Family Law

Family Law

1. Eve teasing is a 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 to end this evil act – Explain and Illustrate

“Aai shundori, ekta gaan shuney jao na”, said one of the boys. “Ekdin toh amar shathey jetei hobey”, said another. Terrified, fourteen year old Lima kept her head lowered and quickened her pace as she walked to school. That group of notorious boys heckling her again as they have been for the past few weeks. Three months ago one of the girls in her school committed suicide. When she heard the news, Lima couldn’t figure out why another young girl like her would take her own life. That was until all this daily harassment started. She thought to herself, “So this is what Shathi must have felt like, this humiliation, this embarrassment, this is why she killed herself . . . so this is the terrible ‘Eve Teasing’.”

Eve teasing is a euphemism used for public sexual harassment, street harassment or molestation of women by men. It is a growing social problem considered to be related to delinquency in youth. This is a form of sexual aggression that ranges in severity from sexually suggestive remarks, brushing in public places, catcalls, to outright groping. Sometimes it is referred to with a coy suggestion of innocent fun, making it appear harmless with no resulting liability on the part of the performer. Eve teasing, as heinous as it is, is thus also a difficult crime to prove. In my opinion, eve teasing is a very serious moral and social crime carried out by ruffians in the most degrading manner and it is not so much an act of masculinity but rather of low-life cowardice.

The general socioeconomic status in Bangladesh is much lower compared to neighboring countries such as India and Sri Lanka. For the average girl in Bangladesh, one of her most prized possessions is her dignity. Following the culture and traditions also have the girls dress up in a conservative manner so as not to incite uncalled attention from the males. Historically, the upbringing of girls in Bangladesh differs in many ways from the boys. That is one of the reasons why the psychological impact and consequences of eve teasing are so devastating to the victim and her family. Eve teasing is now a social pandemic in Bangladesh. Based on empirical study (2008), the Hunger Project has identified some impacts of eve teasing in the society of rural Bangladesh. These are:
a) Curtailed education: Sexual harassment increases girls’ drop-out rate from school. Parents concerned about their daughter’s honor or safety sometimes keep their daughters home and/or marry them off at an early age.
b) Early marriage: Girls who are teased or harassed are also pushed into marriage, before they are physically or mentally prepared. This also leads to increase of maternal and infant deaths.
c) Hindered development: Eve teasing contributes to maintaining the low status of women. It also hinders women in participating in the formal employment sector. As nearly half of the population of the country are women, for the economic development of the country their participation in employment is a must.
d) Eve teasing leads to young woman’s suicide in Bangladesh. Some young women, unable to bear the repeated insults, have even gone so far as to commit suicide.

According to the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA), almost 90% of girls aged between 10 and 18 years are victims of public sexual harassment.

According to the Ain-O-Shalish Kendra (ASK) human rights organization, atleast fourteen girls and women have taken their own lives between March and June 2010 across Bangladesh as a direct result of eve teasing.

It has not only been suicides, but, even parents of the victims and protestors against eve teasers have been assaulted and killed by the perpetrators.

From January to November 2010, twenty six females and one father of a bullied girl committed suicide, and ten men and two women were murdered after protesting against eve teasing / sexual harassment, according to a Bangladeshi rights group.

The High Court on November 02nd 2010 expressed grave concern in stalking, tragic suicides of victims, and associated revenge killings. Since then, mobile courts in Bangladesh have been empowered to prosecute people accused of sexually harassing women or eve teasing. Anyone convicted of sexual harassment or stalking of women will face a year in jail or a fine of about BDT 5000 or both.

The Ministry of Children and Women Affairs have linked up with mobile phone service providers in Bangladesh and taken the initiative to send mass text messages urging people to be more vocal against eve teasing.

Undercover police have been stationed in playgrounds to prevent young males from molesting female pupils.

UNICEF has also joined in the fight against the growing social peril of eve teasing in Bangladesh. UNICEF and its partners also are working to create awareness by establishing and supporting local adolescent groups called ‘Kishori Clubs’. The clubs allow girls and boys to learn to socialize in positive ways and they participate in activities that empower them to become agents of change.

There are also laws that essentially make Eve teasing a punishable crime. For example:

Section 10 of Women and Children Repression and Prevention Act provides for punishment of rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine if a person with a view to illegally satisfy his sexual lust by any of his organ touches genital organ or any part of the body of a woman or violates her modesty.

Section 9A of the same Act states that “if a woman commits suicide because of violation of her modesty by willing acts of any person without her consent or against her will, such person for the offence of instigating her to commit suicide will be punishable with rigorous punishment for a term not exceeding 10 years”

Section 354 of Bangladesh Penal Code provides for a punishment of up to two years and a fine for any person who assaults or uses criminal force to any woman intending to outrage her modesty or knowing it is likely that said act would.

Alike Bangladesh, eve teasing has also been a nuisance in India. The Government of India took some admirable steps to deal with the problem. They took effective remedial measures both judicial and law enforcement wise. The police were asked to be on the alert to round up Eve teasers. The deployment of plain clothed female police officers for the purpose was particularly effective. In addition to this were Women’s help-lines, Women police stations and also, special anti-eve teasing cells by the police were set up in various cities. In some cities where the problem was particularly serious like Tamil Nadu, eve teasing was made a non-bail able offence. I believe that if the Government of Bangladesh also applies such measures, eve teasing will be further controlled to some extent.

While the above are some encouraging examples of initiatives undertaken to combat eve teasing, I think that another crucial element that would help this cause is women being empowered as means to fight back.

The roles that men and women play in society are not biologically determined – they are socially determined, changing and changeable. Although they may be justified as being required by culture or religion, these roles vary widely by locality and change over time. UNFPA has found that applying culturally sensitive approaches can be the key to advancing women’s rights while respecting different forms of social organization. Women’s empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all.

Empowerment means giving legal and moral power to an individual in all spheres of life – social, economic, political, psychological, religious and spiritual, which are essential for the survival and over all development of the mankind. Empowerment expresses the bold idea that all people have claims to social arrangement that protect them from the worst abuses and deprivations and secure the freedom for a life of dignity. The process of empowerment helps shift the priority to the most deprived and excluded, especially to deprivations because of discrimination. Women’s empowerment could be considered as a process in which women gain greater share of control over resources, material, human and intellectual like knowledge, information, ideas and financial resources like money. Women should also be given control over decision making in the home, community and the society. They should be able to break free of the mould set by patriarchal norms.

According to Labour Force Survey 2000 of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the total estimated civilian labour forces of the country is 60.3 million and among them 37.81% are female. These days women are increasingly entering into job market mainly in ready-made garments and allied sector, tea gardens, NGOs, health care services, food processing industry, export processing zones, services sectors and commercial enterprises and informal sector such as construction, agriculture etc. One of the major areas where women have found employment has been the garment sector. This industry employs around 10 million people directly or indirectly, of which ninety percent are women workers.  In Bangladesh, women are also involved with politics. The prime minister, foreign minister, home minister, agriculture minister, deputy leader of the House and the leader of the opposition are female. Yet, according to a survey, every five minutes a woman is sexually harassed. Every two minutes one woman is molested. Eve teasing is something that a woman has to contend with everyday. But, we can make it better for our women by resolving the following problems of the different Empowerment types:

Social Empowerment: Social empowerment includes equality of treatment, equality of respect, equality of opportunity, equality of recognition and above all equality of status. The indicators of social empowerment of women include the base of gender inequality, sex ratios, life expectancy rates and fertility rates which shows the general status of women in terms of literacy, economic growth, availability of health care and birth control facilities, educational status of women, age at marriage, literacy rates and participation of women outside the home.

Economic Empowerment: In nearly every country, women work longer hours than men, but are usually paid less and are more likely to live in poverty. Poor women do more unpaid work, work longer hours and may accept degrading working conditions during times of crisis, just to ensure that their families survive. In subsistence economies, women spend much of the day performing tasks to maintain the household, such as carrying water and collecting fuel wood. In many countries women are also responsible for agricultural production and selling. Often they take on paid work or entrepreneurial enterprises as well. Unpaid domestic work – from food preparation to care giving – directly affects the health and overall well being and quality of life of children and other household members. Yet women’s voices and lived experiences – whether as workers (paid and unpaid), citizens, or consumers – are still largely missing from debates on finance and development.

Educational Empowerment: Education is important for everyone, but it is especially significant for girls and women. This is true not only because education is an entry point to other opportunities, but also because the educational achievements of women can have ripple effects within the family and across generations. Investing in girls’ education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. Girls who have been educated are likely to marry later and to have smaller and healthier families. Educated women can recognize the importance of health care and know how to seek it for themselves and their children. Education helps girls and women to know their rights and to gain confidence to claim them.

Political Empowerment: Throughout much of the world, women’s equality is undermined by historical imbalances in decision-making power and access to resources, rights, and entitlements for women. Either by law or by custom, women in many countries still lack rights to:

  • Own land and to inherit property
  • Obtain access to credit
  • Attend and stay in school
  • Earn income and move up in their work, free from job discrimination

Moreover, women are still widely under-represented in decision-making at all levels, in the household and in the public sphere. Addressing these inequities through laws and public policy is a way of formalizing the goal of gender equality. Legal changes, which most countries have now implemented, are often a necessary step to institute gender equality. But addressing the gaps between what the law proscribes and what actually occurs often requires broad, integrated campaigns, which I believe each of us should take the initiative of.

Jawaharlal Nehru had said, “To awaken the people, it is the women who must be awakened. Once she is on the move, the family moves, the village moves, the nation moves”. I do agree with that statement. We can help curb eve teasing by empowering our women. Instead of feeling abused by hooligans, misunderstood and shamed by their families, shunned by the society, our women will be better equipped to deal with the situation. Be it with pepper spray cans or other passive approaches, an educated and aware woman can, by herself, fight back the evil act of eve teasing.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • The Daily Star, June 19, 2010
  • See Wikipedia [www.wikipedia.com]
  • Empirical Study, The Hunger Project, 2008
  • See Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies [http://www.bils-bd.org]
  • Gender Equality, UNFPA Article Book

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