Workplace harassment is an age-old crisis around the globe. In Bangladesh, it is increasing as more and more women are joining the formal workforce. Sometimes even incidents of rape go unnoticed here. So, one may think protesting against workplace sexual harassment is an extravagance. That person is right! It did go unnoticed until its frequency and severity became so high that in 2009, High Court issued a guideline to address the issue of sexual harassment. However, that did not stop people from harassing women in the workplaces. From garments to corporate jobs, we see cases of sexual harassment every day. Most go unreported. Why?
Because of us! Our nature! Our disgusting characteristic of pointing finger towards the character of the victim! Whenever, we hear a case of sexual harassment, the first question we ask is how the victim was dressed. Was she dressed modestly? Does she possess a humble and unpretentious characteristic? Was she submissive? And then, we issue a character certificate of the victim: “The victim lacks integrity and morality”. We hit the gravel and make the judgment: “The victim was luring the harasser to harass! It was the victim’s sole responsibility that she got harassed. If you keep a dessert in an open place without covering it, flies will come and try to eat it. Is the fly doing anything wrong? No! It is the responsibility of the dessert to be covered!” These are the reasons why a woman does not want to even talk about it when she faces harassment sexual. She starts hiding her frustration. She gets depressed, her productivity decreases and sometimes, she leaves the formal workforce.
100 years ago from today Begum Rokeya said “Jago Go Bhogini (Wake up Sisters)!” Alas! We haven’t woken up yet. Have we?
But time will change. Until then, should we (the women) wait for a change? No! We should change the time. We should be unified against any kind of sexual harassment. We should start talking about it. Today, if one woman protests against harassment, she will inspire hundreds more to protest. We need to set examples. We need to lead by examples. We need to shut those mouths that thrive in victim blaming and shaming. Whenever, wherever we witness any incident we should raise our voices against it. This will give a message to the society that women are not going to sit idly while witnessing their sister get harassed. The society will understand that no sexual harassment will go unnoticed and unreported. We need to stand by our sisters. Hiding and concealing only gives rise to more intensive offences. The harasser gets encouraged to harass another person. This does not bring any good either for the victim or the society. Only strong unified protests and strict application of laws against sexual harassment will create a gender friendly, healthy and productive working environment.
Ms. Saira Banu
Community Wellness Program