Ensure a safe Bangladesh for women
Our society needs to understand that men and women have different roles, but their rights are equal and it is our society’s responsibility to ensure safety and security for every woman
They say women are safe in the country now.
But pocket knives [U1] and pepper sprays in her purse tell a different story.
It is unfortunate that women have to carry these weapons to protect themselves from harassment and violence they face every day.
Women even get harassed in a public place, regardless of whether it is a hospital, park, education institution, or public transport.
Though we talk about gender equality, feminism, and women empowerment, we do not see the actual reflection of these notions at all.
Without ensuring equal rights and proper security, gender equality and women empowerment cannot be ensured.
Increased exclusion and violence against women are results of an unsafe environment.
Sexual harassment is a matter of gender discrimination and human rights abuse and to some extent, it includes actions ranging from unwanted sexual comments and jokes to explicit images taken and shared, to physical touching and rape.
Undoubtedly, these heinous activities are putting our women's lives at risk and holding them back from taking part in the workplace, society as well as the economy.
According to the World Health Organisation, one in every three women worldwide (around 35 per cent of women) has faced sexual or non-physical harassment in their lifetime.
Rape has become so normal that we see one or two rape incidents daily on our newspapers.
According to a recent report by Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, a total of 892 incidents of rape happened in Bangladesh since January where 41 died due to injuries after the rape, and nine died by suicide after being raped.
Regardless of age, the impact of violence and harassment go far beyond physical injuries.
The social and economic costs of physical abuse and sexual harassment in our society are immense and have ripple effects.
Women are suffering from loneliness, incapacity to work, loss of income, and reduced ability to care for themselves. They also have difficulty in trusting men.
Due to increasing insecurity in rural areas, young girls are often dropping out of schools, resulting in impediment to education which is a potential cause of child marriage.
Harassment in workplace produces a hostile atmosphere for women, impeding their road to career advancement and income generation activities.
When it comes to discussing sexual harassment incidents, one of the main questions raised by our society is how the victim was dressed at that time. Victim blaming becomes key, rather than accusing the perpetrator.
Our culture has some ridiculous ideas about how "revealing" clothes increase the risk of sexual harassment.
Undoubtedly, at the heart of this harassment, there is deep dishonuor and disregard for women as equals where men treat women nothing more than an object, a body, or a sexual being.
However, experts say that the patriarchal social system structure and gender hierarchy of power are fundamental causes for increased violence against women.
Women's empowerment and safety are about ensuring their integrity, wellbeing, and happiness, and claiming their freedom and human rights.
The movement for gender equality in broader society began in the late 19th century and now it is happening worldwide.
International agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Types of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), especially through General Recommendations 12 and 19 and the 1993 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, uphold the right of women to live free from violence.
Moreover, our country's foundation is based on ensuring equal rights for all, and so our constitution has given equal treatment for all its citizens.
Article 28(2) allows that women should have equal rights with men in all states and spheres.
Moreover, section 376 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Nari o Shishu Nirjatan Domon Ain (2000) has given strong protection for women's safety and equal rights.
Nevertheless, owing to a variety of social, legal, and structural factors, many victims are deterred from going to court, and as a consequence, proper justice is not ensured.
When the whole world is providing equal access to women, our country is struggling to combat these evil activities against women.
Gender equality is a human right and for that, creating a safer society for women is a must.
For that reason, our society's perception regarding women needs to be changed.
It is high time we realise that without giving women equal access in every ground to flourish by creating a women-friendly environment, real development would not take place.
Gender equality is intrinsically related to sustainable development and is vital to the realisation of human rights.
Our society needs to understand that men and women have different roles, but their rights are equal and it is our society's responsibility to ensure safety and security for every woman.
Awareness-building programmes as well as advocacy campaigns against harassment need to be conducted effectively.
Both men and women must question the basic socio-cultural norms that continue to discriminate against women.
Proper gender education from the grassroots level needs to be introduced.
Ethical and moral education as well as a respectful attitude toward women need to be practiced in every family.
Gender-sensitive training needs to be introduced for all those who work in the justice and security sector.
To have sustainable development it is our government's responsibility to ensure the safety and security of women.
[U1]pocket guns in Bangladesh may be a little unreal?
The author is a student at University of Chittagong.