Workplace Harassment

Published by The News Today on 28th October, 2016 (Link Above)

Akhi, a 19 year old works in a large garment factory that makes clothes for big international brands. She came to Dhaka to earn money to support her poor family. With the help of a neighbor from her village she got this job at the factory. She toils long hours and returns home late with her other co-workers. During weekends she goes out with the girls who share the same room with her. Often they buy tickets to watch Bengali movies. Sometimes they hangout in the small local markets to buy some cheap make-up stuffs, bangle, beauty soaps etc. She is a beautiful teen who loves to wear makeup like other teenagers. She has a supervisor in charge of her floor. Soon, the floor in-charge started approaching her every morning when she arrived at work. On several occasions he wanted to meet her outside. During night shifts the supervisor started to stalk her. Then, in one dreadful night when she was returning to home alone after work, she got frozen inside, out of shock and fear as the man grabbed her clothes, tried to drag her to somewhere and threatened to fire her from job if she reveals it to anyone. Next morning when she returned to work, her supervisors, floor managers, production manager all were ganged up to attack her. They verbally abused her in front of many workers. They said they would pull out her fingernails one by one as she wears nail polish to spoil men. One of them yelled calling her a slut. They kept yelling at her until she fainted. Her co-workers took her home from the scene. The words of those men had been bothering her all night. She did not talk to her roommates that night. She could not at all bear what has happened and the words been spoken to her. She became emotionally fragile and was suffering in silence. Next morning her room mates found her lifeless hanging body. Sexual harassment is a really serious problem in our country. It is common in many workplaces. Most often the victim would have to go to her employer who has misogynistic mindset, to file a complaint against a supervisor or co-worker. Many of them think sexual harassment is not something that’s widely discussed in our culture and, therefore, everyday young women are being objectified by society. Young women experience a shocking amount of sexual violence, both verbal and physical in their workplaces. People of our society largely consider it as a private issue, not something to be discussed in public and tend to blame the women if they come forward with a complaint. In the landmark case of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) Vs. Government of Bangladesh and Others 22, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh defined “sexual harassment” and laid down guidelines to protect women and girl children from sexual harassment at the workplace and educational institutions in both the public and private sectors. These guidelines have to be followed by all organizations until adequate legislation is enacted. The Court issued a series of 11 Rules to serve as guidelines. This includes formation of a sexual harassment redressal committee and carry on disciplinary action against every complaint of harassment. Such action may lead to dismissal of the harasser along with the possibility of commencing criminal case. Organizations are also directed to take measures to create awareness against sexual harassment. In Bangladesh sexual harassment is a punishable offence under different laws. Section 10 (2) of the Nari-O-Shish Narjaton Domon Ain (2000) which states that, any man who, in order to satisfy his lust in an improper manner, outrages the modesty of a woman, or makes obscene gestures, will have engaged in sexual harassment and for this, the above mentioned male will be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of not more than seven years and not less than two years and beyond this will be subjected to monetary fines as well. Sexual harassment also punishable under Bangladesh Penal Code 1860. Section 509 of the Bangladesh Penal Code provides that “Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any women, 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.” Protection from sexual harassment and to work with dignity is universally recognized as basic human rights. Akhi’s life, her dream and her hope have been stolen by the molesters and shockingly they were her co workers. The society continuously criticizes a woman for her character and stains her reputation. It’s not just Akhi, she is one of hundreds and thousands of victims of sexual harassment.