By Mahmudul Hasan
It would be hard to find anyone in Bangladesh who did not hear the phrase “eve-teasing”in the last few years. The term is widely used in our country to refer to the sexual harassment of women. Oxford Dictionary refers it to be an Indian word originated in the 1960s. Between the sixth and seventh decades of twentieth century, when cinema was becoming popular in our country, this very term started getting familiarity. With the dramatic increase of satellite television channels in the last few years, the word has made its way into our everyday language. This assumption indicates a deep interrelation between mass-media and incidents what we call eve-teasing. Though mass-media greatly contributes to portray how our society goes through different ups and downs but for some ill-motivated and commercially influenced film directors and media moguls several poor quality programs are being broadcasted in everyday program schedule of television channels. These poor quality programs are creating several deep-rooted scars in our society of which eve-teasing has already crossed the highest limit of our tolerance. Before going to discuss more about eve-teasing would like to tell you a typical story of eve-teasing. This is an imaginary story of a 16-year old girl, Suporna Roy.
Though Suporna loves to go to school with her friends, sometimes she finds no one to accompany her. One fine afternoon in last winter, she was returning from her school alone through a quiet muddy street. While she was crossing a nearby post-office, suddenly some miscreants stopped her way and threw slangs at her with some unmentionable gestures. Though it was a common situation for her to face even when with friends but on that day she returned home being extremely embarrassed and harassed. She never wanted to face these boys again but her fate pushed her to face them again and again. As days passed by, the slangs and gestures were becoming more and more acute and severe. Some of the boys motioned to her hands and body. She was outraged with shame and insult. She thought hard to find a solution to solve this problem. Not finding any, Suporna left the cruel world late at night leaving a suicide note on her bed.
For many of us, this might be the end of the story. Yes, that will be, if we don’t raise our voice against sexual violence and its brutal consequences. It is not the only one story we have just read through; it is one of many other incidents happening in Bangladesh and many other countries.
Now let’s see some statistical records of similar incidents. Reportedly, there have been 131 incidents of sexual harassment, 14 incidents of suicide, two attempts for committing suicide, 11 murdered after refusal and nine stopped going to school in 2013 alone. After passing the first six months of 2014 the list is already quite long with 90 harassments, four suicides, one suicide attempt, five killed after refusal, 57 injured and two stopped going to schools (Ain O Shalish Kendra, 2014). Obviously, the possibility remains that, these numbers do not reflect the real incidents wholly. Rate of reporting of such incidents are still quite low considering the social setup of the country. Now, let me refer you some mainstream Bangla and Hindi films to justify the common contents, such as, Eve Teasing (2014),Valobasha Zindabad (2014), My Name Is Sultan (2014), Ranjhaana (2013), Shootout at Wadala (2013) and so on. In addition, plenty of western and Indian television channels are broadcasting films and dramas for our viewing pleasure.
Let me predict for you the typical storyline of one of these movies. The villain stops the heroine to offer his love in an arrogant way but the heroine is stubborn not to make any relationship with the villain. The villain becomes violent with his gangs and the hero reaches flying to rescue the heroine. The heroine is impressed by the altruistic behavior of the hero. So a relationship starts to grow up between hero and heroine. It can be the way round as the hero himself stops the heroine offering his love. And even though it’s not so decent, the heroine has no other option but to accept his love considering the intensity of it. So nothing is remained to stop making romance and singing melodious songs. I believe I have rightly described the climax part of a typical Bangla movie. Because I know the film directors yet have no new else story to amuse the audience.
So now let’s go back to the story of Suporna I told earlier. If I say Suporna should have accepted the offer of the boys like the heroine of the film ignoring her own will, her parents’ social status, you might protest. So let me ask what was the fault of those boys? They desperately needed a heroine to love just like in the movie. They approached to offer their love in the way they had been learning through cinemas since their early life. They might have wanted to be a hero in the cinematic way to find their heroine. It was the easiest way for them to convince a girl as per their gained idea about love and making a relation.
Perhaps you are now searching for a quick solution. You are thinking of pushing the government for enacting a law for prosecuting the perpetrators responsible for Suporna’s death or if there is already one to implement that. But have you considered how overcrowded the prison cells will be with thousands of offenders of sexual violence? What will make you happier to see either more criminals punished in the prison cells after committing equal number of crimes or fewer criminals with fewer crimes? You may protest me by saying that people will think twice before committing such crimes if the law is strict enough. But many scholars argued otherwise. Social scientists and criminologists like Durkheim, Albert J. Reiss, William Glasser, AdolpheQuetelet , Rawson W. Rawson, Joseph Fletcher, John Glyde, Robert E. Park, Henry McKay and Clifford R. Shaw viewed law to be a lame tool for crime prevention when society itself lacks morality and ethical values.
So now, guess, how can sexual harassment become a social phenomenon? If we think deeply, can we relate these offenses with the programs our media broadcasts or our cinema shows? Think about the boys whose age is between fourteen and nineteen years, how much they understand about society and real life? We cannot expect each and every one of them to be equally conscious about honor, respect and the consequences of unusual acts, The socio-economic reality of Bangladesh suggests that a large number of our teenage group are illiterate or poorly taught. By allowing them to watch an act which can be considered as a crime in the society you are ruining them in several ways. Firstly, you are encouraging for doing the same act. Secondly, you are indirectly giving legitimacy for that act. Thirdly, you are reducing the sensation of criminality among them for that act. Fourthly, you are increasing their interest for such an act. There may be some other consequences but increase of crimes will be the ultimate visible consequence. Perhaps, now you can notice the similarity between the way the hero of our typical films follow to offer his love and the way the boys approached to Suporna.
If we would like to bury the eve-teasing permanently, we should find out a sustainable solution. The study of criminology suggests that uprooting the roots of crimes functions as the best way of crime prevention. Yes, mass media is an inevitable part of our society. Programs to be broadcasted in our mass media should be filtered before airing. This proposed filtering system will allow only those programs not harmful for our young stars and cultural bondage as well. Programs containing lessons on geography, science, arts, sports, and so forth should be increased in mass media in order to motivate the young generation onward innovations, creativity and respecting humanity.
For statistics of sexual offence and related incidents in Bangladesh, see the Report by Ain o Shalish Kendra
Mahmudul Hasan has appeared in Master of Laws (LL.M.) final examination in 2015 at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.