Bangladesh: Mobile courts to enforce sexual harassment laws

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Tiassa, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    The BBC reports that Bangladeshi "mobile courts" are now empowered to prosecute the crime of "Eve teasing", or in more mundane words, the sexual harassment and stalking of women. Conviction brings a year in jail, a fine of $70, or both.

    Until now mobile courts dealt with less serious crimes, such as traffic violations and hoarding.

    "For the first time a social crime has been brought under the jurisdiction of mobile courts," Abdus Sobhan Sikder, the Bangladesh home secretary, told the BBC.

    "The idea behind the move is for a speedy trial in cases of sexual harassment and stalking."

    Young women often face verbal abuse and taunts in Bangladesh, and sometimes stalked by colleagues at school or other young men.

    Some young women, unable to bear the repeated insults, have even gone so far as to commit suicide.

    Usually, it takes weeks before these cases can be heard in a normal criminal court and the conviction rate is said to be very low.

    Now the government hopes mobile courts can dispose of the cases quickly - and that the punishments they hand out will act as a deterrent to others.


    The move comes after the High Court asked the government to address sexual harassment and stalking in the wake of a number of suicides and murders.

    As far as I can tell, it's a good idea as long as the courts are reliable. But as Americans have learned, judicial solutions only go so far to counter the effects of prevailing ideology. Bangladesh is a culture in difficult transition:

    A report released by the U.N. Population Fund in September asserted that 47 percent of adult women report physical abuse by their male partner. The Government, the media, and women's rights organizations have fostered a growing awareness of the problem of violence against women.

    Much of the violence against women is related to disputes over dowries. According to a human rights group, there were 81 dowry-related killings during the year. Human rights groups and press reports indicate that incidents of vigilantism against women--sometimes led by religious leaders--at times occur, particularly in rural areas. These include humiliating, painful punishments, such as the whipping of women accused of moral offenses. Assailants who fling acid in their faces disfigured numerous women. One human rights organization reported that 181 women suffered acid attacks during the year. The most common motivation for acid-throwing attacks against women is revenge by a rejected suitor; land disputes are another leading cause of the acid attacks. Few perpetrators of the acid attacks are prosecuted. Often the perpetrator flings the acid in through an open window during the night, making cases difficult to prove. Some arrests have been made, and one person has been given the death sentence.

    The law prohibits rape and physical spousal abuse, but it makes no specific provision for spousal rape as a crime. A total of 3,516 rapes and 3,523 incidents of spousal abuses were officially reported during the year. Of the spousal abuse cases, 2,814 were related to disputes over dowry. Of the 2,130 alleged rapists that were prosecuted, 63 persons were convicted. The Government reports that other rape cases are under trial. During the year, the Government acceded to the U.N. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The Government also has enacted laws specifically prohibiting certain forms of discrimination against women, including the Anti-Dowry Prohibition Act of 1980, the Cruelty to Women Law of 1983, and the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act of 1995, which was replaced by the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act of 2000. However, enforcement of these laws is weak, especially in rural areas, and the Government seldom prosecutes those cases that are filed. According to a human rights organization, there are 7 government-run and 13 privately run large shelter homes available for use by women who are victims of violence. Some smaller homes also are available for victims of violence. However, these are insufficient to meet victims' shelter needs. As a result, the Government often holds women who file rape complaints in safe custody, usually in prison. Safe custody frequently results in further abuses against victims, discouraging the filing of complaints by other women, and often continues for extended periods during which women often are unable to gain release.

    There is extensive trafficking in women for the purpose of forced prostitution within the country and to other countries in Asia.

    (Online Women In Politics)

    The longer term question, then, is whether or not the underlying attitudes contributing to this sort of harassment can be challenged. And that's a much more complicated issue.


    Ethirajan, Ambarasan. "Bangladesh empowers mobile courts to stop 'Eve teasing'". BBC News. November 10, 2010. November 10, 2010.

    Online Women in Politics. "Women's Rights in Bangladesh". (n.d.) November 10, 2010.
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  3. woowoo Registered Senior Member

    in countries where access to women is difficult for cultural reasons
    such as arranged marriages then its not surprising if there is a problem
    with deviant males, as in other parts of the world legalizing prostitution
    would help but again religious attitudes only make matters worse. men
    just want to get laid, why does society have to make it such a problem?
    years ago in bangladesh there was a devadasi tradition where men could
    go to the temple a find a women there but thats been mostly outlawed
    as well.
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  5. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    I've long wondered where this term "Eve teasing" comes from. Seems an awfully strange term... anybody?
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  7. woowoo Registered Senior Member

    courtship ritual
  8. Big Chiller Registered Senior Member


    "Eve teasing" according to wiki is a euphemism used in India and sometimes Pakistan and Bangladesh for public sexual harassment, street harassment or molestation of women by men with Eve being a reference to the biblical Eve.
  9. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    Its also a major hassle in India [eve teasing]. Public transport in Delhi is a no-go area for single unaccompanied women. Its not as much of a problem in Mumbai although but its not uncommon to find someone rubbing themselves into your arse or poking a finger or worse, between your legs.
  10. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    I know what Eve teasing is. What I want to know is where the name comes from. It's a fairly odd phrase - does it refer to Adam & Eve mythology, and if so how did that reference become widespread in a society wherein such mythology is a decidedly minority affair?
  11. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Adam and Eve are part of Islam, too

    I would only point out that Islam, which has a strong presence in both Bangladesh and India, derives itself from a lineage that includes Adam and Eve. Compared to the Judeo-Christian telling, it's an interesting story, and almost starts to make sense.

    No, I couldn't say that's the whole answer, but it's the first thing that occurs to me when considering your question.
  12. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Yeah, that's the only thing I could think offhand. But still seems a bit odd, both in catching on in general and in the use of the term. Unless there's some aspects of the Adam and Eve story I'm unfamiliar with? I don't recall much 'teasing' in the versions I've heard.

    Also, don't forget Pakistan :]
  13. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Maybe it's in what we call "teasing"

    By my understanding of the Islamic myth, blame is shared equally 'twixt Adam and Eve, unlike the Christian version in which it's all the woman's fault.

    That might be irrelevant to the term, though.

    Also, "Eve teasing" could be asserted to assign the role of the Serpent to the harasser—that is, tempting woman into impurity.
  14. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    So from poking around online, the only discussion of the etymology I could find was at the Wikipedia entry:

    Which contends that it is a reference to the Biblical Eve, and further implicates her as a temptress (the implication being that an aggressive response from males is justified, and her fault). So, yeah, looks like the usual slut-shaming, with a Garden of Eden twist.
  15. Challenger78 Valued Senior Member

    Fascinating. As far as I know, Law and Order has always been hit and miss in Bangladesh, with widespread corruption and sometimes chaos.
    As someone of Bangladeshi decent, I can say that attitudes are unlikely to change anytime soon. But if there is hope, it has to come from the expats, that is, Bangladeshis like myself, either brought up overseas, or born there. [If they do go back that is]
  16. Big Chiller Registered Senior Member


    What does Islam have to do with this, wiki did say it was in response to biblical Eve.
  17. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Islam uses that same scripture - you might as well disqualify Christians from talking about Eve, since that's Old Testament stuff. And since Muslims outnumber other Abrahamists in the subcontinent by a large margin, it's reasonable to presume that they are the conduit through which that reference made it into the larger culture there. Unless somebody knows the etymology better than that?
  18. Big Chiller Registered Senior Member


    Get your facts right Islam does not have the same scripture.

    At least I gave you clear evidence from wiki you haven't even provide such evidence. By the way Islamic scripture does mention a first woman who isn't given a name in it but you don't even know the story of this woman in the Quran. To prove you wrong eve teasing isn't a term that old it was invented in the modern age when biblical accounts were already known around the subcontinent.

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