According to the statistics of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Bangladesh in 2018, some form of sexual harassment at the workplace is encountered by more than 10 per cent of the female police population. Human rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra reported that 1,413 women were raped in 2019, it was 732 in 2018 which indicates a big alarm.
According to ActionAid, 80 per cent of garment workers in our country have faced sexual violence at the workplace in 2019. About 87 per cent of married women in Bangladesh have been victims of various forms of domestic violence, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
All the numbers and data mentioned above illustrate a truly sickening situation in our society. We hear about rape, sexual harassment, and assault here every day.
Sarah woke up early in the morning like any other day to catch her school bus. Every morning when she got dressed, a part of her subconscious would scan her outfit from head to toe. Her gaze moved over her body from the perspective of men who feel the need to yell obscenities at children. She used to get pretty offended and unsettled by it, but gradually this converted into a norm for her. Street harassment is something she ponders upon every morning. However, she always had the spirit in her to break that shackle and this is where our Sisyphus comes in. Sarah might not be a real character but is a reflection of all women.
And who is this Sisyphus? He was a cruel Greek king. He was punished to push a rock up on a hill, only to find it rolling back upon reaching the top. Eventually, he failed each and every day.
The mention of Sisyphus can be found in Albert Camus's book 'The Myth of Sisyphus'. Camus described that Sisyphus was unstoppable. He pushed the rock every time even though it would roll down. But he refused to stop. Regardless of his failed attempt, he would restart the task the next morning.
Camus imagined Sisyphus smiling while pushing the rock. This write-up will shed the light on a new Sisyphus tale that includes the same metaphorical task of pushing rocks. As with the old Sisyphus, there is happiness and hurdles in the task. However, there is a twist. The New Sisyphus is a woman. And the tale is about a women's movement.
Women are navigating through a marvellous time. A time when women possess the ability to speak up against injustice without fearing the repercussions of people from powerful stances. A great time where every revelation is inspiring another woman to talk up and be assured that there will be several people standing to support her. And this is how the #MeToo movement has come at this stage.
The new Sisyphus in town is a change maker. She is silently fighting against the condemnation. She is resilient, persistent, and determined.
This movement came back to life after allegations against Mr Harvey Weinstein was broadcast in October 2017. Actress-activist Alyssa Milano tweeted: "If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted write #MeToo as a reply to this tweet." The hashtag was tweeted a million times in only 48 hours. The #MeToo movement was founded by an activist Tarana Burke on Twitter a decade ago to raise awareness about sexual violence. And it has found its biggest success till now through Harvey Weinstein’s 23 years prison sentence, sending a message to all the repressors.
Women have been speaking up since 2017, fueling the anti-harassment #MeToo movement. These silence breakers have been named Time magazines Person of the Year. This movement enabled sexually assaulted victims to speak up against the silence.
The writer is a third-year student at the Department of Economics, Bangladesh University of Professionals. He can be reached at [email protected]