South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

ActionAid survey shows 88 percent women face harassment on city streets, markets

Published in The Daily Star on Oct. 29 ::

Sexual harassment or violence against women is not limited to women of any certain age. Women experience sexual harassment at some point in their life irrespective of their age, a survey conducted by ActionAid shows.

About 81 percent women, however, do not prefer to seek help from law enforcement agencies fearing further harassment.

According to the survey carried out from June to September of this year, 47.5 percent women in urban areas feel unsafe in public places like markets, streets and public transport while 88 percent have reported harassment by pedestrians, passengers of public transport and buyers in market places.

ActionAid Bangladesh unveiled the survey findings at the launch of a nationwide campaign “Safe Cities for Women” at Spectra Convention Centre yesterday.

The survey covered a total of 1,200 people including 800 women and adolescent girls from seven cities in a bid to understand people’s perceptions on sexual violence against women in public places, and to explore links between violence against women and urban public services.

The survey has also found that 64 percent of the female respondents avoid going outside at night as a preventive measure against sexual harassment and 60 percent prefer going outside in groups.

MA Mannan, senior research fellow of BIDS, presented the survey findings.

The findings show that the root causes of sexual harassment and violence include inadequate laws and their poor enforcement, ineffective and untimely prosecution of the offender, complicated and lengthy legal process, and lack of gender sensitivity among police, hospital staff and judicial authority.

To stop sexual violence against women, the survey underscores the need for collective efforts by the government, political leaders, donor communities, NGOs, women rights organisations, human rights bodies and civil society representatives.

The survey proposes a set of recommendations which include amendment of existing laws related to sexual harassment, ensuring protection of survivors by police and judiciary and human rights groups, and inclusion of gender sensitive courses on the school curricula.

Stressing the need for strict enforcement of laws, Narayanganj City Corporation Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy said that government could prevent sexual violence against women if it wanted to.

Perpetrators of sexual violence often take political shelter which hampers punishment and this needs to be stopped, she added.

“A criminal is a criminal and he must be punished,” she said.

Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said special training is necessary for the police to learn how to behave with a woman.

Inu also said he would suggest the DMP commissioner to include women police along with their male colleagues in patrolling the cities of the country.

He urged women and girls to protest instantly in the case of their subjection to harassment or violence instead of keeping silent.

Among others, Lynne Featherstone MP, parliamentary under secretary of state for international development of the UK, spoke at the programme as a special guest.

Hafizuddin Khan, treasurer, executive board of ActionAid Bangladesh and former adviser to a caretaker government, chaired the programme.