According to a research by ActionAid Bangladesh, there is no mass scale law that addresses sexual harassment faced by women in Bangladesh. Neither is there awareness. Hence, victims do not receive legal justice from affiliated bodies.
The report on “Review on law and regulation to prevent sexual harassment” was brought up by ActionAId at a hotel in Gulshan on Sunday. The aim of this research was to to initiate dialogue on sexual harassment faced by women.
Punitive law for sexual harassment through behavior or conversation is included in the Penal Code 509. Only one case has been filed under the 157 year old law established in 1860. But sexual harassment has increased over the years.
Besides, the law has been added to the schedule of the Mobile Court Act 2009. According to this rule of law, the alleged does not have lawyer privilege and the chance to defend himself.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance 1976 and Khulna Metropolitan Ordinance 1985 do not have jurisdiction outside the assigned territories. Hence, sexual harassment cases are considered local cases.
In this regard, Taslima Nasrin, a teacher of University of Dhaka said: “We are following British laws in 2017. During the colonial rule, victim's character was questioned upon filing a case. It still is questioned today and nothing is being done about this. This is really frustrating.”
Many women do not seek legal help because of the depressing results of legal procedures. According to the research, law implementing bodies are not aware of their responsibilities and lack accountability. Because of the political power of the accused, the organisations are reluctant to bring the accused to court.
Besides, the police require a lot of time for investigation. Most hospitals are not appropriate to for treatment and test of rape cases. According to article 32 od Women and Children Repression Act 2009, police and doctors are not aware of health tests.
Presenting the research, ActionAid Country Director Farah kabir said: “Article 28, 29, 32 and 36 talk about freedom of women. However, these laws have not given us the promised freedom. This is the result of patriarchy.”
She added: “The implementation of law is still questionable. Hence the government needs to formulate laws. The police needs to be empathetic. There should be a provision of clear laws that address sexual harassment. The topics should be discussed in national curriculum textbooks.
ActionAid brought up few proposals such as sexual assault should be clearly defined as an offense. This should be included in the orders passed from the High Court.
Punitive measures should be taken against investigating officers for lack of accountability. The police should be free from external influence. Victims of rape should go through proper medical tests.