Daily Star Home  

<%-- Page Title--%> Fact File <%-- End Page Title--%>

  <%-- Page Title--%> Issue No 108 <%-- End Page Title--%>  

September 14, 2003 

  <%-- Page Title--%> <%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- Navigation Bar--%>

Police should take cognizence of eve teasing

Rita Nahar

Teenage Lubna was one morning walking to her school when she saw a group of boys standing by the corner of the street. "What a sexy thing! How much the price?" whispered one of the teenage boys as she walked past them.

For moments Lubna stood still not knowing what to do. She felt outraged. At the same time she was in panic. "I knew that I was the target of the boys. Yet I was too terrified to confront with them. I could not protest," says Lubna, a 10th grade student of Mohammadpur area.

Weeks later she was walking back home along the same street. The same boys were there - smoking cigarettes. As she walked past them the boys started singing a cheap Hindi song that contained obscene words about a female body. Once again, Lubna was aware that the boys were targeting her. She did not stop this time too, but accelerated her pace.

When she told her parents about the incidents they asked her to keep silent.

Instead of trying to ask the boys to mend their ways, Lubna's family decided to mend their ways: the daughter will no longer travel to school alone. "My parents decided that there will always be a male relative to escort me," says Lubna, wearing a wry smile.

Lubna's case has never made its way to a police record. Her family will never make any complaint against those boys. Many families like that of Lubna make such decision even though their daughters, wives or mothers are sexually harassed like her. If all the victims would go to police to lodge complaints the number would be thousands in a day.

Victims like Lubna suffer silently. And many others like Simi and Rumi decide to kill themselves because they are unable to bear the burden of shame.

Even those who will decide to take the eve teasers to court will not be able to do it after Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's government amended the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000.

Until the amendment of the law in July this year, teasing of women like making obscene comments or gestures was an offence covered by it providing for up to seven years of rigorous imprisonment.

The amendment has dropped this provision meaning that no one can be charged with sexual violence of a woman until it is physical. And those who bother women in public places such as streets, shopping places and buses can no longer be tried under this law.

Defending the amendment, the government has said the provision has been abused to harass rivals. Plaintiffs could not prove any cases of eve teasing.The change has outraged the women rights activists.

There is no figure available on how many women become victims of eve teasing in Bangladesh. However, numbers are available in other forms of sexual violence on Bangladeshi women. A recent media report said more than 12,000 women have been victims of sexual harassment or violence across the country during January-July period. These included about 2,600 cases of rapes. The figures are high even though many victims do not go to police for shame or fear of reprisals by the attackers.

The government says eve teasing is still punishable under Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance. The penalty is up to one-year imprisonment plus fine up to Tk. 2,000. But this has rarely been enforced and that's one of the reasons why the original law against repression of women included eve teasing as an offence.

- NewsNetwork.


      (C) Copyright The Daily Star. The Daily Star Internet Edition, is joiblished by the Daily Star