Eve-teasing and violence against women
AROUND the world, more women than ever have greater equality in legislative rights and more rewarding opportunities in economic activities. A greater proportion of women than before hold authoritative positions in politics, business and academia today. The change is a positive development. However, it does not mean that true gender equality has been achieved. The material and visible changes might seem remarkable however, the social and mental acceptability have been improving at a relatively slower pace. There is a lot of cosmetic demonstration of accommodation of women in different spheres because of the pressure from civil society, legislation, and government. However, the true acceptance is reflected through different day-to-day behaviour of men in their day-to-day interaction in life.
"Eve teasing" on the street is one such reflection of the inner beast in men. Women are subjected to this social evil irrespective of what background they are from. The dictionary meaning of 'teasing' is to make fun of a person playfully, unkindly or annoyingly. Its a euphemism used in the sub-continent for public sexual harassment or molestation of women by men, with eve being a reference to the biblical Eve.
"Eve teasing" or sexual harassment of women in public places is a growing concern in Bangladesh and throughout this sub-continent. It is a crime easy to commit, but difficult to prove, as "eve-teasers" often devise ingenious ways to attack women, even though many feminist writers term it as "little rapes," and usually occur in public places. In spite of remarkable development in many areas of women's empowerment, women are not safe while walking on roads.
Bangladesh with her micro-credit operations has improved the economic and social status of women tremendously even in rural areas. It has shown the world how a Muslim society can effectively deal with issues of gender discrimination. Women have led both the country and the two main parties for the past 15 years. In addition, large numbers of women sit on Bangladesh's superior courts. It has achieved impressive results in education and economic opportunities for women. Bangladesh was one of the first developing countries to establish a Ministry of Women's Affairs in 1978, three years after the Mexico Conference. The Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees equal rights to all citizens. The importance of women as an important human resource has been recognised by the Constitution of Bangladesh and accorded equality to women.
But discriminatory treatment and violence against women has remained widespread across the country. Teasing and staring at women is common on all public places where unidentified men and women face each other. Teasing, odd gestures and verbal abuses are considered as sexual harassment in many developed societies, however our society this is seen as 'acceptable.'
State intervention towards preventing violence against women has been inadequate to date. Laws are there but enforcement is weak. Moreover, the legal process to combat gender-based violence is complicated. In Women and Children Repression and Prevention Act 2000 an excellent provision was included in section article 10 that teasing of women like making obscene comments or gestures was an offence covered by it providing for up to seven years of simple imprisonment or meticulous imprisonment for two years. But the act was amended in 2003 where no one could be charged with sexual abuse of a woman until it is physical.
Although the government has signed different international conventions and introduced special laws to protect women and children, it has not succeeded in providing adequate security to them. It is possible to stop this harassment only if the law is enforced on the perpetrators. Men's education, sensitivity, cooperation, respect and ethics can help change the scenario.