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ActionAid: 87% students unaware of SC guidelines on sexual harassment

  • Published at 08:47 pm January 17th, 2019
The unveiling program of ActionAid Bangladesh's study titled “Sexual Harassment at Educational Institutions and Workplaces: A Study on the Implementation Status of the 2009 Supreme Court Guideline” Johura Akter/Dhaka Tribune

Taslima Yasmin, assistant professor of law at Dhaka University, conducted the study in different educational and professional institutes

Most students as well as working women of Bangladesh, a whopping 87% to be exact, have no knowledge of the 2009 Supreme Court guidelines (issued in May 2009) regarding sexual harassment at educational institutions and workplaces.

These findings were stated during the unveiling program of ActionAid Bangladesh's study titled “Sexual Harassment at Educational Institutions and Workplaces: A Study on the Implementation Status of the 2009 Supreme Court Guidelines” 

The event took place in the capital's Bishwo Shahitto Kendro on Thursday. 

The report also stated that about 84% students were not aware about a sexual harassment committee in their universities and only 13% had merely heard about the guidelines without knowledge of any details about what the guidelines comprises of. 

Also about 65% respondents from different workplaces across the country also have no knowledge about the guidelines and only 14% had heard about the judgment but did not have clear understanding or awareness of the details of the guidelines. 

Taslima Yasmin, assistant professor at the department of law of Dhaka University, conducted this study on 40 students of seven educational institutes and 20 employees of fourteen different workplaces from February 1, 2017 to March 17, 2018.   

Recommendations from the study

  • A separate legislation should be enacted to comprehensively address sexual harassment at educational institutes and workplaces
  • Formation of effective monitoring mechanism cell to ensure the implementation of the guidelines
  • Concerned authorities should issue new circulars / notices more effectively containing information about the 200 guidelines and its key directives
  • Authorities of educational and workplace should place more emphasis on creating awareness among the students, teachers, staffs, and employees.

Addressing the issue, The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said: "The 2009 High Court guidelines regarding prevention of sexual harassment covers every aspect to ensure a safe and sound environment for women in these places.

"Although both men and women are supposed to deserve equal rights, women from all aspects of the society still have to face discrimination in educational and job institutions."

“The government should withdraw reservation on two articles; Article 2 and Article 16(1c) and properly implement these for the sake of all women in our country,” he added.

Among others, Tasmima Hossain, editor of the Daily Ittefaq, Samia Huq, assistant professor at Brac University, Farida Yasmin, deputy commissioner of Victim Support Centre, and Abdul Karim, additional secretary of Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, were present at the event. 

Earlier in 2009, the Supreme Court issued groundbreaking directives to prevent sexual harassment at workplaces as well as in public places. The court charged workplaces and educational institutions with the responsibility of taking effective measures to prevent sexual harassment. 

The court directed educational institutions to increase awareness among students, form committees and implement the guidelines. In the case of sexual harassment, the High Court directive has also been to ensure the existing law and to ensure institutional justice.