Sexual harassment at educational institutions

Abiding by the law is no longer compulsory. That is how it seems when it comes to sexual harassment in the country's educational institutions. Despite court orders in this regard, the institutions have not bothered about complaint cells and committees to prevent sexual abuse in the educational institutions. Even Dhaka University has been negligent in this regard.

In nine public universities of the country, the committees are either non-functional or non-existent. Incidents of sexual abuse occur in one university after the other, but the authorities are totally nonchalant about the legal directives to address the issue. This is blatant contempt of court.

The protest movement against rape in Jahangirnagar University in 1998 led to the demand for anti sexual harassment rules and complaint cells in the institution. When this was implemented in the university, the demand spread to the other institutions too.

In 2009 the Supreme Court ordered for complaint cells and sexual harassment prevention committees to be set up in all universities. The University Grants Commission (UGC) was given charge to ensure the order was implemented.

UGC states that over the past five years, only 28 of the 35 public universities and 34 of the 79 private universities have formed these committees. These are virtually ineffective and offer no support to the students and female teachers.

It is often difficult for the victims to go to court against the perpetrators who don the garb of authority, like teachers and others in such positions. The existing laws are also ambiguous about the definition of sexual harassment. That is why is essential for the educational institutions to have regulations regarding sexual abuse and functioning committees to prevent such harassment. Alongside the law, institutional action against sexual crimes can give women a sense of security.

If the committees remain inactive and do not adhere to the court directives to have more than one women member and be headed by a woman, then all is in vain.