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There was a similar situation in 2009. My fiancé was studying at Rajshahi University that time. She used to work as a private tutor to manage her expenses like many other students from a middleclass background. One afternoon, after completing the tuition she was on her way to her university dormitory. The decently dressed slender girl did not take any rickshaw. Instead, she was walking along the “Paris Road” in the campus, enjoying the beauty of the wide road, the greenery all around, the chirping of birds and the slanting rays of the setting sun. Suddenly two students, who were riding a speedy motorcycle, hit at her chest. Immediately she sat down holding her chest as she was as if “being asphyxiated”. And she felt immense pain at her chest, not to mention the humiliation and trauma she went through. She recounted the incident to me on the next day. In both the cases, out of shame and anger I could not look at the women, in both of these incidents.

The way the policies prepared by the people, who do not have connection with the masses and their actual problems, is called a top-down approach, and policies made through top-down approach can never solve problems

The men were seizing the opportunity knowing the fact that males and masochism are dominant characteristics of our society and they will not have to face any action for showing off "a little” of their masochism. Otherwise, how could you explain the points of view of our everyday commuters regarding reservation of seat for women in public transports? They not only occupy the reserved seats while many other women wait for the favour of “conscientious” male who would “relinquish his seat” or for any passenger to get down the bus at the next stop, but also sometimes offer "logic" -- “Why do you need any reserved seat when you are seeking equality?” or “Why do you need any reservation when many women have already sat with males?” All of this exercise of “logic” is going on when the rights of women are being snatched at that very moment at that very place. Maybe that very person is truly “logical” in many other spheres of life but he or they fail to practice it in the public transport or with women outside of his home.

This is not a failure of the individual only. An individual cannot be a perfect citizen from birth with the knowledge of moral and ethical values of the society in which s/he is born. This is where the value of education and policymaking comes in. The policymakers and educationists have some roles to play to make people aware and prepare them for the society. They have to make decisions analysing the actual situation going on in the society as a whole. But the problem is most of our policymakers are generally unaware of the situation, if not ignorant. They, even for once, do not take public transport to go to their office. They travel by air conditioned cars with darkened windows and, ironically, address seminars organised to raise mass people’s awareness and sensitivity about gender and sexuality. They do not come in touch with the people in the actual scenario and cannot make policies skillfully enough to fight the situation.

Let me cite an example of this lack of connection with the people and their actual situation. On 18 January 2015, the finance minister at the time, AMA Muhith, told newspersons that the government will gradually withdraw the notes and coins of Tk 1 and Tk 2. The lowest currency will be Tk. 5. Facing criticism, on the next day he said that the government will not withdraw the notes and coins of Tk 1 and Tk 2. Yes, the minister corrected his statement on the very next day but he would never have thought of saying something like that in the first place, if he had seen commuters trading heated arguments with bus conductors over Tk 1 or 2 in public transports for 2-3 minutes.

The way the policies prepared by the people, who do not have connection with the masses and their actual problems, is called top-down approach, and policies made through top-down approach can never solve problems, said anthropologist Robert Chambers in a book, Rural Development: Putting the Last First.

Parents must teach their sons to respect women and their freedom and rights in every aspect of life and that masochism cannot have any place in the society. But at the same time we must never forget that the policymakers also have a very important role to play here. After all, it takes a village to raise a child, says an African proverb.

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