Justice delayed is justice denied
Hundreds of cases, filed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, are pending before tribunals for disposal across the country. There is a provision under the law to dispose of the cases within 180 days of filing; unfortunately this is not followed in reality. Records show that as many as 161,145 cases filed under the law were pending across the country till June last year. The trial of at least 39,396 cases have not been completed, despite the lapse of more than five years of filing of the cases while the trial of 811 cases have been stayed by the High Court.
Bangladesh has to change the ongoing legal lethargy on the matter, by ensuring that victims have the confidence and support required to come forward and that these cases are handled with the utmost seriousness, we must also change our personal and social outlook while discard the social stigma and discrimination which have become inherent in our existence. There must be zero tolerance towards perpetrators of sexual abuse, as a strong message needs to be sent to all would-be predators. Ultimately, while measures to catch and punish abusers are an important part in the wider efforts to eliminate violence against women, what we need, in the long run, is a change in the mindset that lets many men and boys think harassment is somehow acceptable. However there is a long way to go, because this involves properly educating young men, and this education begins at home.
The pervasiveness of sexual harassment -- in our university campuses, our workplaces, and our homes -- is one of the ugliest realities of our society today and an area in which, sadly, we have made very little progress over the years. No doubt, we are making great strides economically, but the fact remains, women of this country still find themselves encountering sexual harassment and feeling unsafe every single day, whether out on the street, on public transport, or attending classes. Statistics rampant sexual violence and rapes have hit the ceiling, and even those numbers are most likely under reported, as our system does not make it easy for women to report such crimes committed against them. It is unlikely that the mechanisms currently in place will be enough to stop sexual harassment.
It is unlikely that the mechanisms currently in place will be enough to stop sexual harassment, so these should be treated as the first step only.
What we really require, not just in university campuses, but for all offenders, is a strong legal mechanism in place that does not let sexual offenders off the hook; it is the lack of punishment which emboldens repeat-offenders and would-be harassers, and that is a culture that needs to end.