At least 12 women in Bangladesh took their own lives after being sexually harassed in the year 2017, says an Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) report that kept track on 255 such cases that year.
An Action Aid Bangladesh report has the findings that as many as 84% women are at receiving end of either verbal or physical sexual harassment in public transport, 80% in market places, 35% face teasing and 15% experience inappropriately touching in police stations.
A 2013 UN Women report found 76% female students in higher educational institutions complaining of incidents of sexual harassment.
And last but not the least - in Bangladesh Mohila Parishad’s 2016 reckoning as many as 1,050 women and girls became rape victims - 166 of them were gang raped. Forty-four of those rape victims were also murdered by the perpetuators.
All these statistics are mindboggling and awkwardly large. The numbers found in different researches are showing an alarming circumstance as far as women’s safe movement in public sphere is concerned in Bangladesh.
Many women of varying ages have to endure various forms of harassments like teasing, inappropriate touching, verbal abuses, mental and physical assaults and even rape in a shocking rate.
UNB interviewed at least 10 male participants from different professions asking for their opinion on the causes of and the probable solutions to this great social vice.
Most of them said patriarchal mental setup, both in male and female population, and lack of gender literacy are the principal reasons behind such aggressive sexual behavior.
Gender literacy and knowledge, removing the social stigma and taboo as well as changing public attitude towards females in society can help lessen the incidents of harassments, they opined.
Megh Mollar, a third-year student of peace and conflict studies at Dhaka University, said the patriarchal society confides girls within a narrow concept and treat them as less important where every institution of the society such as family, educational institutions, religion as well as media content and entertainment are continuously supporting the status quo.
He said: “Look at Bollywood, where a girl is saying in an item-song that she is a ‘tandoori chicken’ and living in such an environment where sexual harassment must be a common phenomenon.”
He said proper gender literacy, changing of social patriarchal sentiments and building consciousness can create a harassment-free society.
Dr Prodipto Chowdhury is a resident doctor of Endocrinology Department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University. According to him, social taboo about sexual issues and suppression of sexual needs are the reasons of the harassment.
He said: “In families, nobody can openly talk about sex related issues as well as any relation such as friendship between male and female is always being doubted here.”
People have a general psychology to be curious about forbidden things and sexual issue is one of them, he said, prescribing sexual literacy, more openness, knowing and respecting opposite sex as potential solutions to the problem.
Another participant Joytirmoy, a second year student of Bangladesh Engineering and Technical University (BUET), said females have to be more visible and courageous in participation at all stages and professions as well as males should come forward to support the females.
Khushi Kabir, coordinator of non-governmental organization Nijera Kori, said the male concern about the issue is very positive but to solve the issue deeper social change is necessary.
She said every institutions of the socialization process like family, educational institutions and others should step forward to change the mentality towards girls and it should begin form the early age.