This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, 'Legal Counsel', which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment and labor law, land law, banking law, constitutional law, criminal law, IPR and in conducting litigations before courts of different hierarchies.
I am a 23 year old working woman. I have to travel for about two and a half hours to get to my place of residence from my work place in the capital. Every night I have to face problems on my way home. Near my place of residence, almost every evening, a few young boys stay at a tea-stall and they pass degrading comments. Please let me know if there is anything that I can do.
Sristi (Not real name)
The issue which you are facing is a social menace which has become widely known as eve teasing. Unfortunately, there is still a notion amongst a lot of people in Bangladesh that eve teasing is not a very serious issue and treats it as “boys being mischievous”. However, this is not the case and such acts of eve teasing have resulted in the victims committing suicide. Therefore this matter should not in any way be taken lightly.
There are a few legal provisions available which make it illegal to harass women in such a manner and impose penalties if they are breached. However, before resorting to legal action, you may wish to remedy the situation through a less direct approach. Firstly, you should address the matter directly with the perpetrators, if situation permits, and ask them to immediately stop such behavior. You may also use the hotline number 109 is provided in the web page of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. You may call this number and seek advice and/or assistance. You may try going to your local councilor/local authority (may be accompanied by your guardians) and enlist their assistance in order to find a solution to your problem.
If you prefer, you may take a more direct approach by going to the police. As mentioned earlier, there are a few legal provisions available which make it illegal to harass women. Most notably, as per section 294 of the Penal Code 1860, doing obscene act or singing or reciting obscene songs, ballad or words to the annoyance of others in or near any public place is a crime punishable with up to 3 months imprisonment and/or fine. As per section 354, assaulting a woman with intention to outrage the modesty, shall be punishable with up to two-year imprisonment and/or fine. As per section 509, uttering words or making sound or gesture or exhibiting objects with intent to insult the modesty of a woman or intruding upon the privacy of a woman is a crime punishable with up to one-year imprisonment and/or fine. By passing degrading comments every evening, these boys are clearly violating the above-mentioned provisions of the law and as such, they are subject to the penalties mentioned in the said legal provisions.
The above provisions are also triable by the mobile court. Besides the Penal Code, section 76 of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance 1976 creating offence of teasing women and accordingly if someone willfully presses or obstructs any woman in a street or public place or insults or annoys any woman by using indecent language or making indecent sounds, gestures, or remarks in any street or public place, shall be punishable with imprisonment up to 1 year and/or fine. A similar provision is contained in other metropolitan police related laws of the country. Whichever option you choose, I sincerely hope you find a just solution to your problem.
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