Women employed in formal sectors of the country experience a shocking extent of sexual harassment in the workplace, and this trend continued even during the pandemic. In most cases, the victims are denied any form of justice.
These conclusions were drawn from a study on workplace sexual harassment during the pandemic. It was conducted by National Girl Child Advocacy Forum (NGCAF) in collaboration with Plan International Bangladesh from March to June this year.
The results of the study were presented at a webinar yesterday. Md Fazle Rabbi Miah MP, deputy speaker of the parliament, was present as the chief guest while Shamsul Huq Tuku MP, chairman, parliamentary caucus on child rights, served as special guest.
The study was conducted on participants from 13 districts across six divisions. "The researchers initially selected 390 women as respondents through random sampling and later selected 135 victims of harassment through purposive sampling," said Nasima Akter Jolly, secretary of NGCAF, who presented the findings.
According to the study, 41.48 percent women faced sexual harassment at least two to three times, 25.93 percent women faced four to five instances of harassment, while 8.89 percent women faced sexual harassment six to 10 times within the span of around four months.
22. 96 percent women faced at least one instance of sexual harassment during this time.
Participants said they were harassed mostly by colleagues, but also by people in positions of power such as their employers, managers and supervisors. As a result, the victims were too afraid to protest against the harassment.
The study revealed that only 14 percent women responded that they filed complaints to their employers.
However, responses from employers were largely disappointing, as only two of the accused were fired, three were fined, and 10 were verbally warned for their actions, the study found.
The victims were also extremely reluctant to inform law enforcement agencies about the incidences, with only 5.19 percent saying they filed complaints with the agencies. However, all of them said the agencies did not take any mentionable steps.
In light of the findings, speakers demanded that a separate law titled "Sexual Harassment Prevention and Protection Act" be promulgated as soon as possible.
They also recommended that every organisation must have a sexual harassment prevention committee.
In his speech, Fazle Rabbi Miah said, "We are working to formulate a separate law to prevent sexual harassment. We hope to present the bill to the parliament within this year"
The webinar was attended by officials from BRAC, Plan International Bangladesh, Nari Maitree, The Hunger Project, and Aparajeyo-Bangladesh.