Laws Related to EVE TEASING in Bangladesh:
Eve Teasing is a common phenomenon in Bangladesh. Every other day, women come across some sort of eve teasing incidents that leave a deep psychological scar on them. This is a pathetic state of affairs faced by women of different age. The effect of eve teasing in womenâ€™s life is very painful. We are observing this cruel fact every day in our society; every single daily newspaper must have this news almost every day. This is well known to all of us but the question is how much we know about the laws related to eve teasing? The answer is very little. So in this write up, only the laws related to eve teasing have been mentioned.
Just a few years after Bangladeshâ€™s liberation, the government established the Ministry of Womenâ€™s Affairs. Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance of 1976 first addressed eve-teasing directly. Section 76 of the ordinance defines women teasing as, "willful and indecent exposure of oneâ€™s person in any street or public place within sight of, and in such manner as may be seen by, any woman, whether from within any house or building or not, or willful pressing or obstructing any woman in a street or public place or insulting or annoying any woman by using indecent language or making indecent sounds, gestures, or remarks in any street or public place". Women-teasing is punishable with a maximum one year of imprisonment, or with a maximum two thousand Taka fine, or with both.
That was for the first time, in Bangladesh, a law other than the Penal Code addressed the teasing offence against women. However, the term 'eve teasing' is still not used properly. Likewise, the other five metropolitan police acts/ordinances made similar provisions to penalize the offence of teasing women. However, these laws have no jurisdiction outside their respective metropolitan areas that makes the offence exclusively a local and urban phenomenon. Special laws penalizing the offence of teasing women having nationwide jurisdiction was yet to be passed.
Later, in 2000 the government enacted tougher law to protect the vulnerable women and children of the country from various typical offences. The Prevention of Women and Children Act-2000 came down heavily on the oppressors of the women.
In section 10(1), the law defines sexual torture as, â€œif a man touches the sexual organ or any other organ of a woman or of a child by any of his organs or by any other objects with a view to fulfilling his illegal sexual desire, such act of the man will be termed as sexual torture". This definition, in fact, includes the attempt of rape or outraging the modesty of a woman by actual physical contact. The law punishes the offender with rigorous imprisonment of minimum 3 and maximum 10 years and also an indefinite amount of fine.
In section 10(2), the law defines sexual harassment as, "if a man, with a view to fulfilling his illegal sexual desire outrage a woman's modesty or makes erotic gesture, such act of the man will amount to sexual harassment". A rigorous imprisonment ranging from 2 to 7 years and additionally an indefinite amount of fine is rewarded for this offence. According to this definition sexual harassment is an offence that is committed by not coming with actual physical contact to the victim.
However, the section 10(2) was abrogated when the law was last amended in 2003. A new provision has been added under section 9(ka) of the present law that states, if a woman is forced to commit suicide as a direct consequence of somebody's willful dishonor/sexual harassment/ assault, then the offender will be liable to a maximum of ten years and a minimum of five years of imprisonment. The amendment actually denied the remedy of sexual harassment of non-contact nature.
After the amendment of The Prevention of Women and Children Act-2000 in 2003, there remained no legal provisions in the country addressing directly the problem of sexual harassment. But, newspapers bring out pathetic reports on sexual harassment every now and then. In this crucial situation, Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) filed a Writ Petition (No. 5916 of 2008) to the High Court Division. The Honorable Court, after examining the pros and cons of the problem issued their Judgment on 14.5.2009 giving the government an eleven-point directive which will fill up the legislative vacuum in the nature of law. In these directives the Court suggested a detailed definition of sexual harassment that included all other existing definitions of non-contact sexually connoting offences. It also incorporated the modern means of erotic insults against the women that are prevalent in our present age of information technology. However, though the ingredients of the offence of eve teasing are easily distinguishable from the order, the court did not use the term eve teasing. Actually, eve teasing, though commonly used and understood a term in Bangladesh, its legal definition is yet to be established.
The government has already started the process of fulfilling the directives of the judgment. Complaint Committees have been formed in many institutions according to the decretive no-9 of the judgment. Besides this, to combat this problem the government of Bangladesh has authorized â€˜Mobile courtsâ€™ in order to take legal action against those who are convicted of stalking and harassing a woman. That person would be suffering one year in jail or pay a fine of about Tk. 5000 or both. And it was definitely appreciated that on June 13, 2010 the Education ministry of Bangladesh announced June 13 as â€˜Eve Teasing Protection Dayâ€™.
Sources: The Penal Code 1860
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance, 1976
The Prevention of Women and Children Act-2000
The Prevention of Women and Children Act-2003(amendment)
Internet edition of Daily Newspapers, Weekly Tabloids
Farhana Helal Mehtab
Associate Professor & Head
Department of Law