No respite from sexual abuse of female university students

Sexual harassment of female students continues at public universities across the country.

In particular, recent back-to-back sexual assaults have made female students at public universities feel very insecure and scared.

While the victims are even afraid to walk the paths leading to the male dormitories, the female students generally avoid going out alone at night or take trusted male friends to their side whenever there is an emergency to get them out afterwards. daylight.

Ashrafi Nitu, a fourth-year physics student at Chittagong University, said, “We don’t feel safe on campus, day or night. We now try to move with our male friends when needed at night.

The involvement of strangers in some of the recent harassment incidents, as well as female university students, has deeply shocked female students as it has exposed them to a number of attackers as some campuses are not protected by walls of enclosure or guarded by security personnel.

Five people, including two UC students, stripped a university student naked and filmed the incident near Preetilata Hall as she returned to her hall on July 17.

The attackers also beat up the student’s male friend who was with her at the time and tried to save her.

Many of the insufficient number of security cameras installed around campus are out of order, adding to the general feeling of insecurity among female students.

“A female student was recently harassed on campus by a stranger, but the accused could not be identified because the nearby CCTV camera was out of order. In such a situation, we won’t even know who the perpetrators are if such incidents happen, let alone get justice,” said Taposi Dey Prapti, a fourth-year student from Jahangirnagar University.

The streetlights in front of the women’s dormitory are mostly broken and the administration won’t fix them until the students create pressure, she added.

Female students in public universities are also made fun of by their male classmates or even by their male professors about what they wear.

“Our teachers make derogatory remarks about us being dressed as we choose and berate us for sitting and chatting with boys in the evening or at night. If our professors have such hostile attitudes towards us, how can we feel safe on campus? a masters student from Rajshahi University asked the question.

Two UR business students complained in March 2021 that a teacher, his wife and a guard reprimanded them for wearing an “inappropriate dress inappropriately”.

The intensity of fear that has gripped female students is so deep that they are thinking twice about what they should wear, dreading derogatory comments from male classmates and teachers.

“Some members of the hall administration harass female students, including calling their parents, if they don’t return to their hall by 10:00 p.m.,” Taposhi said.

Two female UC communications and journalism students were harassed by four university sophomores for staying outside at 11:30 p.m. in September 2021.

It’s not just female students who are unsafe on college campuses, but women on the outside are also at risk.

A 23-year-old woman has lodged a complaint with Shahbagh Police Station in the capital, complaining that a motorcyclist sexually assaulted her and tore her dress outside Sir AF Rahman Hall at Dhaka University while she was on a rickshaw on June 9th.

On May 18, a former student of Kushtia Islamic University filed a written complaint with the AU Prosecutor’s Office that two AU students sexually harassed her in Suhrawardy Udyan Park on the evening of May 16. may.

She was spending time with her friends near Shikha Chironton in the park.

Students and teachers blamed the passive role of university committees to prevent sexual harassment and the indifferent attitude of administrations towards such incidents because university campuses become dangerous for female students.

Other reasons they pointed to include a lengthy complaints process, a culture of impunity and the influence of powerful people behind those accused of committing such crimes at public universities, they added.

In 2009, the High Court issued a directive on the prevention of physical, mental or sexual harassment of women in workplaces, educational establishments and other public spaces.

The court also ordered the formation of a sexual harassment prevention committee in each educational institution, requiring all universities to raise public awareness of sexual harassment, including by holding seminars and discussions, a directive that does not has hardly been implemented.

JU Taposi student Dey Prapti said her university’s committee had never held a seminar or workshop on the issue, adding that many did not even know such committees existed.

“Even if someone tries to file a complaint, she has to face some nasty questions,” Taposhi added.

Professor Jebunnesa, head of JU’s sexual harassment prevention committee, said the university would start holding seminars for upcoming freshmen on the issue.

University Sexual Harassment Prevention Committees frequently violate HC’s directive to submit the investigation report, along with recommendations, to the appropriate authorities within 30 days of the incident, a timeframe that can be extended by an additional 30 working days if necessary.

One of the UC communication and journalism student victims says the university authority – under pressure from the protest which erupted after the sexual assault of another student by five youths on July 17 – expelled the perpetrators for a year on July 25 after 10 months of the incident. .

“We have communicated several times with our supervisor and members of the university’s sexual harassment prevention committee, but they have evaded their responsibility under various excuses. In the meantime, the perpetrators threatened us to withdraw the complaint, put the case to rest and even publicly teased us with derogatory comments,” the victim said.

In some cases, the administration has let the perpetrators, who are affiliated with a political party, particularly the ruling party, off the hook.

The two students, expelled for harassing the two UC communication and journalism students, appeared on August 3 for the final 2nd year exam. The defendants are affiliated with the Bangladesh Chhatra League.

“We are even more afraid. Now we have stopped going through the men’s hallways,” the victim said.

GH Habib, Professor of English at the University of Chittagong, said: “Perpetrators attached to the ruling political party get off unpunished in most cases. The culture of impunity makes female students more dangerous.

The University Grants Commission is responsible for overseeing the formation of university committees and activities, as directed by HC.

The UGC generally prefers not to take harsher action against the committees. It usually gives recommendations and cautions, said Professor Dil Afroz, acting president of the UGC.

“We can take action in accordance with the law. But we usually don’t fear repercussions from universities,” said Professor Dil Afroz.

The UGC, she said, would take action if a victim brought a complaint against it with evidence after being denied justice at the university.

One hundred and fourteen universities, 42 public and 72 private, have sexual harassment prevention committees among the 160 universities. However, only 41 universities submitted reports and reported only 26 incidents of sexual harassment in 2020, according to the UGC 2020 report. The UGS has yet to release its report for 2021.

The report reveals that, in most cases, universities let authors off the hook with a simple warning. In some cases, victims withdrew their applications mid-stream, fearing social stigma or being threatened by influential circles.

Afroja Shoma, Assistant Professor at American International University-Bangladesh, said, “Our educational institutions are very gender blind. Everyone from security guards to university rectors should receive orientation in this regard.

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