Sexual harassment and violence against women at workplaces and educational institutions can be prevented through formulation of specific laws, rights activists said at a discussion yesterday.
People do not feel compelled to follow only policies or guidelines. But once there is a law in place, everyone must abide by it to avoid punishment, they said.
Gender Platform, an alliance of civil society representatives and seven rights bodies, organised the discussion at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka to discuss a draft law that the platform prepared recently to prevent sexual harassment and violence against women at workplaces and educational institutions.
Ainoon Naher, coordinator of the platform, said the High Court in a directive asked the authorities concerned to take measures for the prevention of sexual harassment at workplaces and educational institutions following the verdict of a case in 2009. “But the directive was not followed properly. That's why, we felt the need for formulating a law and prepared the draft,” she said.
Now the platform along with the civil society representatives will put pressure on the government to enact the law so women can stay safe at their workplaces and educational institutions,” said Ainoon, also a professor of Jahangirnagar University.
Towhida Khondker, a director of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association (BNWLA) and also a Supreme Court lawyer, said the draft law was prepared following the court's direction. “Policy is not enough, because following it isn't mandatory. But everybody is bound to follow the law.”
Saki Rezwana, chairperson of Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation; Advocate Fawzia Karim Firoze, president of BNWLA; Rokeya Rafiq Baby, executive director of Karmojibi Nari; and ZM Kamrul Anam, general secretary of Bangladesh Labour Welfare Foundation; also spoke.