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Eve-teasing or sexual harassment ?

Dr. Rashid Askari - March 7th, 2011

The term ‘eve-teasing’ has gone farthest from its denotation in recent times in Bangladesh. Doing it was just about excusable in the past. But the proportions it has assumed these days must make it be renamed. It easily amounts to sexual harassment. Even the court sees eye to eye with this. Recently the high court returned a verdict with regard to calling ‘eve-teasing’ ‘sexual harassment’.

As a matter of fact, what we are used to calling ‘eve-teasing’ no longer means “to laugh at or make jokes about somebody in order to annoy or embarrass them”. Rather it starts with provoking the girls in an unkind way, and may end in putting them even to suicide. Recently, however, another dimension has been added to it. The ones who put up a resistance to the crazy tease are also being avenged to death. Natore-teacher Mizanur Rahman,  Faridpur housewife Chapa Rani Bhowmik, and Bogra- girl Rupali Rani and many others are examples of direct and indirect aspects of eve-teasing. Theses killings have caused quite a stir across the country as usual, but they would finally die down as usual. The same or other teases will carry on the next operation with redoubled enthusiasm and the bereft sufferers would grin and bear it in the forlorn hope that one day they would get the justice. People coming to their aid would again be at considerable risk to their own lives. This is how, eve-teasing has become a real teaser of the day.

To rid our society of this growing public nuisance called ‘eve-teasing’ is not a piece of cake. Punitive measures taken against the accused could only scratch the surface of the problem. Its crux lies at the root. It is not, as such, a stray occurrence falling off the sky all on a sudden, and can be remedied cataclysmically. It is related to the overall law and order of the country. With its breakdown has erupted this social teaser along with other acts of violence. If law and order was maintained in deadly earnest, the depraved youths called eve-teases would not dare use their muscle to win hearts. They would rather kneel in supplication to the girls, and beg love from them or treat them with big-brotherly attitude. Really, a cat in a mesh calls the mouse its brother!  But unfortunately for us, the collapse of law and order has become a perennial problem in Bangladesh for many years now. Among other reasons, it is an inevitable effect of the political polarization. The party in power and the party in opposition are using their political muscle by turns causing serious inconvenience to the smooth maintenance of law and order. So with the change of the power, only the beneficiaries are changed. The health of law and order remains almost the same or changes rather insignificantly.

The law and order breakdown is caused, for the most part, by the pampered children of the party in power. The excessive political indulgence in the immature votaries poses a complete disregard for the rule of law. And when rule of law is at stake, provoking the girls in a playful way may lead to the extent of sexual harassment or even suicide or homicide. Our legal enforcement system has been so lax on the law breakers that we seldom see the criminals going punished. They slip through the net for money or political muscle. (To be continued)

Dr. Rashid Askari
writes fiction and column and teaches English at Kushtia Islamic University. He is also advisor editor, The Kushtia Times, Email:rashidaskari65@yahoo.com