Brutality on girls exacts heavy social cost

Dhaka,  Monday,   2016-09-21
Published : 21 Sep 2016, 20:47:33

Brutality on girls exacts heavy social cost

Concern and anxiety over safety of school-going   girls have been heightened de novo. This   follows   Risa and Nitu  having been   knifed to death in broad daylight by their stalkers. The incidents taking place within 25 days of each other were untowardly representative. This, in the sense   that, one occurred around a city school   and the other near an upazila  school.

In this context, Education  Minister Nurul Islam Nahid reportedly said that   news of armed attacks on girl students from  remote rural areas to  urban centres keep the guardians perturbed. Having put their  daughters  to an educational  institute they  remain anxiety-ridden until their wards come back home.

The minister added on a serious note that in such an aberrant atmosphere there have been instances of girls  having dropped out  of educational pursuits. This is a prospect that we must do everything in our power to avert fully and decisively.

The very cogent reasons why we need to do so are two-fold: First and foremost, can we be oblivious of the fact that among the socio-economic indicators  putting  us ahead of most of our South Asian neighbours  is the increase in women's enrolment  up to the higher secondary level. Some special efforts like free meal along with timely availability of cost-free text books  will  further beef up enrolment.

The second important consideration is imparting life skills to HSC leavers who form the critical mass of  our citizenry, an agenda centred  around functional literacy. Proficiency in basic arithmetic, reading, writing, filling in forms, art of seeking and absorbing information should be inculcated in the pupils aged 5-15 years.

Of course, women's enrolments in technical, professional, social science  and humanities streams at the higher tiers too have been on the rise. And, connected with education is their vision for greater empowerment, gender equality and movement to decision-making  positions.

The social costs do not end with daughters dropping out of any learning stream early in the day. The insecurity of growing up girls, more pronounced in families without an elder brother, especially in rural settings to protect  his sister, has  parents marry off their daughters before the right age. So the fight against child marriage which ruins the health of under-aged mothers through frequent pregnancies and may produce malnourished, even stunted children will have to be linked to continuing education up to an efficacious level - for the majority.

The Education Minister whilst sharing the concerns of the parents at a meeting in his ministry under the rubric "Imperatives to prevent eve-teasing in educational institutions", held that  government's effective steps have reduced the incidence of violence  against girl students significantly.

According to the statistics of Bangladesh Mohila Parishad based on reports from 14 national newspapers, 362 women and children fell victim to brutality last year. Out of them, 22 reportedly committed suicide. From January to August this year, the figures are 181 and five respectively.

It goes without saying that speedy trials and handing out of exemplary punishment to the rouges can only have the desired deterrent effect on sexual harassment. But this remains elusive. Even if the existing laws were applied vigorously the scourge could have been checkmated. In that sense the   job is cut out for the law-enforcers, prosecutors and the rest having to do with the criminal justice system.

Now take the cases of Risa and Nitu, it was good to note that the public  caught up with the perpetrators on the heels of the crimes and handed them over to the police. While that is a big positive in proceeding vigorously on the cases, we do think, however, that the community or the families have a much larger role to play in the prevention of what is basically a social crime.

There have been earlier warnings of an impending  blow-out that could be headed off if the community, or, more precisely, the family had acted preemptively. So far as Risa's case goes, the harassed daughter had reported the stalking to her  mother. But her mother kept from conveying it to her spouse lest the father were tensed up. In respect of Nitu, her private tutor had been pestering her for sometime and on August 05 finding her alone in the house beat her up. Actually, Nitu's father brought up the issue with the tutor's family but to little avail.

Thus sensitisation at the family and community levels coupled with formation of composite, representative  localised  committees to act as oversight bodies could  make for an effective and doable preventative work plan.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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