The effects of “eve teasing” on development in Bangladesh
The Hunger Project • 5 Union Square West • New York, NY 10003 • www.thp.org
Imagine for a moment that you are an eleven year old girl in Bangladesh. After helping your mother cook and serve breakfast, you are preparing for school. You should be excited. You like learning and school provides a reprieve from the drudgery of household chores. But you are not excited. Instead, you are filled with dread. That is because every day, on the long walk from your house to school, you are surrounded and teased by a group of boys. The boys yell indecent things at you. They laugh. They push, pinch, and grab at you. Sometimes they pull at your clothes so violently that you are afraid they will be ripped right off of your body. By the time you get to school, your face is hot with humiliation and your eyes sting with the fear that you will have to go through the whole thing again on the walk home. ***
The Insidious Everyday Reality
Sexual harassment, often known as “eve teasing”, is a regular occurrence for the women and girls of Bangladesh. A recent study by the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) showed that almost 90 percent of girls aged 10-18 have undergone the experience. The harassment can take a variety of forms and the perpetrators come from multiple walks of life; they are rich and poor, educated and uneducated; according to the BNWLA study, teenage boys, rickshaw pullers, bus drivers, street vendors, traffic police and often supervisors or colleagues of the working women had all been cited as “eve teasers".1 For the girls and women who are subject to sexual harassment, the experiences are traumatic and can leave deep psychological scars. The BNWLA study also noted that in the past two years, at least 12 girls have committed suicide in circumstances stemming from “eve teasing”.2 And the innocuousness of the label belies further violent implications. It is often associated with rape and murder.3 Rape is the most common form of violence against women in Bangladesh. Between 2002 and 2006, there were over five thousand reported incidents. Almost two thousand of those rapes were of girl children. 625 of the victims were killed after they were raped and 69 killed themselves.4 One has to wonder how many of these crimes could have been prevented if society took sexual harassment more seriously and did not wait until girls were raped and murdered to take action. No one should have to suffer the experience of sexual harassment or the physical and sexual assaults that often come with it. As vicious and tormenting as sexual harassment is for the girls and women who endure it, however, the implications extend to the entire nation.
Sexual harassment increases girls' drop-out rate from school.5 Parents concerned about their daughter's honor or safety sometimes keep their daughters home and/or marry them off at an early age.6 Harassment: the effects of “eve teasing” on development in Bangladesh September 26th, 2008 Emma Weisfeld-Adams Page 2 of 6
Education is an inalienable right guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Bangladesh is a signatory.7 But more than that, education for girls is key to improving the standard of living in a society. Anything that results in girls not being educated is a disaster for us all. Study after study shows that educating girls yields a multiplicity of benefits, including later marriages; reduced fertility rates; decreased infant and maternal mortality; improved health and nutritional status; and greater participation of women in political and economic decisions. According to the UN Population Fund study, educated women farmers perform exceptionally well compared to men. A study found that crop yields could rise up to 22 percent if women farmers had the same education and inputs (such as fertilizer, credit, investment) as men farmers.8 Kumud Sharma of the...