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     Volume 6 Issue 48 | December 14, 2007 |

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Tough to be a Woman

Nadia Saleh

Bangladesh is a developing country, and has its ahare of numerous problems of various sorts. Especially in terms of mobility, one has to go through great difficulty. Moreover, if you are a woman, then the problems that you will face are endless. For a woman in Dhaka city, the outdoors is like a battlefield that has to be won in order to survive.

Irrespective of age, profession, rank, class most women fall victim to undesirable situations while they are outside their home. Being teased on the streets, charged extra by the CNG drivers, deprived of bus seats etc. are some of the odds a woman must fight against.

Sexual harassment, often termed 'Eve teasing' is not a new phenomenon at all. Whether young or old, pretty or not so pretty hardly anyone escapes a comment. Often such vulgar comments are made that it makes one feel humiliated whether she is alone or accompanied by her father, brother or some other male companion. Obscene remarks are also made over the phones. This kind of harassment creates extreme mental trauma, especially in the minds of young girls who are sometimes driven to suicide.

On the other hand, some young women have developed strategies to tackle such circumstances. They simply do not pay any heed to these comments or keep themselves busy in some way or other so that they do not notice the comments. Tahera, a student of a private university says that she creates a conversation in her head or sings a song to herself while she is walking to the university as she lives nearby. According to her, “In this way the road becomes shorter, it takes me less time and the comments go unnoticed.”

Another such hassle is the increased CNG fare. Whenever the drivers see a lone female passenger, they just double or triple the fare. With most VIP roads being off limits to rickshaws CNG drivers have a free field to charge whatever they want of passengers, especially if they are female. The poor passengers finding no other option have to agree. A housewife who lives in Green road had to get down from a CNG over a disagreement the fare. She says, “There is no limit to their demand. If we tell them to go by the metre they would just ask us to step down.” Though the government has increased the fare, still these drivers overcharge the passenger by giving the lame excuse of increase in the daily deposit they have to give to the owner. If anybody tries to protest, they misbehave and harass the commuters.

Many buses have designated seats for women, but often this is completely disregarded by some male passengers who unashamedly occupy these seats. In some buses, which are overcrowded they deliberately lean towards the female passengers and/or push and poke them. If questioned about their misconduct, they will feign innocence and come up with excuses such as the bus suddenly halting etc.

These are common occurrences during the daytime, so one could well understand how risky it might get after dark for a woman to travel alone. The fear of being mugged or worse, sexually assaulted, is constantly on a woman's mind when she is out alone at night. She cannot move around freely and lead a normal life as she is restricted by her parents, by the society and to some extent by her own self-consciousness and insecurity. The parents give their daughters a certain time by which they need to get back home usually out of concern for their daughter's safety. A couple living at Baily road, whose daughter studies in a private university at Mohakhali said that they are always anxious about her safety whenever she goes out. As in the winter season it gets dark soon, it really poses a great threat for females travelling alone. Nila, a student of a private university faces this sort of problems almost everyday. She works part-time in an office. She has to move a lot and it troubles her very much.

Dhaka city is no safe place for women. The mindset of some people need to be changed so that they do not tease or harass women on the streets. The government has to control autorickshaw and taxi fare. Moreover, the government needs to ensure security in every aspect so that it becomes easy for women to move around freely and lead a normal healthy life.

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