National Human Rights Commission Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque yesterday said finding a way to stop sexual harassment against women is now a call of time, as the government did could comply accordingly with the High Court guidelines to this end.
The HC directive is to follow the guidelines until a specific legislation is enacted, he told a consultation meeting organised by NHRC in association with UNDP's Human Rights Programme, on “Combating Sexual Harassment and Way Forward” at the capital's Cirdap.
Although the government issued a circular to implement the guidelines, which were for educational institutions and workplaces, the reality is that not much monitoring has been done to this end, Reazul said.
Among the directive was to form committees and to oversee how much they could do to stop harassment, he said.
“These issues did not come to light accordingly,” he said, adding that perhaps the monitoring was not satisfactory from the ministries, while the NHRC also could not monitor the incidents.
Stressing the need for enacting a comprehensive law, Reazul said they would form a working group and action plan based on recommendations of the meeting, and submit it to the government.
“Hopefully the government will consider it,” he said.
He, however, stressed the need for implementing the HC guidelines of 2009 until a new law is enacted.
Speaking on Jaha Alam (an innocent man who was wrongfully imprisoned for three years), Reazul thanked the media for playing a vital role in creating scope for his release.
“In Jaha Alam's incident, media played a significant role. It is the media which first brought the issue into the commission's attention,” he said.
“What is done to him is unjust. He deserves due compensation,” Reazul added.
Responding to another query, the NHRC chief said the recent surfacing of “Hercules” (the name chosen by an apparent vigilante who murdered three alleged rapists and left warning notes on their bodies) was unacceptable, and that the state has to ensure rule of law to stop it.
Speakers at the consultation emphasised the need for enacting a comprehensive law to deal with incidents of sexual harassment against women. They also said awareness should be built among people in combating sexual harassment.
Sohrab Hossain, senior secretary to secondary and higher education division of the education ministry, said they were working on reducing sexual harassment incidents at educational institutions.
Kamrun Nahar, secretary to the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, said the ministry has plans to expand its ongoing “Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence against Women” to eliminate gender violence from society.
Afroza Khan, secretary to Ministry of Labour and Employment; and Kyoko Yokosuka, deputy resident representative of UNDP Bangladesh, among others, spoke.