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     Volume 4 Issue 66 | October 7, 2005 |

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Response to Abrarur Rahman
In response to Abrarur Rahman's letter in the September 23 issue of SWM, Bangladesh is not "modernised" at all. It is FAR behind places like the USA and the UK. Also, there are very rich and poor people in these countries too and always will be, but Bangladeshis are in a different league of poverty. Poor people in "modern" countries still have housing and food provided for by the governments, free medical care in the UK as well as many other benefits. These countries got to that state by enterprise, investment and by creating jobs. As a result, these jobs give incomes to families to feed themselves. There is a big economic ripple effect as the government then gets more taxes in order to provide other services. I also believe that Rania Islam said that the ancient laws (such as cutting of people's hands) may have limited applicability these days, but not that Islam itself is irrelevant. Islam as a religion will always be relevant. As for the rape situation, I find it ironic that the main paper had a letter from the USA where a lady commented on The Daily Star's coverage of the constant rapes of Bangladeshi women in Arab households and yet you claim that there are hardly any rapes! In countries where women are not allowed to drive or vote or show their faces, and even princesses can be so brutally killed, you can hardly expect the ladies to go and report a rape. For one, how would they get to the police station? They would hardly want a man to drive them after such an ordeal.
Z Ahmed London, UK

On the September 30 cover story
The issue focussed on in the September 30 cover story of SWM by Shamim Ahsan and Ahmede Hussain was very precise. It was about the coalition government's rule over the last four years. If taken as a progress report, I would give the government third class marks. When the coalition government came to power they said they would root out terrorism and corruption. But in reality they have done nothing of the sort. There have been a number of terrorist attacks over the past four years which demonstrate the country's fragile security system. Although the media publicised the issue, the government paid no heed. Their indifference probably encouraged the terrorists. The country has been champion in the corruption race a number of times with government officials involved in corruption. The government attributes its problems to the opposition parties and denies Transparency International reports. In these four years, the lives of ordinary people have become more difficult with spiralling prices of essentials and the rising price of oil, without anyone being concerned about how people will pay the bus fare or cultivation of their land. Life has become too expensive very abruptly and the government cannot deny responsibility for this. All this has spoilt the image of the government and BNP as a party. I think these issues should be focussed on before the next elections. I just wonder how difficult it is going to be for the BNP and it's partners when they are.
Md Kamrul Hasan Regan
Department of English, University of Dhaka

On sex education
SWM's cover story on premarital sex (September 9) and the consequences of it was a highly commendable one. Real life accounts, including those of unmarried people and their opinions only reflected the frequency of premarital sex in the country right now. The letters the following week caught my attention too. While sex and any conversations pertaining to it are still considered taboo, it is now an almost normal occurrence in the country, unlike the views of some readers. Also, I think it is wrong to discriminate against private universities. I am sure the students of public universities are equally to blame. Lastly, I think sex education is inherently important, whether premarital/extramarital sex exists or not. It is important for children to learn about the facts of life when they are growing up. Most parents are in denial of whether their children know about sex, and here is a reality check for them -- kids will pick up information about sex, even if wrong or twisted, from school peers. Is it not better for them to know about something the right way, be aware of the actual consequences and that too through their own educational institutions? To say that only 10 percent of our population needs to know about it is utterly absurd.
Lastly, I think it is important for young boys and girls to be aware of sex because the lack of knowledge can put them at the risk of harassment or assault without them realising it until it is too late. Hence, I think sex education should be made part of the curriculum, bearing in mind and respecting the culture of the country.
Armeen Khan
McGill University, Montreal, Canada

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This is in regards to the letters titled "Encouraging a wrong practice" and "Why we need sex education" in the September 23 issue of SWM. The first letter suggests that open discussions and education on sex will lead to rampant social problems which apparently do not exist in our country. The second, although arguing for sex education, implies that premarital sex is something practised only by "enthusiasts of western culture", as it goes against our values and morals. Of course, I am in agreement that premarital sex is opposed by our religion and culture, and rightly so, as irresponsible actions often lead to grave consequences. However, I doubt that Bangladeshis are so morally upright that as a nation we simply do not engage in premarital sex! Both letters seem to imply that only the rich, upper class with access to satellite TV, or those obsessed with the West, are sexually active before marriage. In fact, I have found this to be completely the opposite! Am I to believe that young people in love, just discovering the changes in their lives as their bodies mature, are so honourable that they will not indulge in an act that may simply occur without any resistance from both sides?
I have often observed this attitude in our parents and their generation, who simply cannot fathom that young Bangladeshi people are just like young people anywhere else in the world. They are human, and therefore feel the same things other youth feel in other places, be it the East or the West. This is why it is time for us to accept the fact that premarital sex can and does occur even in Bangladesh (not only in Gulshan or Banani but in the slums, where poverty reigns and I doubt very few "Western enthusiasts" live), and it should be our duty to inform people about their bodies before they go out and harm themselves. Sex education is not about encouraging people to go out and have sex, but to inform them that their bodies are going through changes they may not understand, and how to deal with these changes and feelings in a responsible, adult way! The less we make sex a taboo, the more chances we have of dealing with such atrocious crimes as rape, incest, acid-throwing, which are undoubtedly results of people veering into uncharted territory out of curiosity and lack of respect for the opposite sex.

When "love becomes luv"!
I was touched by the piece of writing by Nadia Kabir Barb in the last issue. You mourned for the gradual erosion of the ever-lasting appeal of poetry which I found piercing. Since time immemorial, different emotions, whatever their intensity or depth, have been finding their way into the world of reality through poetry. Only poetry can transmit the emotions of the poet to the readers. Though people are being deprived of the sweet rhymes nowadays, they are not completely to blame. They have almost been forced to avoid poetry. The ever-complex modern and post-modern literature which represents the modern era have also neglected poetry. Despite all this, however, I don't think poetry will ever lose it's charm. The structure may change, but the magic will always remain. Or at least we can hope that it will.
Sabbir Ahmed
Department of English, Dhaka University

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