Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home |Volume 5, Issue 49, Tuesday, December 14, 2010




Justice, not punishment

There seems to be a big confusion about the term 'eve teasing', which is used so lavishly these days in the media to describe a long range of offences. Let us make one thing very clear; there is a stark difference between teasing and stalking; eve teasers and sex offenders. Unfortunately, somewhere down the line the meaning of these very words have become all muddled up. As a result sex offenders or kidnappers, rapists or even acid throwers are all bunched together under the banner of 'eve teasers'; making their offence seem like innocent fun. As if it is a case of Adam leisurely teasing Eve in the Garden of Eden cajoling her to give the apple a second bite.

But when 'eve teasing' actually translates to aggressive harassing, obsessive stalking, and actions that actually cause physical and psychological harm to others it can no longer be called teasing, but a crime of the most heinous kind. When a young man persistently makes proposals to a young woman or girl, causing her distress, fear and often humiliation that she cannot bear it is not naïve love we are talking about. It is purely lust and perversion that drives these criminals to stalk a girl or young woman leading to grievous injury or even death.

Recently, to curb this growing menace, authorities have initiated a mobile court drive, where the police reserve the right to punish anyone based on a complaint or if evidence stands against offenders. At the same time our elite anti-crime fighting force RAB has taken up an anti stalking campaign codenamed 'Operation Romeo Hunt'. Of course these are praiseworthy steps, but like all stringent laws there are far too many loopholes in them that allow the real culprits to go scot free and innocent people to fall victim to circumstances.

Former Secretary General of Amnesty International Irene Khan recently in an award giving ceremony to mark the International Human Rights Day said, “Laws will not be enough to prevent stalking and repression of women unless we change our behaviour.”

There is a certain lack of understanding on part of the law enforcers or lawmakers, which is why many people tend to take advantage of the stringent law. For example, a 17-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl can have feelings for each other. It is a natural phenomenon and that her parents might not be too happy about it is also perfectly normal. But what is not justified here is the father of the girl lodging a complaint against the boy alleging that he was 'stalking' his daughter resulting in incarceration, not to mention public harassment, and so punishing him for falling in love. Here the word 'stalking' is not justified; it was a case of teens falling in love. There was no sex offence committed or aggressive move made. Thus the accusation is completely false and a crime in itself.

You see, because of such stringent laws it is becoming increasingly difficult to pinpoint the real problem. Situations like these are being exaggerated, whereas a real case of stalking where the girl cannot go to school, her parents cannot live in peace or she is forced to end her life (a totally unacceptable thing to do no matter what, but it has become the standard norm) is not taken to court.

The real culprits who harass girls, who pass lurid comments, make indecent proposals or even throw acid on them or kill their parents, are nowhere near these mobile courts. When a girl actually needs protection from the law, help is some thousand miles away, sipping tea in a shabby, redundant office cubbyhole. And the culprits enjoy the blessings of their 'big brothers'.

If you truly try to dissect this social issue you will have to talk about the youth leading boring lives, both boys and girls, with no way to channel their youthful energy. They have no clubs, no decent libraries, no good movies to watch; entertainment for them means eating out which they may not always be able to afford, standing in front of the girl's college or in front of shopping malls. It is even more dismal for girls who are left with no option other than sitting at home watching Hindi serials and internalising the concept of the weak, delicate female who must always be protected by a male figure.

But this generation needs to come out of this rut. The need of the hour is to establish institutions that allow youngsters to let off steam, to use their vitality and energy into constructive, creative channels. Young men need to be taught how to respect their female counterpart instead of objectifying them.

Doing a hundred squats while holding one's ears in public is an ego-shattering punishment and so is landing up in jail for that matter. For the real culprits such reprimands multiply their vow to avenge the insult but for an innocent person it becomes an assault on prestige, which many might not be able to endure. The law must be implemented in such a way that only the real culprits are punished.

A victim's wounds cannot be healed by the victimisation of more innocent people. The goal of any legal process is to dispense justice, and in this regard the status quo is struggling.

Raffat Binte Rashid


Chilling on the grill

Dhaka's short, mild winters provide the perfect setting for a barbecue. The city's frantic pace often leaves its inhabitants weary and unwilling to enjoy the little downtime we have. We are lucky this year in that Victory Day falls on a Thursday, which means a three-day weekend. V-day is a day for celebrations, and what better way to celebrate than to enjoy the short-lived winter with best friends, family and neighbours under the open sky, with a delectable scent invading the senses from the grill in front of you.

The food
The first and most important box you have to tick is the food. Quality and quantity matter equally in a barbecue, as they often include a large number of friends and family. Nothing kills the mood quicker than a whimper of 'no more burgers/hot dogs/chicken'. If the food supplies dry up, it's the end of the party. Always budget for a little extra when shopping for a barbecue, because people often eat more during barbecues; maybe it's the combination of fresh air and the fun element of having to make your meal yourself.

It's also wise to have snacks at the ready, such as chips with a tasty dip, some chanachur, French toast, etc., while the guests wait for the main course. Ideal starters are healthy foods such as coleslaw, assorted raw vegetables with hummus, a salad bowl and so on. This will ensure a balanced meal as the main course usually contains greasy items.

You can call your guests and ask beforehand what type of food they want. The beauty of a barbecue is that once it starts it does not take long for the food to go from the grill to the guests' mouths. This rapid turnover on the grill allows you, as a host, to offer a wide range of food. Some guests may want grilled chicken; some may want fish, while others may want to go western with burgers and hot dogs. It's hard to think of any other occasion where you can accommodate such an assortment of cuisine.

Tandoori chicken, beef steaks, burgers and hot dogs, lamb roast, chicken breast, whole fish, seafood grill are all barbecue favourites, and a line-up that is sure to have your guests' mouths watering. You don't necessarily have to make all these yourself. The selling point of a barbecue is that it's a collective effort. Just as guests take turns at the grill, they won't mind showing off the scrumptiousness of their own marinade.

If the barbecue is held on the rooftop of an apartment building, invite your neighbours and ask them to prepare one dish of their choice and bring it to the rooftop to be grilled. The same goes for a garden barbecue, with your friends and family bringing over their preferred items. The essence of a good barbecue is participation. This will relieve a good deal of the pressure on you, leaving you to prepare a fewer number of items.

Condiments are as important as the food in a barbecue. These include cheese slices that are essential for burgers, sauces like ketchup, mustard, chilli sauce, barbecue sauce, pickles, coriander chutney, and chopped onion.

The tools
To ease the burden on yourself after the party, opt for paper or plastic plates and plastic cups that are easily disposable. Have lots of kitchen napkins around, and do not forget the barbecue utensils (especially the long tong). Since it is going to be outside on the rooftop or in a garden, ice buckets are a necessity. Even though it is winter, a cold drink helps to cool the tongue after sampling the hot items fresh from the grill. As night-time under the stars is the best time to throw a barbecue bash, extra lighting is needed. Also, one real annoyance will be insects, namely those darned mosquitoes. Here you could be a great host, make a trip to a pharmacy, and shell out some cash for a mosquito repellent, and pass it out to guests as they come in. Don't be cheap when you buy such products, as the really cheap ones may cause rashes. You won't look so clever if that happens. So, buy a reputed brand, and though a lot of guests may refuse to use it, others will surely appreciate your thoughtfulness and enjoy a night out without the nuisance of mosquitoes.

Other things to check off your list before the guests arrive are the portable chairs, extra lighting arrangements, and a table for the food. Also, a portable fan for the grill is a must in order to avoid the smoke from getting in the eyes of the person attending to the grill. Without this, you can be sure that none of the womenfolk would venture near the grill for fear of their mascara melting.

The ambience
Setting the tone is essential. Although the starlight lends romance to the mood, the area should be lit well enough for the guests to see what they are eating. If you plan to go all the way to impress your guests, you can decorate your garden or rooftop with some strings of fairy lights. It's better to go monochrome rather than have multiple colours jumping out from bushes and corners; the idea is to augment nature's splendour, not dwarf it. A low-tech and tasteful alternative can be candles, and they may also be useful in keeping away the flies.

Last but not least is the music you choose. Since it will be Victory Day a few patriotic numbers will kick the night off on the right note. The idea is to provide an atmosphere where everyone can relax and enjoy each other's company. Canvas your guests and ask what type of music they would like. It's best to keep the music mellow, but not depressing, so that it will be an accompaniment to the night's festivities, rather than a distraction. Bob Marley's songs are great for barbecues.

Its best to bring your laptop or a portable music player, but if none of these are within reach, then there's an innovative solution. At least one person in the party must have a mobile phone with a good music player. In open spaces, the sound from the phone is dimmed to a great extent. Just put the phone speaker-first into a coffee mug and push play; the walls of the mug will amplify the sound.

These are just guidelines, but one important thing to remember is that the success of any party, and particularly the barbecue, hinges on your guests feeling welcome and encouraged to participate in the fun. The guests' temperaments and mindsets also have to be kept in mind. Because participation is so vital, it is important to invite those who will be comfortable in each other's company. It really isn't rocket science, just light up the grill and watch the fun unfold.

Tandoori chicken, beef steaks, burgers and hot dogs, lamb roast, chicken breast, whole fish, seafood grill are all barbecue favourites, and a line-up that is sure to have your guests' mouths watering. You don't necessarily have to make all these yourself. The selling point of a barbecue is that it's a collective effort. Just as guests take turns at the grill, they won't mind showing off the scrumptiousness of their own marinade.


Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special thanks to Sakib for arranging the photoshoot





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