Your son is taking lessons from how you treat your daughter differently
This is the probably the most nonchalant Ramadan I have ever experienced in my life.
The stay at home situation due to the pandemic has taken away all the fun and spirituality this month has to offer. Streets are not buzzing with food cart vendors a few hours before sundown, people are not really making Eid shopping plans because shopping malls are closed, and devotees are not rushing to the mosque for Tarawih prayer after breaking their fast.
However, there is one thing I am not missing at all this Ramadan and that is the kind of street harassment we have to endure from the first day of Ramadan. I am glad that I do not have to go out that much this Ramadan due to this unofficial lockdown, because going out in Ramadan equals receiving demeaning remarks and unsolicited advice from the “moral police” on the street.
Mathay kapor koi (where is your veil), roja romjaner dine bhalo hoye jao (mend your ways), roja romjaner dine buk khule ber hoise (look, this woman is showing her chest in this holy month). Although my chest is perfectly covered when I go out, apparently if I am not wearing an orna (scarf), these people probably get superman vision and see through my dress. Roja to bhenge gelo deikha (this woman is breaking my fast) -- these are some of the things I hear from strangers on the street in every Ramadan.
I cannot confront every man and woman (you heard me right, woman) on the street who becomes moral police during Ramadan because there are too many of them. We cannot afford the time and energy to confront each one of them. Besides, I always feel if I retort, most of the people on the street will take the harasser’s side and they are going to hurt me eventually.
It is not just the random people on the street who want to show women the right path and save them from “sins” in this holy month.
When I was in my undergrad, I noticed a pink post-it on the notice board that reads: “We humbly request all the female students to wear modest clothes in this holy month of Ramadan. Sincerely, the male students who are fasting.” I was furious and it took me almost a day to process what I saw on the notice board. These men were studying at one of the top universities in Bangladesh, yet they thought that their fellow female students needed to dress “modestly” as per their standard, because they feel that these women are causing them to lose control.
These students grew up in a typical patriarchal society, and think it is their duty to decide how a woman should behave.
These people do not fall from the sky. They do what they see at home. They do what they hear from the religious sermons (waaz mahfils) which incite hatred towards women. The other day, I came across a post in a Facebook group of a famous Islamic preacher’s fan. A man posted a collaged photo of some female newscasters with a note that said: These shameless women should cover themselves up at least for the holy Ramadan.
Maybe you should stop rebuking your teen daughter for not covering up “properly” at the iftar table while you are absolutely OK with your son in a comfortable t-shirt because it’s too hot. Your son is taking lessons from how you treat your daughter differently. He might go out and try to “fix” other women on the street the way you treat your daughter at the iftar table.
Let Ramadan be a month of good deeds, and a month to show respect to each other, instead of an excuse to harass women on the street.
Kohinur Khyum Tithila is a staff reporter at the Dhaka Tribune.