At the Root of the Matter
Sexual harassment, thankfully enough, has now become a topic of discussion amongst peers. Of course, we need to look deeper into the roots. Any woman in Bangladesh will have experienced sexual harassment at some point, if not many points, throughout her life. The trauma remains deeper still in this area because now we are fully aware of the reluctance and blatant denial of our law enforcement agencies and higher authorities. Victims are never heard of speaking out, and those who do, reportedly go through more traumatic experiences from not only the 'security' forces but also the society and even the court. What we must establish is that, to get rid of this dent in the dignity of our nation, or at least attempt to, we need to start speaking out, victim or not, about the issue. It is our job now, to enable each other to do so. Before we get into a more public sphere, we have to recognise that sexual harassment can also take place in our most personal environments-- offices, schools, universities, even homes, and the authority figures in such places should be aware of this and take punitive action against anyone who expresses traits of imposing harassment on others.
When Sophia Chowdhury (not her real name) was 11 years old, her music teacher took advantage of her. "I didn't even know what he was doing. But I remember being so scared, I would freeze. When I told my sister, she didn't believe it. So I didn't bother telling my mother either," she says. "The last time I had faced him alone, I threw a remote control at his face, ran away and locked myself into my room," she elaborates. Years later, Sophia told her mother who broke down the minute she was done. "I realised then that if I had told her earlier, she could have saved me."
Alisha Rahman (not her real name) is currently facing harassment that involves threats to her and her family. She recently ended a relationship with an abusive man, which he didn't take very well. Since then, he has been mentally abusing her. "The man used to call her and use slang, demeaning words. When she blocked his number, he began calling her from different phones. Then, he started calling her siblings," says Mashroof Hasan (not his real name), a close friend of the victim. The perpetrator has reportedly given her brothers compromising photographs and is constantly harassing her whole family. "After the brothers tried to negotiate with him, the man demanded that the girl face him and his friends, alone, which we all knew could be dangerous to her sanity, security and life," he says. "We don't know what he'll do next!" Because of societal pressure and knowing the consequences of disclosing the issue to the authorities, the family hasn't been able to take stronger measures against the man.
This mental pressure that the society puts on women is what needs to be changed, first and foremost. It needs to be addressed, over and over again, that when a woman is going through harassment or abuse, it is an issue of major importance. The state's biggest responsibility is to provide security to all its citizens. If one woman's security is breached without consequence, all of our security is breached.