Barrister Miti Sanjana:
In the modern era, women are breaking the traditional gender roles by venturing into a world once solely dominated by men. Unfortunately the most basic structure of society is showing very little sign of development. The violence and eve teasing against women of our society are rising alarmingly. A large percentage of women in our country are facing this social menace. Whether it is a public or private place, women find themselves vulnerable to the threat of eve teasing and harassment of different forms everywhere.
In past years we have witnessed many pathetic incidents where girls killed themselves because they choose suicide as their only escape since they feared that the harassment would bring dishonour to their families! Newspapers bring out pathetic reports on eve teasing every now and then.
The Parliament enacted many laws to protect the women and children of the country from various typical offences. There are many relevant legislations e.g. Penal Code 1860, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance 1976, Nari-O-Shisho Nirjaton Daman Ain 2000 (as amended), Acid Offence Prevention Act 2002, Information and Communication Technology Act 2006, Mobile Court Act 2009 etc.
Section 76 of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance 1976 provides for imprisonment for 3 months or fine or both if someone uses indecent language or behaves indecently in public places or street etc. Section 76 of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance 1976 provides for one year imprisonment or fine or both if for teasing a woman.
Newly amended Section 9(ka) of Nari-O-Shisho Nirjaton Daman Ain states, if a woman is forced to commit suicide as a direct consequence of somebody’s willful dishonor/sexual harassment/ assault, then the offender will be liable to a maximum of ten years and a minimum of five years of imprisonment. The amendment does not provide remedy for non-contact sexual harassment. Beside this there are several provisions in Nari-O-Shisho Nirjaton Daman Ain to protect women from sexual harassment.
Section 354 of Penal Code provides for two years imprisonment for assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty. Section 509 states that whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both. Besides, there are ample of other provisions like Section 294: Obscene acts and songs; Section: 469: Forgery for purpose of harming reputation; Section 499: Defamation, section 503: Criminal Intimidation etc. which may be attracted in many such instances. Some of the provisions of the Information and Communication Technology Act as well as Telecommunication Act are there to specifically deal with eve teasing or harassment though communication technologies.
The Parliament has included section 509 and some other provisions like section 294, 354, 357 of Penal Code 1860 and some key provisions of the Acid Control Act in the Schedule of the Mobile Court Act 2009 empowering the Executive Magistrates to impose punishments on the perpetrators on the spot.
In response to a Writ Petition filed by National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) (No. 5916 of 2008) the Honorable Court, issued an eleven-point directive on 2009 which suggested a detailed definition of sexual harassment that includes all other existing definitions of non-contact sexually connoting offences. It also included the modern means of erotic insults, harassment and stalking against the women by using latest information technology.
Under Article 32 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh (Constitution) a woman cannot be deprived of her personal liberty. A woman has the right to move throughout the country under Article 36 of the Constitution. Government has also declared 13 June as Eve Teasing Protection Day to raise awareness against this social evil. Besides there is National Helpline Centre for Violence Against Women and Children with a dedicated 24 hour telephone helpline.
From childhood the girls are taught by the society that they should be humble and submissive in front of the men. There are many existing laws to protect the rights of women but law alone is not enough to prevent this malady. The woman has to go through a lengthy period of legal battle and at the same time the poor and narrow opinions of the people of our society at large. Why the effect of harassment would take the lives of our girls which they loved and nurtured with so much care? Why would today be no different than medieval times?
An Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and an activist, Ms. MITI SANJANA, Barrister-at-law (Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, London) is the partner of LEGAL COUNSEL, a Bangladeshi law firm located at the heart of Dhaka city in Bangladesh. Legal Counsel comprises lawyers and other para-legal assistants who bring a superior record of academic, professional and civic achievements in a wide variety of practice areas. The Firm is focused to control its steady growth over the years through its stringent lawyer selection process, which must assure the consistent superior quality of the lawyers.
Ms. Miti Sanjana is a soft-spoken admirable personality. She has come from a highly cultural oriented family and developed her personal values accordingly. She is an activist and columnist.Her tantalizing verbal creations captivate the readers until the very last page. Her legal articles are accompanied by the ethics and righteousness. She writes and speaks frequently about the human rights issues, politics, culture and history. She regularly contributes to the op-ed pages of the popular daily newspapers. She has lectured at and appeared on different popular TV channels of the country to talk about different social and legal issues (Family Law issues, Divorce, Custody, Domestic Violence against women, Human Rights, Environmental Laws)
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