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Fighting back against sexual harassment in Dhaka

  • Published at 10:17 pm July 6th, 2019
web-Fighting back against sexual harassment in Dhaka
A woman practices self-defence with a partner at Warrior Women Bangladesh – a project by KO Fight Studio to teach basic self-defence to women Courtesy

Besides 630 rapes in the last six months, 105 women have escaped rape attempts during that period

Lata, 26-year-old, was getting married last year. As it was an arranged marriage, she decided to get to know him better. They spoke over the phone several times, and he asked her to meet him at a flat.

She agreed. It was a fateful decision on her part. When they entered the flat, he pounced on her, and clawed away at her dress, grunting and snorting with effort. Lata kicked, scratched, and screamed, using whatever she could grab to push him away.

It took considerable effort on her part to get away with nothing more than bruises, and scratches. The wedding was called off, but no police complaints were filed, fearing societal stigma.

The attempted rape had left Lata shaken up. She could not help but wonder if she could have defended herself better. The next day, as she was browsing the internet for self-defence training for women, she found an organization that could meet her needs.

Lata joined Warrior Women Bangladesh – a project by KO Fight Studio to teach basic self-defence to women – for a two month-long course. The fundamental concepts helped her embrace self-defence with a passion, leading her to join the KO Fight Studio to further hone her skills.

Women are preyed on in private, and public spheres alike. In public, complaining about sexual harassment can often lead to further harassment from unhelpful witnesses, or cause societal stigma. But the act of defence actively repels would-be attackers, and harassers, driving the statement home by empowering the women.

Between January and June 2019, 110 women, and seven men were harassed for protesting sexual harassment. A further five women, and one man was beaten up for the same reason. During this same period, there were 630 rapes, and 105 attempted rapes, according to Ain o Salish Kendra.

KO Fight Studio founder Abdullah Mohammad Hossain said, he has trained at least 200 women at his dojo, and scores more via Warrior Women Bangladesh. Nearly all his female students have suffered harassment in one form or another.

Suraiya witnessed an indignity that is far too common in Dhaka. Sometime in April, She saw a man deftly cut a hole in a woman’s dress while on a bus. Despite Suraiya’s alarming call, not a single person stepped up to chastise the perpetrator, or get him out of the bus, or pursue any action at all.

She was red-hot with fury at her helplessness. Suraiya vowed never to be put in that kind of situation again, and discovered KO Fight Studio.

“I wear a hijab, and it is a known fact that no matter how much you cover up, you cannot prevent harassment. The only way to do so is actively repel any, and all attempts. I am 29 years old, a relatively late age to learn self-defence, but better late than never. My work takes me to a lot of different places. The training has given me the confidence to step up to the ugly things in life. If I am ever put in a position like that again, I want to be able to defend myself,” she told Dhaka Tribune.

Sadia Sultana, a 29-year-old deputy director at Bangladesh Bank, has been learning self-defence for the past six months.

“Sexual harassment has severely aggravated in recent times. No longer is it limited to verbal abuse or rude gestures or inappropriate touching, people get raped on the bus these days. Enough is enough. Self-defence is the sure-fire way to ensure nobody tries anything with me.”

The female trainees stressed the importance of speaking up, and supporting others when they do. 

Sadia continued: “Even if I learn self-defence, I can only do so much. I can put up a fight with one or two people. But if there are too many people, we need to create awareness among people. We need to have the mentality to protest what is wrong, and speak up for what is right.”