A new craze in Bangladesh, “eve teasing” (a euphemism for sexual harassment), led the government to declare June 13, “Eve Teasing Protection Day.” The announcement came in the wake of increasing worry over the numbers of women and girls who have committed suicide as a direct result of this phenomenon. A human rights organization said that 14 women have killed themselves over the past four months because of “eve teasing,” and that three men who publicly protested the harassment have also been killed.
In an article for the BBC, Salim Mia recounts the tragic story of Nashfia Akhand Pinky, a 13-year-old girl who hanged herself after being subjected to months of stalking and harassment. Pinky was repeatedly followed on her walk to school by her 22-year-old neighbor and some of his friends, who according to her family, aggressively harassed the girl with ribald comments, smutty jokes, coarse laughter, sly whistles and even indecent exposure.” In January, when Pinky protested against their suggestive remarks, the men blocked her way and beat her. Neighbors watched, but did nothing.
In her suicide note, Pinky wrote, “When [my tormentor] pulled my scarf and harassed me physically in front of the house, onlookers at the scene laughed. Nobody protested. None of my family members are responsible for my suicide.”
Disturbingly, the practice has also forced girls into marriages at a younger and younger age, because families believe that they will be safe from harassment only when they are married. Other girls drop out of school or find their exams delayed. Offenders are dismissed as “harmless or even justified,” according to a piece by Lesley Wexler, and the lack of retribution against “eve teasers” severely limits women’s ability to feel autonomous or independent in public spaces.
Clearly, it’s good that the government is acknowledging this problem for what it is, but more needs to be done, and quickly. The Blank Noise Project is an organization that works to end street harassment in India and Bangladesh, recently launching several high-profile action projects. Check out their website to see how you can help.
Photo via the Blank Noise Project.