Sexual harassment against women and girls continues to be an endemic issue.
Data published by Ain O Shalish Kendra (ASK), a legal aid and human rights organisation, revealed 244 reported incidents of sexual harassment experienced by women and girls last year.
Out of this total number, 178 women sustained injuries from being attacked by their stalkers, 7 women were murdered when they protested against the harassment, 6 women committed suicide due to being sexually harassed and 5 girls stopped going to school to avoid their stalkers.
Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust in a statement said that there is no law that addresses all aspects of sexual harassment. Punitive laws such as the Penal Code 1860 (Section 509) and the Nari-o-Shishu Nirjaton Domon Ain 2000 (Section 10) only addresses sexual harassment insofar as to indecent behaviour which only includes obscene gestures and words towards any woman.
According to the 2009 High Court judgement, the definition of sexual harassment was spelled out to include the following: (a) Unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication) as physical contact and advances; (b) Attempts or efforts to establish physical relation having sexual implication by abuse of administrative, authoritative or professional powers; (c) Sexually coloured verbal representation; (d) Demand or request for sexual favours; (e) Showing pornography; (f) Sexually coloured remark or gesture; (g) Indecent gesture, teasing through abusive language, stalking, jokes having sexual implication; (h) Insult through letters, telephone calls, cell phone calls, SMS, pottering, notice, cartoon, writing on bench, chair, table, notice boards, walls of office, factory, classroom, washroom; (i) Taking stills or video photographs for the purpose of blackmailing and character assassination; (j) Preventing participation in sports, cultural, organizational and academic activities on grounds of sex and/or for the purpose of sexual harassment; (k) Making love proposal and exerting pressure or posing threats in case of refusal to love proposal; (l) Attempt to establish sexual relation by intimidation, deception or false assurance.
The Constitution of Bangladesh clearly sets out the rights of every citizen of Bangladesh. As part of our constitutional right, we are entitled to equal protection of the law and to be free from all forms of discrimination. We have the right to participate fully in private and public life and have an equal standing with men in that regard. One of the most crucial rights that we have under our Constitution is the right to personal life and liberty. Any discrimination against us or any interference with our life and liberty is therefore a gross violation of our constitutional rights.
Bangladesh is a state party to a number of core international human rights treaties including the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW). Being a State party, it has a duty and obligation to respect, protect and promote human rights of its citizens. As part of this obligation, Bangladesh is obliged to take all measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and ensure that they are treated equally before the law and have unrestricted access to legal protection, rights and remedies.
The statement comes during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This campaign is observed each year during the 16 days from November 25 to December 10, to acknowledge that girls and women are abused every day of the year.