men towards woman. The social and political empowerment and recognition of valued participation of women are considered as forwarding steps whereby women can be able to protect themselves any kind of violence including sexual harassment or eve teasing. Moreover equal rights would give sense of perception and value towards women which raise the respect and people hardly would be able to violate their rights.

For ensuring social and economical empowerment of woman, the legal is a very important aspect that give an overall protection and to enjoy her social and economical rights. Though for curbing eve teasing or sexual harassment there have lots of initiative including high court land mark judgement or formulating the Women and Children Repression Act, however path to filling case is not very smoothing. Laws are there but enforcement is weak. In Women and Children Repression and Prevention Act 2000 an excellent provision was included in section article 10 that teasing of women like making obscene comments or gestures was an offence covered by it providing for up to seven years of simple imprisonment or meticulous imprisonment for two years. But the act was amended in 2003 where no one could be charged with sexual abuse of a woman until it is physical. Moreover there is also having lack of initiative in ensuring legal rights of woman particularly to protect victim as witness from perpetrators. There is no law on victim witness protection act which prevent woman to take a legal action against perpetrators. So woman empowerment ensure a comprehensive entitlement for women to enjoy social , economical and legal rights which would give a feeling of protection and enjoy to participate in family , community and society.

Conclusion:

Discriminatory treatment and violence against women has remained widespread across the country. Teasing and staring at women is common on all public places where unidentified men and women face each other. Teasing, odd gestures and verbal abuses are considered as sexual harassment in many developed societies, however our society this is seen as ‘acceptable.’ Sexual harassment is a social crime. It’s a curse of our society. And this curse should remove through public concern. If anyone can raise voice against this social crime and everyone will take an affirmative action against it by seeing him or her. So we should take proper step in every sectors in Bangladesh both publicly and privately to remove this social crime. For stopping the heinous act we must take sexual harassment seriously and bring it to a halt. Immediately or urgent basis we can do this through the legal system, by enforcing the laws, arresting the perpetrators, and bringing them to trial. Alongside a legal response, we must also work to alter the underlying conditions that give rise to the offences. By raising the status of women and girls, and endeavouring to achieve gender equality, we can end the practice of sexual harassment, end hunger and uplift the quality of life for all. Though empowerment is considered as important factor to combat sexual harassment or eve teasing against women however empowerment by itself may not place women on an equal footing with men. The greatest need of the hour is change of social attitude to women. Women’s empowerment means a lot, but the ultimate goal of the equalization of man and woman would materialize only when her complementary role is recognized by the society.

[1] Study Girls Fall victim into Eve Teasing by BNWLA, 2008

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