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Being bold, being a woman

  • Published at 06:26 pm April 12th, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:00 pm April 13th, 2018
Being bold, being a woman
A girl, about to reach puberty, was waiting for the bus with her mother. It was around 7 in the morning. All of a sudden, a man grabbed her attention. He was taking a gander at her. She ignored him. In the second eye contact, the man raised his eyebrows. She complained to her mother. Her mother said: “Uncle is just teasing you, ignore him.” She ignored him. He smiled, she again ignored.  That act of “ignoring” continued till today. And that childhood teasing has now turned into eve-teasing.  In fact, though we have national laws under which eve-teasing is a recognized offense, eve-teasing has become an everyday part of a women’s lives. Today, eve-teasers no longer limit themselves only to smiles and abusive words; now they apply different techniques which our laws fail to address.  Let me share an incident of when I was travelling on a public bus. I was seated by the window, when I suddenly felt someone’s touch. A hand was trying hard to go past my arms to reach its final destination.  I stood up, and slapped him across the face. This man had the funniest excuse. He said: “Sister, I am not the man. There was another man, he did it.”  Even though I caught him red-handed, he wanted me to believe that the moment I turned around, the culprit disappeared.  In fact, gropers on public transport are as common as bleeding every month. And now, similar to how the lack of separate hygienic washrooms in public places has taught us to hold it in and tolerate the discomfort, even in emergency situations, we have also learned to live with eve-teasers and gropers.  According to Ain-O-Salish Kendra, a total of 665 incidents of rape were documented between January and September in Bangladesh last year. Among these, 77 were attempts to rape, 427 were rapes, 151 were gang rapes, and in 10 cases, the type of rape was not mentioned. Some 41% of alleged rape victims have been in the age group of 13-18 years, followed by 33% for the age group of seven to 12 years, and 14% of the cases were for victims below the age of six years. However, society will still continue saying that “rapes occur because of women’s attire and character.”  Can a six-year-old child “put herself” in such a horrendous situation? Can you blame her attire and character for the incident? Or, is it a curse to be born as a woman? We always blame women for rape -- not men and the society. Why can’t the bus authority, who failed to provide security to a passenger, be blamed? Why can’t the hotel owner, whose hotel the incident took place in, be blamed? 
Though we recognize women’s achievements without regards to divisions, do we think about the basic obstacles that a woman faces in her daily life?
Perhaps it is because society believes that women are born to satisfy men. Hence, they don’t have the right to say “no.”  Maybe that’s why in cases of rape, we end up blaming the woman and her character. In Najim Uddin (Md) vs State [69 DLR (2017) 235], the High Court Division addressed the rapist as “Romeo.”  This was an eye opening judgment, because it indirectly refused to acknowledge “fornication” as an offense, and on the other hand, it blamed the victim for such an occurrence.  Despite all these obstacles, women have achieved a lot. Though we recognize women’s achievements without regards to divisions, whether cultural, economic, or political, do we think about the basic obstacles that a woman faces in her daily life?  For instance, consider the access to separate hygienic washrooms. In India, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation recently inaugurated the first “pink toilet” to help women and girls access hygienic washrooms in markets. It took a while, but better late than never, right? A country which admires women always works to remove the obstacles which hinder the development of women. Sadiya S Silvee is a Research Assistant at Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA) and Adjunct Lecturer at Green University of Bangladesh. She is associated with Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) as a Legal Researcher.