The issue of safety of women in public places
Most females who travel outside their homes very often face some kind of verbal abuse, sexual comments, bad touching or stalking, and they are not aware what to do instantly or to whom they should complain. A woman traveling in Dhaka is almost constantly in danger of being sexually harassed, whether she is walking down the street or using public transportation. This threat affects their daily movements, including how they choose to travel, when they travel, and who they travel with, and it is especially acute for the most marginalised women. Gender equity as a whole is significantly impacted by a woman's capacity to travel around her city freely and safely.
According to a 2018 BRAC research titled "Roads Free from Sexual Harassment and Crash for Women," 94% of women who commute on public transportation have experienced verbal, physical, and other types of harassment in Dhaka and elsewhere. Along with this, the research identified inadequate enforcement of the legislation, overcrowding in the buses, and a lack of supervision (such as the absence of closed-circuit cameras) as the main contributors to sexual harassment on the roads and in public transportation, particularly in buses. 59% of respondents who utilise public transportation reported being sexually harassed by male passengers between the ages of 26 and 40, while 35% reported being harassed by male passengers between the ages of 19 and 35. They experienced many forms of harassment, such as intentional touching of the victim's breast and other physical parts, pinching, pushing while standing too near, caressing the victim's hair, placing a hand on their shoulder, touching their privates, etc. On the other hand, a survey of ActionAid in 2015 showed a devastating picture that 84% females are victimised by insulting and sexual comments. The UN Women addressed that 76% female students of colleges and universities faced sexual harassment at least once in their lifetimes. Nonetheless, 54.7% females living in towns have faced physical, mental, economic and social violence as well as bad touch. So, the data and research show the evil nature of the perpetrators as well as trauma a victim has to face in their lifetime.
There are almost 14 laws for women safety in Bangladesh, but the outcomes do not show any progress or affirmative result of ensuring women safety in public places. Among them, three Acts (section 10 of the Prevention of Repression on Women and Children Act, 2000; section 354 of the Penal Code; section 509 of the Penal Code; and section 76 of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance, 1976) directly implemented punishment from two to ten years of imprisonment for illegal touch, sexual gesture, forceful acts against the modesty of a female and indecent exposures towards women.
However, only law or the legal reform and law enforcement cannot ensure female security in the public places of Bangladesh. We need a holistic approach as well as the collaboration of all social factors in preventing harassment of women. We see our mothers, sisters and women in our families have always been dominated by men from generation to generation and many of them have faced domestic violence but could not be able to protest against it. This kind of patriarchal oppression have given the perpetrator a sense of belief that women can be teased, harassed, raped, forced and assaulted. In this case, our families are needed to step in first and create a gender-friendly environment so that children and family members learn to respect everyone equally.
Also, school is the institution where a child gets the basic education after the family. That is why "moral education" or "ethical knowledge" should be included in our academic curriculum as well as teachers should teach the students to respect every gender, every religion and every human being irrespective of his/her social class or position. To guarantee a secure environment for women in Bangladesh, it is also vital to collect periodic statistics on all forms of violence against women and girls and to ensure that the information is accessible to the public.
Additionally, we must keep in mind that the issue of women's safety must be approached intersectional. It is safe to conclude that "decent" or "indecent" apparel has nothing to do with the current scenario involving ladies on public transportation. It is rather the system's fault. Authorities should administer stronger punishments to those who commit such crimes. Nonetheless, gender-sensitive training must be implemented for all justice and security sector employees. To achieve sustainable development, it is the obligation of our government to safeguard the safety and security of women.
The Writer is a Student, University of Dhaka.