Fighting eve-teasing, molestation: Letting women live in full dignity  

Shihab Sarkar   | Published: January 21, 2019 22:05:16

Reckless drivers and compulsive jaywalkers can be reined in by enforcing stringent laws. Psychopaths can also be coped with interventions made by families and communities. But there are a few scourges prevailing in the present Bangladesh, in its both cities and villages, which remain largely invisible during occurrence. Upon detection, the insidiousness of the malady shakes persons having minimum human virtues to the core. Molestation of teenage girls, and even babies, followed by their killing tops them. Adult women are not fully safe while outside their homes. The incidence of this crime has suddenly witnessed a sharp rise throughout the country. To the confusion of many, this scourge emerges against the backdrop of the progresses womenfolk in the country in general have made in the last few decades.

In the last six months a week could hardly pass without at least two ghastly killings of girls after sexual torture inflicted on them. The urban and rural areas are equally vulnerable to this unspeakable scourge. To speak pithily, the trend, though occurring in isolation, is outright sickening. It warrants in-depth social research, as well as campaigns to promote a positive attitude towards women. At the same time, involving women in the previously male-dominated jobs in increased numbers is expected to make a great difference to the depressing situation.

To call Bangladesh a country caught in an anti-woman frenzy is, however, a knee-jerk reaction. The country has long been nurturing unalloyed honour and admiration for women. Against this backdrop, the sexual attack and finally the murder of a lone woman passenger in a long-haul bus in Tangail not long ago assumed a grotesque nature. The news sparked great uproar and indignation due the helpless state in which many women of the country are still stuck in. To the shock of female rights activists, many small incidents involving women's sexual assault are being swept under the carpet; the reason being the spectre of social stigma. Moreover, allegations of diverting the cases under the influence of local powerful quarters are also rampant.

In spite of the strong social support and a protective environment, women victims mostly prefer to suffer in silence. It has a lot to do with the age-old practice of not raising voice against the menace of sexual humiliation. The scenario has lately started changing radically, thanks to the spread of education of girls giving them a voice. Their involvement in cultural and extracurricular activities is also helping them secure a firm footing in society. Still, in accordance with the social values and culture in the greater Sub-continent, few women venture to come up and disclose their bitter experiences. At least, this was the norm in the backward communities until the #MeToo movement had been launched. In spite of world-shaking movement, many such cases remain unreported.

In Bangladesh, the legal measures adopted to punish the criminals and ensure justice for the victims involve a lengthy process. Moreover, the prerequisites warranted for proving sexual crimes are blatantly humiliating for women and girls. Many criminals are thus found escaping the dragnet of law owing to this loophole. Being a village-dominant country, dotted by communities living in accessible regions, adolescent girls and women remain perennially vulnerable to eve-teasers and sections of perverted males. Apart from the urban shanties, low-income neighbourhoods are identified as safe haven for sexual predators. On some counts, in spite of their assertiveness and the newly acquired courage, women in the urban areas are still open to sex-related offences. Thanks to many types of camouflages and deceptive situations, women in the cities and towns continue to being trapped by criminals. It's a great shame that women and girls are not safe even in their educational institutions. It speaks of the extent of moral bankruptcy on the part of a social segment.

It doesn't need any elaboration to say that molestation is extremely terrible compared to the now-common sexual harassments. If the crime involves killing, be the victim a woman, an adolescent or a child, it assumes the proportions of cold-blooded monstrosity. Sociologists have lately been found pointing towards a highly ominous element in the scourge. They call it the sadistic pleasure which the mentally deranged and pervert people derive from sexual attacks and the following killings. Seminars and symposiums regularly identify the pervasive influence of drugs on communities for the shocking speed in which the scourge of sexual offences is rising. The drugs the addicts are found hooked on incredibly changes a person's mental state. Different from traditional dopes making the addicts passive and withdrawn, the new synthetic drugs arouse in the persons their subterranean demons. As has been confessed by former drug users, while under influence they would completely lose their capability to differentiate between good and evil, and what's human and what's inhuman. The instances of males becoming irrationally violent and carnally disposed are common. The sudden spurt in sexual assaults coupled with killings has long been associated with the spread of substances like Yaba, Phensidyl, heroin and lots of newer synthetic drugs across the country. The menace of drug abuse, thus, ought to be uprooted once and for all.

In the 21st century, few can tell for sure that a hell has not been let loose on carefree girl children behind the façade of a peaceful, idyllic village. Given these murky developments, lots of rural parents dread the very thought of allowing their adolescent and baby girls to go out and engage in childhood fun and frolicking. The situation in the slum areas in the cities is found to be worse.

Strong community resistance and stringent law enforcement can make a great difference to the murky situation. But it may not be always possible for many practical reasons. The collective power of the community and the state law enforcement agencies is entrusted with scores of bigger tasks demanding its intervention. Mobilising the law enforcers, community vigilantes and civil society groups in a massive way to stem a social aberration may prove an action which might appear weird. Only full-scale community-level campaigns aimed at creating social awareness can bring about remarkable changes. 

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