Faria is studying in a reputed private university. She has always been told by her parents that a girl could always earn the respect of her peers, regardless of gender, for her hard work and accomplishments.
However, when she began studying law, she was shocked to discover the poisonous environment at the university. She felt that she suddenly had been “reduced to a woman” instead of being treated as a human being and an equal.
Every aspect of her appearance and personal attributes became an opportunity for those around her to judge her -- from what perfume she wore, to her outfit, jewelry, to even how her nails were done.
She had to constantly endure abusive, rude, insensitive, sexist remarks from some of her classmates. Soon, her university life was no longer enjoyable for her.
Her confidence began to fade as she lived in constant fear of being bullied, judged, and ridiculed -- and had to listen to the derogatory way that some of her classmates talked about girls in general.
Then, in one evening, when she was returning home by herself after classes, one of her classmates grabbed her by her clothes and tried to drag her off to somewhere. A few other classmates ganged up and filmed the assault.
The video eventually found itself on Facebook.
The perpetrators invited other boys to have the video go viral. Faria was under a great deal of stress and anxiety, and she eventually found herself helpless. She was tired of fighting such battles day after day.
Finally, Faria lodged a complaint to police’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit. The cybercrime wing of the CTTC unit took all steps to remove the offending footage from social networks within 24 hours.
Parliament has enacted the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act 2006 (Amended 2013) to combat cyber crimes. Article 57(1) of the ICT Act says: “If any person deliberately publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the website or in any other electronic form any material which is false and obscene and if anyone sees, hears or reads it having regard to all relevant circumstances, its effect is such as to influence the reader to become dishonest or corrupt, or causes to deteriorate or creates possibility to deteriorate law and order, prejudice the image of the state or person or causes to hurt or may hurt religious belief or instigate against any person or organisation, then this activity will be regarded as an offence.”
It is the fundamental right of a student to feel safe in an educational institution, and all universities have a duty to provide that safe environment
S.57(2) states that, whoever commits an offence under sub-section (1) of this section, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years and with fine which may extend to Tk10 million.
In the landmark case of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) vs Government of Bangladesh and Others 22, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh defined “sexual harassment” and laid down guidelines to protect students and girls from sexual harassment at the educational institutions in both the public and private sectors.
Section 10 (2) of the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjaton Domon Ain (2000) states that any man who, in order to satisfy his lust in an improper manner, outrages the modesty of a woman, or makes obscene gestures, will be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of not more than seven years and not less than two years and beyond this will be subjected to monetary fines as well.
Every day we hear news of rampant sexual misconduct, inappropriate behaviour, and cyber crimes taking place in our educational institutions.
It is the fundamental right of a student to feel safe in an educational institution, and all universities have a duty to provide that safe environment to every student.
There are various kinds of human rights laws banning violence and discrimination against women.
But it is very important to organize special training programs, and discussions about the need of respectful and responsible behaviour to strengthen moral and intellectual solidarity amongst youth of different groups, through education, dialogue, knowledge-sharing, etc.
Faria was able to do the right thing. An abuser believes that he or she can control another. If anyone is doing anything illegal, take back your power and don’t allow any further escalation.
Miti Sanjana is a Barrister-at-Law of the honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, UK and an advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.