Rogue BCL elements need to be demonstratively punished
THE abduction of an assistant teacher of Matbaria Government Primary School at Chougachha in Jessore, allegedly by a local leader of the Bangladesh Chhatra League, an associate organisation of the ruling Awami League for students, and his cohorts highlights yet again the vulnerability of women to assault and harassment. According to the brother of the abducted schoolteacher, as quoted in a New Age report on Friday, the BCL leader had long been stalking her and became enrage after she got married on April 13. At midday on Tuesday, the BCL leader and some of his associates stormed the school, wielding firearms and bombs, and kidnapped her at gunpoint, sticking tape on her mouth, ‘in front of the school’s headmaster, teachers and students.’
Harassment of girls and women, including stalking, teasing, etc, has increased alarmingly in recent times, especially since the Awami League-led government assumed office in January 2009. What’s worse, in some of the high-profile cases of sexual harassment and assault, involvement of people affiliated with the ruling party or its associate organisations have been alleged. In fact, as in other cases of criminality, a number of BCL leaders and activists have hogged the headlines for their involvement in sexual harassment and assault of women. For example, just the other day, two key leaders of the Satkhira BCL reportedly raped a student, who had been invited to perform in a cultural programme organised to mark the organisation’s founding anniversary. Moreover, in the past three years or so, there have been a number of incidents at different educational institutions, including Dhaka and Rajshahi universities, where female students were stalked or teased by people belonging to the Chhatra League.
Regrettably, however, neither the ruling Awami League nor the government has hardly taken any decisive and deterrent actions — organisational or legal — against the perpetrators despite widespread protests from teachers and students. Of course, there have been sporadic warnings from some key functionaries; however, their tough talks have hardly translated into effective actions. Meanwhile, the government has also failed to effectively implement the directives of the High Court, including enactment of a well-defined law, to prevent sexual harassment of female students at educational institutions and elsewhere.
Such absence of effective legislative action from the ruling party on the one hand and prohibitive enforcement of the existing law by the law enforcement agencies on the other has not only allowed stalkers to get away scot-free but may also have induced in them a sense of impunity and emboldened them to carry on with their pernicious activities, frequently and ferociously. Heightened social awareness and resistance are indeed a prerequisite for protection of women from sexual harassment and assault. In fact, in recent times, people in different areas across the country have set precedents of social resistance against the malice and in some cases several people have even lost their lives for standing up against the perpetrators of sexual harassment. However, until and unless such resistance is complemented with stringent laws and their strict enforcement, women will continue to be vulnerable.
The government needs to realise that words without complementary deeds are not manifestation of its commitment to protect the rights of women. Hence, it needs to take action immediately to rescue the abducted schoolteacher and have her tormentors probed, prosecuted and punished so as to set a prohibitive precedent against sexual harassment of women.
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