Complainants claim of being coerced | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 26, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:51 AM, September 26, 2019

Sexual Harassment at Dhaka Commerce College

Complainants claim of being coerced

Instead of investigating complaints against Saidur Rahman, a teacher of Dhaka Commerce College (DCC), the college authorities are allegedly investigating two of their female lecturers who submitted allegations of sexual harassment against Saidur .

Professor Saidur, chairman of Bangla department at the college, has been influencing the college governing body in this regard, both the female teachers alleged.

The committee to prevent sexual harassment at DCC are yet to submit its report, though they are compelled to do it within 30 days since the allegations were field two months ago, college sources said.

The college authorities, on the contrary, have formed a separate three-member probe body to investigate the female teachers -- bringing allegations of “controversial activities” against them.

One of the women -- who submitted a written allegation against Saidur on June 17 -- was dismissed from her lecturer post on May 28, on charges of violating the college’s code of conduct. The college administration on June 12 withdrew her dismissal notice. 

“He [Saidur] sacked me as I refused to have physical relations with him,” said the victim lecturer.

According to the allegations, Saidur used to call the complainant, making sexual advances. “One day, he called me to his room and tried to sexually assault me… He also threatened to fire me, as I protested,” reads the allegation. 

On September 21 and 23, the lecturer was asked to provide oral testimony over allegations against her, but she refused to speak. 

“They have two common members in both the [probe] committees and the rest of the members were not present on the day. How could I trust them to get justice?” she said.

On the same day, a member of the committee against sexual harassment prevention, Advocate Shagorika Jahan, requested me to make compromise with Saidur. “You cannot do anything, as he [Saidur] is powerful,” the lecturer quoted Advocate Shagorika.

Another victim, who submitted allegations in July this year, said that one day Saidur called her on the phone in the evening, saying, “I will go to buy medicine in Mohammadpur. I don’t want to go alone. Could you come with me?” When she agreed to accompany him, Saidur sexually harassed her in the car, she alleged.

 “No one dares to speak against Saidur Rahman, who is an influential teacher in the college. Moreover, if anyone submits allegation, she faces threats,” said a teacher of English department of the college, wishing to remain unnamed.

DCC sources said the college had no committee to prevent sexual harassment until the allegations made by the two female teachers, though the High Court in 2018 ordered to form such committees in all educational institutions.

On May 25, the college administration formed a probe body that has already accused one of the female lecturers for having “an illicit relationship with an assistant professor of the Bangla depertment”. The probe body also issued a show-cause notice to the lecturer.

Prof Mian Lutfur Rahman, one of the college governing body members, raised allegation against the lecturer at the meeting addressed by three members -- Prof Shamsad Shahjahan, Maosufa Ferdousi and a guardian representative Shamima Sultana. 

On July 29, The college authorities included two more persons in the existing committee and made a separate full-fledged committee, keeping two persons in both. 

The newly included members are: lawyer Shagorika and Selina Ahmed. Maosufa Ferdousi and Selina were absent in the last two meetings of the committee.

When asked, Shamsad Shahjahan, member of both the bodies, said that two separate committees will soon submit reports after investigating the two separate issues.

Prof Saidur Rahman, who could not be reached by this correspondent, recently put up a status on Facebook claiming that he is “innocent”. He claimed that the allegation are conspiracies against him. 

The college principle Dr AFM Shafiqur Rahman declined to comment. “I alone cannot solve anything, as there is a governing body and a probe body. But I hope the reports will be published soon,” he said. 

Apart from the college committee, the allegation no: 9229/19 has also been submitted to Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP) in this regard.

BMP HOLDS HUMAN CHAIN

Bangladesh Mahila Parishad yesterday demanded investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment against Prof Saidur.

The women’s rights organisation also urged the concerned authorities to suspend Prof Saidur Rahman, the chairman of Bangla department, while conducting the probe -- stating that his presence can influence the investigation.

BMP formed a human chain in front of the college in the capital’s Mirpur.

Around 50 members of the organisation took part in the protest including Laila Khaleda, movement affairs secretary; Rekha Saha, international affairs secretary, and the organisation’s members Advocate Maksuda Aktar and Brishty Sikdar.

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