05/06/2010, 00.00
BANGLADESH

For the first time, six young men convicted for sexual harassment in public

William Gomes
A court sentences six young men, aged between 16 and 22, to seven days in prison for harassing female students. It is the first conviction for ‘eve teasing’ or sexual harassment, a crime hitherto unpunished.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – For the first time, a court in Bangladesh handed down a jail sentence to six young men for ‘eve teasing”, a term used in South Asia for sexual harassment or molestation of women in public. The young men will now go to prison.

A lower court in Narayanganja district (Dhaka Division) in central Bangladesh sentenced the convicted men, whose age range between 16 and 22, to seven days in jail in accordance with Section 34 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The six are Mohammed Kamal Hossain (22), Mohammed Mamun (16), Mohammed Sayful Islam Nahid Khan (18), Mohammed Sumon Shyek (18), Mohammed Sentu Miah (20), and Mohammed Apu Islam (20).

Judge Ashrafuzzaman Zilani convicted the six men based on the evidence provided by the police agents who arrested them. Last Tuesday, a unit of the Rapid action Battalion (RAB-11) caught the accused harassing a group of female students from the Gono Bidyaa Niketon School, in Narayanganja District. They were arrested on the spot and tried the next day.

Eve teasing is a euphemism used in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan for public sexual harassment, street harassment or molestation of women. The name Eve is a reference to the Biblical Eve, the first woman in history.

Narayanganja Police Superintendent Biswas Afzal Hossain told AsiaNews that the punishment would serve as a warning to any potential wrongdoer. “It will prevent this type of crime,” he said, “which we are trying to eradicate.”

According to police sources, 44 women and 14 men have committed suicide in the last six months because of sexual harassment, abuse, molestation and family feuds.

One of the victims was Umme Kulsum Elora, a 14-year-old student at Model High School in South Banasree, Dhaka. On 3 April, she killed herself by drinking pesticide because of constant harassment by a 19-year-old man, Rezaul Kamil.

For a year, Rezaul and a friend harassed her in the street. Her family had pleaded with the young man’s family and with school authorities to do something, but met only indifference. To escape the molestation, the girl killed herself.

Human and women’s rights activists have welcomed the decision, the first of its kind against eve teasing. They hope it will set a precedent and be used in future cases.

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