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Campaign launched to make cities safe for women

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Staff Reporter
Branding stalkers as ‘beasts’, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu on Tuesday urged all to forge resistance against sexual harassment wherever it is seen.
“The women and girls keep mum about eve-teasing and sexual harassment in most cases. Time has come to break the silence and they’ll have to protest sexual harassment,” he said, addressing as chief guest the launching program of a campaign titled ‘Safe Cities for Women’ in the capital.
ActionAid Bangladesh launched the national campaign, ‘Safe Cities for Women’ aiming to ensure sexual harassment-free mobility of women in public places, public transport and city streets.
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development Lynne Featherstone MP and Narayanganj City Corporation Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy jointly inaugurated the campaign at Spectra Convention Centre in Gulshan-1.
Findings of a survey on sexual violence on city women, ‘Safe City for Women’ was unveiled at the launching program. ActionAid Country Director Farah Kabir moderated the function, held with ActionAid Executive Board member and former caretaker government adviser M Hafizuddin Khan in the chair.
The information minister said 50 percent of the country’s population will be urban dwellers by 2025. So making cities safe for women is very important.
Inu said police should be given special training on gender-sensitive issues adding that there is a gap in implementation of laws to curb eve-teasing, sexual harassment and violence against women.
Addressing the function, Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy said if the government wants to stop the sexual harassment, it’ll be possible to end the sexual violence towards women.
She urged the victim women to protest incidents of sexual harassment saying, “Why do you feel shy? It is the stalker who should feel shy.”
Narayanganj City Corporation Mayor said the government should take zero-tolerance approach to prevent sexual harassment.
The survey shows that gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, rape, and sexual abuse, is widespread.
It says women and girls and their families choose not to report, fearing stigma or other fretful outcome. Absence of collective actions, perpetrators being the accomplices of police, and their having connections with locally powerful people are the main barriers to reporting.
The survey says women are limiting their use of public spaces due to sexual harassment, a serious curb on women / girls enjoying range of human rights in public spaces.
It says in many cases those who reported did not get any justice as perpetrators used their powers to wriggle out of legal proceedings.
The study shows that 47.5 percent of women feel sense of insecurity in public transports, streets and public places in the cities.
It says that 88 percent of respondent women experienced obscene comments by passers-by, passengers and buyers, while 46 percent of women experienced abusive language.
Besides, 86 percent of women experienced derogatory comments by drivers or conductors and 69 percent by shopkeepers and sellers.
The survey says that respondents identified various factors - inadequate street lighting, inadequate women-exclusive buses, fear of mugging/hijacking, negligence of police, inadequate police patrol and lack of respect for women- contributing to insecurity in public places.
It shows that women adopt different tactics to get rid of sexual harassment. Among the tactics are avoiding going outside at night (reported by 62.4%), not going outside alone (60%) and avoid visiting specific areas (47.4%).
The study recommended increasing police patrol, enactment of law relating to sexual harassment, inclusion of gender sensitive school curriculum and installment of sexual harassment prevention cell and 24-hour helpline centres at the police stations.
The survey has been conducted on 1200 people aged between 15 and 59 years- 800 women and 400 men- in Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal, Sylhet and Narayanganj cities.