May Day and Labour Rights
I was very happy to see the Star dedicate its cover story on the very urgent issue of labour rights in Bangladesh in honour of May Day. It was also a nice surprise to read three separate short cover stories, each dealing with vital aspects of the labour problem, instead of the usual one long story. I want to implore the readers to seriously think about the plight of our workers – the 13-year-old girl who makes your tea and cleans your house, the garments worker who makes our jeans and t-shirts, the driver who works seven days a week, 30 days a month without any break. Perhaps we should also consider how we ourselves are complicit in exploiting them. Many of us talk about human rights, but when it comes to practising them in our own lives – be that in our homes or factories – we shy away from doing the right thing. Just think about how inhumanely we treat our domestic workers. All of us admit it is wrong, but how many of us would be willing to give them set leave time, benefits, proper wages and manageable work hours? It's time we fight the oppressing demons within us.
Photo: Amirul Rajiv
The Dignity of our Labourers
The history of May Day is well known and from time immemorial, this day has been observed with due respect and dignity across the world. This celebration is also shared in our country. Every year, on this occasion, many seminars, symposiums and meetings are arranged. Many of these functions are presided by great personalities and they discuss the significance and dignity of this day. But the condition of labourers in our country is at a low ebb. Ironically we can see that none of those lecturers deliver their lectures on the issue of labourers' lot do so in the true sense of the term. Labourers in fact play an important role to our economy. So, I want to draw the kind attention of concerned authorities to the plight of labourers, instead of arranging pompous functions.
Teasing or Terrorising
I was shocked to read the recent letter from Abul Ashraf Noor that was printed in the Star letters column in response to the excellent article, 'An Unpunished Violation'. In fact, I was deeply disappointed to see such absurd and offensive views even appear in a magazine of this calibre! Regardless of the magazine's editorial policy, the fact remains that Noor has unfortunately been provided a platform for his ridiculous assertion that if women dressed like their mothers and grandmothers, they would not have to face sexual harassment.
Are Noor and his ilk even aware that the Penal Code in 1860 clearly addresses the existence of the problem of harassment, using terms like insult, obscenity, criminal intimidation etc, in public places? Surely our great, great, great grandmothers must have dressed modestly enough, even by Noor's archaic standards? I suggest that he accepts Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain's advice (borrowing once again from the era that he harks back to) that if men have problems with women being in public places, then they should opt to stay indoors, while we – who can presumably 'control' ourselves - enjoy our basic human rights. We don't care how men dress nor do we tell them what to wear, so it's about time men behaved like decent human beings, and refrained from inflicting so much pain and suffering on women. We have all seen instances of young women being driven to suicide in the desperation to escape such harassment. I endorse the Star's policy to encourage freedom of speech, but please don't give space to the lunatic fringe at our expense.
This is in response to the letter written by Abul Ashraf Noor in reaction to your article about 'Teasing or Terrorising'. If clothing is the reason that attracts teasing or raping then young girls or aged ladies should never have been targets. Women are the victims even if they are wearing burkhas or saris, make-up or no make-up. Eve teasing happens to women irrespective of age, place, colour, class and caste. Even our mothers, aunts or grandmothers have failed to escape dirty touches and penetrating glares. The eternal mindset of humiliating us at every single opportunity and then passing the blame to us because it benefits them should be changed. What really hurts is this age-old masculine mentality of ruling our lives, imposing their visions and desires on us. It is high time that men tighten the grip on their sexual desires whenever they see the female skin. Ironically, ladies do not feel the same urge whenever they see any scantily dressed men and yet they have to shoulder the responsibility of distracting men. I keep wondering how many more assaults, brutalities, humiliations and violations of self-respect women will have to suffer before we're allowed to be free.
The Fading Magic
Thanks to the Star for the cover story titled 'The Fading Magic' published on 27 April. The story reminds us of the gradual extinction of cinema halls. The lack of digital equipment, piracy and increased taxes are not the only barriers to the cinema halls. The quality of movies has deteriorated tremendously. We know the proverb, "A bad workman quarrels with his tools." If the quality of movies were good, people would be attracted to go to the halls to see them, and the government, too, would take necessary steps to sustain them, like in India. We have enough creative artists but our film producers can't utilise these artists effectively and efficiently. Poor quality films turn our cinema halls into super markets.
Cinema is very much related to our lives as well as the number one form of entertainment. It is a very alarming sign that we are going to loss this exquisite cultural event only due to lack of maintenance. In the 27 April issue, the Star narrated the causes destroying this art form in a very descriptive and meaningful way. Ten to 15 years ago, we were very worried about our Bengali songs being lost to very young listeners. Most of them used to listen to Hindi pop music. But this tradition has been changed completely, only by our new artists and some enthusiastic steps by established artists. So, I believe, it will also be possible for our cinemas to be saved by our new young film makers and artists, along with the cooperation of established filmmakers, politicians and cinema lovers. We look forward to see our cinemas as they once were.
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