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     Volume 10 |Issue 13 | April 01, 2011 |


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Anika Hossain

Women, take control.
Photo: Sheikh Enamul Haq

This article is dedicated to all women who have faced verbal, physical and sexual assault and suffered in silence– it’s time to take a stand.

If you talk to any woman in Dhaka who has been out on the streets, used the public transport system, gone to a crowded shopping mall or any crowded public place for that matter, she'll have experienced at least one incident that has made her feel uncomfortable or violated in some way.

If it isn't bad enough living in a patriarchal society where the law, our communities and even our families practice gender discrimination, we women also have to think twice before stepping out of our homes in fear of being sexually harassed.

The term “eve-teasing” just doesn't cut it anymore. It takes away from the gravity of an act that should be considered a crime. Rape is not the only form of sexual harassment-- a fact that has now been acknowledged by the government after the suicides of several women, as a direct result of intimidation and stalking have hit the headlines.

But what about other types of harassment that go completely unnoticed and unpunished? How many women have to kill themselves because they have been groped and subjected to ogling and lewd comments before the government starts making sure their laws are being properly implemented?

If the law enforcement and justice system cannot/will not protect us, it's time we take matters into our own hands. The first thing we women must do to put a stop to these atrocities is acknowledge that we have been sexually harassed and tell ourselves it is not acceptable. Don't block it out and pretend it never happened because if you do, you are giving your abusers the license to victimise someone else and leaving yourself vulnerable to further attacks. Next, we have to stop thinking of ourselves as victims, blaming ourselves and being ashamed and make sure this never happens to us again. Some courageous women have embarked upon what can very possibly be, a future revolution.

“ My body is not public property,” says Amani Rahman, an engineering student at a reputed university, “I told myself that, the last time I was verbally harassed. I take the bus to my university everyday. Once, the bus conductor made a sleazy comment about my breasts. I immediately turned around and hit him as hard as I could, and he pushed me off the moving bus. It was totally worth it though and felt great to retaliate somehow.”

Be furious. Let them know we are not going to sit back and take it anymore.

Rimina Chowdhury, working at an international NGO says, “ I was walking home when a CNG driver started following me, asking me if I needed a ride. I refused politely, but he kept at it. At one point, his comments became offensive and he asked me how much I would charge for sexual favours. Furious, I picked up a brick on the side of the road and threatened to throw it at his vehicle. You should have seen how fast he drove off after that! Made me wish I had actually thrown it!”

Mala Khatun, a part time domestic worker shares, “Every morning, when I walk to work, a group of men stand on the over bridge I have to cross and leer at me. Sometimes they try to grab my arm, so I usually walk faster to avoid this. One day, I was in a bad mood and was tired of putting up with them. One of them started singing a vulgar song when he saw me and I walked right up to him, slapped him across the face and swore at him. They all laughed at the time, but I don't see them around as much anymore.”

Kayenat Alam, a banker says, “I was on a rickshaw with my friend, stuck in traffic when a man suddenly pulled really hard at my dupatta and tried to run off with it. Luckily, there was too much traffic for him to get far and I ran after him, caught him by the collar, started shouting at him and calling for help. I had a crowd gathered soon and they gave him a few blows before he got away. That's the first time I actually did something to strike back and I must say it felt amazing.”

Homemade Pepper Spray
* First pour the 2 tablespoons of ground pepper into a shot glass(small cup).
*Then pour rubbing alcohol into the glass until it is about 1 cm above the red pepper.
*Now grind and stir it together using the spoon for about 3-5 minutes or until it is fully mixed.
*Now add about an ounce of baby oil into the glass and stir together with the spoon for about 2 minutes. Cover the glass and shake it together.
*Now grab a second shot glass and place the cloth over the top of it. Press down in the middle and cause a little bit of a "crater" in the cloth. Slowly pour the mixed liquid into the cloth. The cloth will strain any loose, unmixed pepper that will end up clogging the spray bottle. Trust me though, theres PLENTY of pepper left.
*Now take off the cloth and you end up with a nasty looking liquid. This is your pepper spray. The smell is bad enough, you know its not going to be very pleasing to whomever gets it sprayed in their eyes.
*The final step is to pour the liquid into an EMPTY lens cleaner (or perfume) bottle. Screw on the cap and your done. You’re very own homemade "lethal" pepper spray.

Umaila Rashed, mother of a thirteen year old says, “I took my daughter to New Market to buy her school books. We were holding hands and trying to make our way through the crowd when I felt her freeze on the spot. I knew something was wrong and when I asked her, she pointed to a man and said he had groped her as he had walked by. I grabbed hold of his arm and slapped him once. Then, I asked my daughter to take off her sandal and hit him as hard as she could. Afterwards, I explained to her that this incident was not her fault and she should always get even somehow.”

Farhana Hossain, a housewife says, “I was sitting on the back of my husband's motorcycle, stuck at a traffic signal, when a man walked past, and touched my waist by putting his hand down the back of my sari. I pointed him out to my husband at once, and he ran after him. When he got a hold of him he slapped him hard a few times, made him apologise before letting him go. If we had a more efficient law enforcement system, we would have reported the incident, but we all know they won't do a thing.”

Aashna Hossain, a journalist says, “I was visiting a friend once, and as I was walking up the steps of the apartment complex, I noticed a middle aged man staring at me so hard I thought his eyes would pop right out of his head. He followed me up two flights of stairs, apparently forgetting he was waiting for the elevator, until I stopped and asked him if I should stand still so he could take a good look, and save him the trouble of climbing up the rest of the stairs. The expression on his face was priceless. He was obviously not expecting me to say anything and he looked quite embarrassed. You have no idea how many times I have been felt up on the streets and the perverts just seem to melt into the crowd before I can even turn around. I wasn't letting this one off easy,” she smiles.

If these women can do it, the rest of us can too. The key is to be strong, and confident. We have to keep in mind that we do not “bring this on ourselves” by “dressing inappropriately” or going places “where women don't belong.” We have to stop listening to people who try to blame us for the depraved behaviours and mentality of these men.

We have to learn verbal self-defense. When a look or a stare feels wrong in any way, we have to stare back, be firm and tell them to look away. We have to learn physical self-defense. You don't have to be an expert in martial arts to protect yourself. Be alert in a crowded place and catch the person who tries to touch you. Be furious--slap, scratch, pinch and kick them. Do what you can to get your point across. Let them know we are not going to sit back and take it anymore.

Carry a few small things in your purse to feel a little safer, a little more confident, such as homemade pepper spray (look at the box for recipe). Spray it right into the eyes of your abuser and he will be in severe pain, if not temporarily blinded. If making the pepper spray is too complicated, carry one of those spray-on deodorants (preferably the ones with powder in them) or even aerosol and spray those, they should have similar effects. Vaseline is just as handy, but somewhat difficult to use in an emergency. You can also carry a small knife, which can be useful if someone tries to grab you or worse.

Be creative ladies, come up with innovative ways you can strike back and teach these men a lesson they'll never forget. They'll think a thousand times before they even look at another woman. If we don't protect ourselves and eachother, nobody will. I know I've had enough. Haven't you?



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