Sexual violence against women is not new in Bangladesh as bloggers came forward and opened up about their experiences.
On April 14, several women were sexually assaulted at University of Dhaka during the Bengali New Year celebrations. This had been widely discussed and deplored throughout Bangladesh, but the police haven’t arrested anyone anyone in connection.
Sexual violence against women is not new in Bangladesh. According to Ain-O-Shalishi Kendra, an organization working on women rights, during the period January-March 2015 40 women were subject to sexual harassment and two other women took their own lives. There were also 123 documented cases of rape, resulting in the death of 15 women. Twenty-one of the women raped were minors between 7 and 12 years old.
But a case such as this (a group of 30 to 40 young men assaulted and sexually harassed around 20 women at the celebrations) is new for the country. After the incident, Bangla blogging platform Sachalayatan arranged a Week of Blogging and asked for entries related to harassment and domestic abuse. Many bloggers came forward and opened up about their experiences.
Sexual violence against women can happen at a young age and come from family members. Blogger Nandini Tilottoma explained what happened to her with an uncle:
An uncle visited our home often. When I was 9 or 10 one day he kissed me hard when he was cuddling me. I forced myself away from him. After that he always tried to find an opportunity like that when he was a our house.
One guest writer also wrote that she was sexually molested by a family member:
When I was four years old, I was molested by my about 23-year-old cousin. His penis did not penetrate my small vagina. But touched, many times.
Many girls face harassment in the school environment, too. Blogger Ferrywalla wrote about one such experience:
On that day my private tutor was blabbering on about a lot of things and told me to sit on his lap. When I said no he insisted and said it would help me hear all his words. He again mentioned the same thing for two-three times more. I did not pay heed.
Afroz discussed how her mother was verbally harassed at her workplace:
As my mother was divorced, her colleagues/instructors/managers use to take advantage of her by making indecent comments. Some of them wanted her to call them after-hours or go out with them. One of them proposed that she return a favour by being a permanent mistress.
Guest writer Dossi described how a colleague filmed her secretly:
I took a job in the famous Partex Furniture Limited. One employee from that office secretly filmed me. Then I found out that many in the office, even in the showrooms, had the video on their mobile phones. I complained, he was just a lacquer polisher. But he was born a man. They did not take my complaint seriously.
Blogger Bunohas explained how female employees can’t continue with their jobs bearing the burden of motherhood.
In our country, it takes about 25 years for someone, irrespective of gender, to finish studies. Add five more years to get a job and start a career. But due to biology women are advised to have a kid before the age of 30. So after their studies they are pressured to marry. And then after marriage there is the pregnancy and other pressures. After the child is born women are also expected to take care of the child (not childcare). Given the pressure of nature, family and society only a few working women can continue with their career. Working women with less advantages or luck fall behind or bow out.
Anika Alam quit a lucrative teaching job at a university and started a business venture. She shared what challenges female entrepreneurs face inBangladesh:
When I launched the venture I started to face a number of strange obstacles. Surprisingly, some from my family. I got the support of my mother and siblings except my father. Objections mainly came from the extended family who mostly posed this question: “You will start a business as a women?”
There were also male bloggers contributing to this campaign. Blogger Hasib pointed out the gender discrimination in recruitment. He analysed data from the most popular job website in Bangladesh “BDJobs”:
There are about 20% of posts designed for males and only 3 to 4% for women
This article has been republished from Globalvoicesonline.org.