Looking back at the Bollywood movies of the eighties and nineties, one of the most common things that can be noticed in most of the superhit commercial movies is the normalisation or romanticisation of eve-teasing. Dhallywood movies too followed the style of those films grossly. A good example can be the movie 'Ei ghor ei songsar' which was one of the most popular movies of the nineties. In the movie, the hero Salman Shah is seen kissing in public to give a lesson to the arrogant rich girl. Another example can be contemporary Bollywood blockbuster Major Saab, wherein the song 'Aakeli bazar na jaya karo' shows the hero harassing the heroine with a gang and touching her forcibly telling that it is supposed to happen if she is outside alone. And such scenes were common for most of the successful and popular movies in this subcontinent. Such movies being superhit demonstrates how acceptable the scenes were to the audience.
It is not like people learnt those traits by watching movies. But those films have subtly enhanced the acceptability of things like forcefully winning 'yes' from a girl, harassing a girl with gangs, or blaming the girl without criticising the social structure if she goes out of the home alone, etc. This is one of the factors that indirectly influence the increasing rate of harassment, just like victim blaming. In every instance, the tacit backing of direct or passive witnesses to a crime provides the offenders with the confidence to perpetrate the crime again later. Similarly, blaming the victim diverts everyone's attention away from the offender while also legitimising the act.
"Victim blaming is nothing less than a sexual offence, rather much more in many cases. Sexual assault is a particular event. But those who blame victims try to legitimise a crime," shares Sajib Sakhawat, a student of Physics at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST).
In recent cases, it can be seen that most of the time the offender is not as much focused as the victim is. In rape cases, it is all about the raped girl, why she was raped and why the rape was supposed to happen. A vivid example of this can be the rape and murder case of Anushka Noor Amin, which occurred on January 07, 2021. The whole country witnessed how the friends of the offender Fardin Iftekhar Dihan were tagged rapists without being proven guilty, as well as the girl was also being a victim of slut-shaming even after her death.
"Why do you have to shout online and blame anyone without even knowing the actual incident? You may not like someone personally, but you're not supposed to attack personally when that person is seeking help in any situation and, especially when not even proven guilty yet," raged Imam Hossain Shibly, a student of Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology (RUET), regarding cyberbullying which is another uprising problem growing fast in Bangladesh these days. And sometimes it is interconnected with victim blaming. What worse is that people are seen to blame the victim and attack those personally who speak up against victim-blaming and cyberbullying.
"I can recall an incident from my experience. A couple of years ago there was a huge media gossip about a former celebrity couple and how the woman was only to be blamed because she had relationships after the divorce. I stated my opinion in a public comment, supporting her. And everyone practically made me a whore-- saying things like 'When will your video get leaked?' 'How many times did you have intercourse?'And all the other stuff I can't even mention," said Tasfia Saleh Sharon, an MBBS student of Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College regarding her horrific experience.
On the other hand, when asked why such online abuse has increased suddenly, Jahangirnagar University student Shaiha Mah-Jabin Pritha said, "The tendency of talking ill about someone's character without knowing him/her properly isn't new in this society. Nowadays, with the availability of the Internet, it has just become easier to express narrow mindedness. They (offenders) often do not know the situation properly before making any comments or even if they know, they choose to go with the flow."
Recently, Bangladeshi actress Mumtahina Chowdhury Toya also brought the same issue to the fore in the 'My Response' campaign organised to prevent cyberbullying and hate speech. Availability of the Internet has enabled many people to express their thoughts at random on social media not even knowing that it is a public place. That can be marked as the main reason behind increasing cyberbulling. And whether the issue is victim blaming or cyberbullying, the silent audience is also equally responsible for increasing these occurrences. In this case, there is no possibility of overcoming the situation if the right action is not taken as soon as possible.
Software engineer Mead Ahmed Fahim highlighted a completely different aspect in this context. According to him, the consequences of practicing abusing or bullying in the family are very terrible. Since the family is the first craftsman to create a child's conscience and values, it is very much important to take care from a very early age so that abuse, victim blaming and bullying do not become normalised to a child. It is very important to sow the seeds of an idea that it is an offence to abuse someone, and blame someone until proven guilty.
"Many of us practice gossiping about others at home and many times they are mostly ill talks. Even we discuss recent social issues, mostly blaming the victim for that occurrence and that is in front of the children or young members of the household. But we don't even think about what effect that might have on their mind. Unbeknownst to such things, those children grow up with the mindset of bullying or abusing, and don't even realise it's a terrible offense."
Sirajum Munira Tuli is currently studying English literature at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet.