Government, NGO partners and adolescents target 'Eve teasing'
By Jessie Mawson
NARSINGDI, Bangladesh, 21 July 2010 – Hundreds of people, many of them adolescents, rallied in the streets of Narsingdi district recently to call for an end to ‘Eve teasing’ – a term used to describe the public bullying of girls and women by boys and men.
VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Priyanka Pruthi reports on a campaign to end public sexual harassment known as 'Eve teasing' in Bangladesh.
‘Eve teasing’ is become an often brutal form of sexual harassment that can result in permanent physical and psychological damage and profoundly alter the course of a girl’s life. The harassment manifests itself in different ways, ranging from verbal abuse and sexual innuendo to abduction, acid-throwing and rape.
In response, some parents choose to keep their daughters at home rather than send them to school, or they marry girls off at an early age in an attempt to protect their honour and safety.
Blame and stigma
Too often, the victims of sexual harassment receive little support from parents and community leaders; instead, they are blamed and stigmatized.
In fact, the effects of harassment have driven some young girls and women in Bangladesh to commit suicide.
A sense of urgency
There was a sense of urgency amongst the participants, with some of the most impassioned responses coming from the adolescents themselves.
“Blaming the victim will not solve the problem,” said Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, State Minister of Women and Children Affairs and the chief guest at the workshop. “We need to encourage girls to speak out so that we can create community awareness and work together to prevent Eve teasing.”
The clubs aim to provide a safe environment where girls and boys can come together and socialize in positive ways. Club members participate in a variety of activities and information sessions and are empowered to become agents of change.
There are now close to 3,000 Kishori Clubs operating in nearly 30 districts across Bangladesh, thanks to funding from the European Union.
Young people take action
''I have a friend. A boy used to tease her,” explained performer and Kishori Club member Marzahan, 13. “But after we staged this play at our school, the boy began to understand. Our teachers also taught him about the damage that Eve teasing can cause. Now he is friendly to everybody and he doesn’t tease any girls anymore.''
Shohagh, 13, another club member, is among the boys who believe the time has come to take action on Eve teasing. “Girls need to have access to education and be able to live healthy lives,” he said. “They should be able to enjoy their rights.”