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Law to stop sexual harassment on the cards

Published : 17 Dec 2022 10:28 PM | Updated : 18 Dec 2022 02:42 PM

An initiative has been taken to enact a new law for preventing the sexual harassment in the country. The draft of the proposed law is now at the Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Division.

The National Girl Child Advocacy Forum (NGCAF) and some other platforms are working so that the proposed anti-sexual harassment law is enacted soon. 

Nasima Akter Joly, secretary of the NGCAF, said that the incidents of sexual harassment, especially against women, happen in the country. If a specific law is enacted such incidents could be curbed in the country, she added. 

Talking to Bangladesh Post on Saturday Nasima Akter Joly said that a comprehensive plan has already been proposed to prevent sexual harassment in the light of existing laws and policies aimed at ensuring safe workplaces, educational institutions and public places like markets, roads, playgrounds and  transports for women and children. Against this backdrop, they along with others prepared the draft of an anti-harassment law titled ‘Sexual Harassment Prevention and Remedies Act, 2022’. Such a law is indispensable because the existing laws are not quite adequate to prevent sexual harassment in Bangladesh, said the NGCAF secretary. 

She, however, said the Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Division is working on the draft and the division prepared a comprehensive draft over the proposed law.    

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association (BNWLA) in 2008 filed a writ petition with the High Court seeking directives to prevent incidence of harassment.  The higher court in 2009 issued an order in this regard defining sexual harassment. The HC in its ruling asked the government to enact a law in this regard. 

Against this backdrop, the Law Commission and the BNWLA in 2010 jointly prepared a draft of an anti-harassment law entitled ‘Sexual Harassment at Workplace and Educational Institution Prevention Act’ and submitted it to the law ministry. The proposed law has not been enacted in the last twelve years. 

Nasima Akter Joly of the NGCAF said the draft prepared by them and the draft prepared by the Law Commission and the BNWLA were made with the same aims and objectives. There are similarities over the harassment definition, proposed punishments and other points. 

Deputy Speaker Advocate Md Shamsul Haque Tuku said that sexual harassment has become a social disease. Sexual harassment is increasing in the society. Against this backdrop, an anti-harassment law is a time-befitting demand. 

The Deputy Speaker said this during a meeting on the draft of the proposed ‘Sexual Harassment Prevention and Remedies Act, 2022.’ The Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights and the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum jointly arranged the meeting recently with people from various classes and professions to get their views on the draft.

Many participants in the meeting said that besides women and girls, boys and persons of the third gender are also being sexually harassed. These issues must be addressed before finalizing the law. The recommendation for punishment also came up in the meeting. The emphasis is on creating mass awareness at various levels to prevent sexual harassment.

Regarding the proposed law, Basanti Chakma, an MP from the reserved seats for women, said that awareness should be created among the people of all strata, including the hill people. 

Adiba Anjum, another MP from the reserved seat for women, said that the proposed anti-harassment law should not be used to implicate anyone.

Talking to this correspondent, Syeda Anonna Rahman, a development activist who works with the WBB Trust, said that the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum and some other platforms are now working for the proposed law as they realize that the harassment victims cannot seek any legal remedy due to the vacuum in existing laws. If the stalkers could be brought to book, major offences like rape would automatically drop. Against this backdrop, the proposed ‘Sexual Harassment Prevention and Remedies Act, 2022’ should be enacted soon, she opined. 

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