HC GUIDELINES ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT
The High Court in its order on May 14 last year laid some guidelines and asked the authorities to set up sexual harassment complaint centres at work places, educational institutions and constitute committees to investigate charges.
A woman will head such committee that will have no fewer than five members, mostly women.
The order was given upon a public interest petition filed on Aug 7 by Salma Ali, executive director of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Forum on a sexual harassment allegation in Jahangirnagar University against the drama department chairman.
It has defined the harassment and said the compliance of the guidelines was mandatory until those were passed into law in parliament.
It identifies sexually suggestive remarks directly or on the phone, indecent email, giving indecent looks and calling someone ‘Sundori’ in a bad sense to be admitted as sexual harassment in a court.
It also restricted exposing names of the complainants and defendants will not be made public before one is proved guilty.
Lawyers can lodge complaint on behalf of the complainant and the security of the complainant must be ensured, the ruling said. Female complainants will be able to lodge complaint separately. The accused will be handed over to the police after he is proved guilty, says the guidelines.
Hostile environment at work and educational institutions should be prevented. Divisional action should be taken against those responsible for sexual harassment at workplace, the court said.
On Mar 26 this year the High Court ordered the government to submit a report on what steps it has taken to apply the court’s previously issued guidelines.
In Bangladesh, assaulting women physically for dowry accounts still take place amid legal measures, five years’ jail and fines, while for deaths due to dowry one will be hanged and life sentence for attempts.
Section 10 of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Law 2000 punishes 10 years jail and fines for “touching women genital or abuse her sexually”.
Meanwhile, for “touching any sexual organ of a woman and assaulting on sexual intention”, one will be given three years imprisonment and fines under Section 354 of the Criminal Code.
On rapes of women and children, Section 9 of the repression prevention law writes life sentence, while for a rape in police custody, one will be given 10 years jail and fines.
The sub committee on ‘Regulations for Preventing Sexual Harassment and Repression 2008’ on Dec 7, 2008 submitted the draft to the education ministry.
It suggested setting up of centre to prevent sexual harassment at each college and university.
The draft regulation has recommended that four separate groups – teachers, students, officials and employees, and dormitory authorities — should launch a mass awareness campaign against sexual harassment and also take preventive measures.
In the wake of repeated incidents of stalking and sexual harassment, the High Court on Nov 2 asked the government to reply why a policy should not be formulated in this concern.
The recent incidents were shocking, when stalkers went so furious to harm protestors or their target women.
Mizanur Rahman, a 36-year old chemistry lecturer of Lokmanpur College in Natore’s Bagatipara Upazila, died in a hospital on Oct 24 after facing severe injuries. Mizanur was run over by a motorcycle on Oct 12 for protesting harassment of a female student. He had been kept on life support for 12 days.
Only two days after Rahman’s death, Chapa Rani Bhowmik, 48, a mother was killed in a similar manner in Faridpur, by 24-year old Debashish Saha Rony, who had been harassing her daughter on her way.
The latest casualty was Rupali Rani, 16, of Sirajganj. The police claimed that Rupali had hanged herself as Sushil Barati, 18, abducted and forcibly put Sindoor (vermillion) on her forehead — signifying marriage.
An inter-ministerial meeting on prevention of sexual harassment was held on November 10.
The meeting proposed for inclusion of a new Section – 10 (A), in the ‘Women and Children Repression Prevention Act– 2010′, providing maximum seven years’ of jail term and the lowest one year’s for sexual harassment of women. It also proposed for clearly defining sexual harassment as a crime.
According to the proposal, “If any man willfully obstructs any woman or girl child on their way, or hurl abusive comments on them, make any sound, or distasteful gesture, show anything like photo and symbol, or stalks any woman or child by collecting their photos using the internet, telephone, cellphone or SMS, or harass them or violates their virginity, what the woman or girl child can easily witness or listen, should be considered as crimes of sexual harassment, and for this the man concerned should be sentenced to seven years’ maximum imprisonment and one year’s minimum imprisonment and could also be fined.”
Meanwhile, the proposal has been sent to 16 offices concerned, including the prime minister’s office, cabinet secretariat and establishment ministry seeking comments.
we need to raise our voice against those ‘sick’, who are aggressive and have no idea of the consequences…