Sexual Harassment …. Sshh!

 

August comes with haunting memories of the tragic death of Yasmin, a 14 year old domestic help Yasmin. It comes with the reminder of the fearless protest that unleashed after her rape and murder in Dinajpur in 1995. Yasmin’s death and subsequent protest brought new and tougher anti-rape law in Bangladesh. Sexual harassment too is now a legally recognised crime. Twenty-two years later, how much things have changed for young women, asks Naushin Jahan Chaudhury


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Is it still taboo to talk about it? I guess so (*with a lump in my throat*). The superficial sodality that we live in today — people rush to hear gossip from whatever sources they can find, so that they can do nothing more than news mongering and maybe add a little more spice to the story in order to continue the circulation. Now, this gets me in a stitherum to verily wonder, what good do we get from it? Guilty pleasure is it?

When we hear ‘sexual harassment’, probably the first thing that comes in our mind , ‘yeah probably another news about some ‘young girl’ who was presumably walking down the streets after a ‘certain hour’,  and so it’s obvious that a gang of men just ‘coincidently’ happened to just ‘rape’ her and throw her off somewhere. Likely the body still hasn’t been found and just maybe that the ‘police’ are on the search (let’s say the police are really concerned).

Wait! Let me break down the quotations one by one to clarify the rapid self-justifications that are about to happen.

Sexual Harassment is such disheartening acts of coercive physical torture, assault, abuse, detriment, rape, stalking and tease. Along with this, comes hand in hand, the excruciating internal bleeding that stains mental and emotional health.

Women have been created with inconceivable qualities and power to regain composure to keep a stiff upper lip. To some extent women are practically the backbones for both sexes, whether you agree or disagree. Think about your mother for once, whether her soul is with us or not we can’t imagine a day without her.

Haven’t we been taught to respect each other regardless of gender, race, status and religion? In the world of atrocious occurrences women still hope to find respect and safety, which is primarily a basic need for all of mankind. Then why do women happen to bear the brunt and be victimised by the opposite sex?

In reality women are seen to be an ‘object of attention’, where they are being gazed at negatively. This gaze is rarely positive. The young years of a person’s life should be the most remarkable years where they form who they are and learn to take control of their experiences. Every person standing on this sphere has their own book of stories that’s compiling to one’s fate.

A ‘young girl’ enduring even a single experience of sexual harassment in her life is not acceptable. Women should feel secure to take steps outside freely. Many will argue and state ‘probably she was dressed in a way that triggered the harasser to come closer or maybe she was alone after dark (which is a sign right?) even after knowing that bad things happen especially when the sun goes down or many will have the psychopathic mentality to say that women were born to serve men and uncountable perceptions swallow through.’

Whatever attire a female represents herself in is never the motive to be harmed. The way one dresses shouldn’t be considered as a reason behind such ghastly happenings that have been happening in increased number in recent times. In our own country or anywhere in the world there shouldn’t be a ‘certain hour’ after which you can’t walk down the streets without feeling threatened and queasy that you’ll eventually be bound to pay the piper.

The norms we follow by our culture to protect ourselves from such evil eye aren’t stopping harassers from doing what they think they do best, rather they take the advantage of our fright to get away. Say, a fully cloaked woman could be a target for a harasser because it’s probably intriguing for them to take into account to see what’s under that cover; the bright day light wouldn’t stop their entertainment either. It is also so difficult for women to travel in our country, any transportation calls out for bad news. Why is it that in packed crowds someone or the other will just ‘accidently’ (*Freudian Slip*), ‘purposefully’ just poke or push inappropriately and wouldn’t give a hoot.

There are men out there who enjoy intimidating women by stalking them down till they manage to make them bleed. As if it’s a challenge they need to accomplish.

One of many absurd kinds of torture is ‘marital rape’; which commences upon the marriage contract which is misinterpreted by our prejudicial culture. Apparently that means that the women are somewhat passed down to the husband and once married, the women are bound to fulfill his desires, however noxious it may be.

Bangladesh has yet to outlaw marital rape. Rather than criminalising marital rape, it is far from being taken seriously or in the category of rape. In Bangladeshi law, it is considered impossible to rape your wife. Since a good number of women in our country are married at least above the specified age, wives that are being sexually assaulted and tortured has no way of seeking free consent from their husbands.

On July 17, the Bogra town Sromik League convener Tufan Sarkar abducted a 16 year old girl and raped her. The violence did not end with the rape. The family of the rape victim was evicted from their homestead. When they looked for redress, they were further subjected to torture in the presence of Sromik League cadre at local councilor’s house.

The week after the incident in Bogra, on July 27, workers of an ice-cream factory in Dangipara in Sathira shoved ice-cream into the rectum of a minor boy. Later the screams of the little boy dragged attention of people in the area and he was soon taken to the hospital.

There are many cases like this in recent months. According to Ain of Salish Kendra, a legal aid organisation, in the first quarter of 2017, there were 93 reported cases of rape of which 5 were killed and one woman committed suicide after rape. These numbers do not include cases of attempted rape, stalking and sexual harassment. A male dominant legal system lacks political will to judiciously investigate and conduct rape trial. The women’s safety situation in today’s Bangladesh reminds me of this feminist fable:

Don’t wear make up

Don’t wear your hair long

Don’t wear short skirt

Don’t wear high hills

Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes

Don’t look sexy

Don’t your eyelashes

Don’t crack dirty jokes

Don’t flirt

Don’t smile at strangers

Don’t offer help to strangers

Don’t go out at night

Don’t go to parties

Don’t go on dates

Don’t go anywhere alone

Don’t attract attention

Don’t work late

Don’t trust anyone

Don’t say yes

Don’t say no

Don’t be a woman

Don’t exist.

 

Naushin Jahan Chaudhury is a student of Independent University. She is also a firm believer of optimism and a better world.

 

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