Ashutosh Sarkar

Expressing grave concern over repeated instances of men stalking women and girls with tragic consequences, the High Court yesterday directed the government to formulate a policy and guidelines to arrest the prevalence of the crime.

The court asked the law secretary to work on it in consultation with secretaries to the home, education, labour, local government, women and children affairs ministries, and the cabinet division; and with the inspector general of police (IGP).

An HC bench ordered all deputy commissioners (DCs) of the country, and some other government agencies to remain on high alert regarding such stalking, and to take effective steps.

The law ministry will be responsible to turn in a report within a month about the steps to be taken.

The bench of Justice Md Imman Ali and Justice Obaidul Hasan came up with the directives following a public interest writ petition filed on Monday by Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA), seeking the directives for protection of women and girls against stalking.

The petition was sparked by over two dozens of deaths in the last nine months resulting from such stalking.

The court yesterday also directed the IGP to take immediate steps to apprehend all stalkers.

According to a legal rights group Ain O Salish Kendra, at least 25 women killed themselves to escape the horror of stalking by men, while nine males lost their lives for standing up against such stalkers in the last nine months.

During the same period, a father committed suicide, unable to withstand watching her daughter being humiliated; a woman was killed by neighbourhood hoodlums; four women attempted suicide; around 131 women were assaulted by male stalkers; and 54 males came under attack for protesting against such stalking.

The HC bench ordered local administrations to take effective actions against the stalkers as soon as they get information of such incidents at any place of the country.

It directed the home secretary, and the IGP to take immediate steps to ensure protection and security of stalking victims.

It also ordered the secretaries to the education, and women and children affairs ministries to ensure that the media, particularly television channels and radio stations, broadcast programmes about the serious consequences of the crime.

The court fixed December 6 for further orders on the issue.

Passing the directives, the HC bench observed that specific rules and laws should be formulated to address the problem, as existing laws are not sufficient.

Parents of youths should know what is going on with their children, as stalking of women and girls has been taking a new dimension lately, it said.

Petitioner’s lawyer Advocate Fahima Nasrin told The Daily Star yesterday that the court directives will play a significant role in reducing such stalking.

Only enactment of laws or formulation of a policy cannot stop stalking of women and girls, she said adding that moral values of the population must also be awakened.

The highest punishment for stalking women and girls is one-year imprisonment, which is inadequate as a deterrent in the face of increasing instances of the crime, she said.

During the hearing of the petition, senior lawyers — Advocate KS Nabi, Advocate Abdul Baset Majumder, Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud, and Barrister Fida M Kamal placed arguments as amici curiae [friends of the court] before the bench.

They told the court that mass awareness about the problem should be raised to prevent the scourge.

MOBILE COURT

State Minister for Home Affairs Shamsul Hoque Tuku yesterday said the government is planning to deploy mobile courts to stop such stalking.

He said the process to form the mobile courts is already underway. “A proposal to bring necessary amendments to related laws has been sent to the law ministry,” he told reporters at the Bangladesh Secretariat.

Tuku said the government is also thinking of taking measures to put pressure on stalkers’ families.

Source: The Daily Star – 03.11.2010