Anita is a college-going girl. She is a beautiful teen who goes to college every day with her friends.
One day, the 18-year-old girl was on her way home. Suddenly, a number of people from a procession molested her. A group of rowdy men were on their way to a public rally. Some hooligans from the rally ganged up and began assaulting her in front of many people in broad daylight.
The men grabbed at her clothes and tore her uniform. She was rescued by a policeman who helped her board a bus to return home. There were many people present who did not protest the crime, while others captured videos of the incident on their phones.
Some video footage taken by the witnesses showed how the attackers were misbehaving with women on the streets or were forcefully touching them on their face and body. During the first few days and weeks following the assault, Anita was in shock. She was confused, anxious, and numb.
Sometimes, she experienced feelings of denial, unable to accept what had happened to her. She couldn’t forget the strong memories of the incident. These shocking memories disrupted her daily life and prevented her from seeking assistance or telling friends and family members about her painful sufferings.
Women’s rights in the constitution
A woman’s rights are guaranteed by the constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Article 10 of the constitution provides that steps shall be taken to ensure participation of women in all spheres of national life.
Article 19 (1) provides that the state shall endeavour to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens. Article 27 specifies that all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.
Moreover, Article 28 (1) provides that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Article 28 (2) more directly and categorically says that women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the state and of public life.
Hooligans take these festivals as permissive atmospheres to justify their inappropriate and unlawful acts on women
This latter provision guarantees all rights mentioned in the constitution, such as right to life, right to personal liberty, right to property, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom to exercise a profession or occupation are equally applicable to women in Bangladesh.
Under Article 32 of the constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, a woman cannot be deprived of her personal liberty. A woman has the right to move throughout the country under Article 36 of the constitution.
Bangladesh has a number of special laws, specifically prohibiting certain form of violence against women including the Penal Code, 1860, Metropolitan Police Ordinance 1976, Nari-O-Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain
2000 (as amended), Mobile Court Act 2009, etc.
Section 76 of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance 1976 provides imprisonment of three months or a fine, or both, if someone uses indecent language or behaves indecently in public places or streets, etc. Section 76 of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance 1976 provides for a one year imprisonment or fine or both for teasing a woman.
Section 354 of the penal code provides for two years imprisonment for assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty.
Section 509 states that whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
Sometimes the victim remains silent as the family of the victim and the people of the society at large stigmatize the girl, rather than giving her support and protection.
Some parents even choose to keep their daughters at home, rather than protesting the heinous act of the molesters, and some even marry girls off at an early age to protect their so-called honour and safety. In the past, there have been numerous incidents where sexual harassment took place on women who joined the Bengali New Year’s celebrations or other national celebrations. Such instances have happened many times before, and proper actions have not been taken, which leads to a recurrence of such incidents.
Therefore, the hooligans take these festivals as permissive atmospheres to justify their inappropriate and unlawful acts on women. It is high time men understood that this kind of behaviour is punishable under the laws of the land.
Miti Sanjana is a Barrister-at-law from Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, an Advocate of Supreme Court of Bangladesh, and an activist.