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By Nazneen Shifa

Of late there is some debate on the term “eve teasing”. Most of this debate revolves around the question of naming the very phenomena. Should we use the term “eve teasing” or should we call it sexual harassment? Although I keenly follow the debate and discussion for and against this term in order to get a societal perspective in these matters, I must say that I certainly wish to use the term sexual harassment (in Bengali either Jounohoirani or Jouno nipiron) as “eve teasing” does not explain what actually happens generally against women in South Asia.

All this reminds me of one incident when I was working with a women’s rights organization.  On the eve of Twenty first February (International Mother’s Language Day) and International Women’s Day 2008 we were involved in a campaign called ‘Stop using abusive language and protect and protest eve teasing towards women in public places’. I was kind of unsure and critical with the use of the term ‘eve teasing’. Instead, I was in favor of the phrase ‘rastha ghate narir upor jouno hoirani’ (sexual harassment towards women in public spaces). But I failed. It was not accepted although a long discussion took place as to whether we should go for such an “unpolished” language for “our” campaign. In the end we couldn’t use the term jouno hoirani or sexual harassment

I found it quite paradoxical as we were working for some cause that usually affects women, girls and Hijras (Also to be noted that sexual harassment towards the Hijras is often beyond the hetero-normative shushil discourses/ NGO discourses of “gender” rights). Simply, I wanted to argue that the term “eve teasing” did not reflect the brutality of the event and “sexual harassment” better captured the situation.  Yet, we found people debating on this.

Almost a decade ago I have had similar experiences when as a student we were organizing for ‘Jouno nipiron protirodh moncho’ (A platform against the sexual harassment towards women). When I used to mention the name of the platform in various social gatherings, the people inadvertently would be shaken .  I still remember one of my very close neighbor who made a comment that ‘why you Jahangirnagar students always do work on such kind of issues’ as she knew that I was involved with the anti sexual harassment movement in JU campus in 1998.

(Reworked from an earlier fb note)

Artwork and photograph: Mahajabin Khan

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2 thoughts on “On “eve teasing”

  1. In the 2010, the High Court of Bangladesh in its historical verdict on sexual harassment outlawed the term “eve teasing.” Irony. Women organizers still shy away from using the crime as it is in lived experience.

    • Just a correction, Bangladesh High Court made the verdict on May 14, 2009. However, as you point out the situation has not changed much. If you see the various campaign materials (i.e. leaflet, flyer, sticker, poster and other forms) of NGOs produced after the verdict, you will see they are using both words simultaneously. On my earlier fb note on the same issue, I found several interesting comments that I would like to share here

      Mirza Taslima …..We will have to engage in constant struggle to establish the term ‘sexual harassment’, because naming properly the oppressive activities is essential for getting the result.

      Susmita Chakrabarty…. ‘Eve teasing’ shobdoti procholito ar hal-e jonopriyo korechhe shikhhito-korta-korttribayktira ar pottro-pottrikay ei shobdotir bohul bayboharer jonno ekhon shadharonlokerao shobdoti baybohar korte shikhechhe, shikhchhe. shobdoti je prokritopokkhe
      nari-nirjaton(oboshyoi jounotakendrik) take dharon to korchhei na borong nari-nipironke bhoyongkorvabe arral korchhe. Kichhu din age Fb-teo ei shobdo nie bitorko hochchhilo. ‘ EVe teasing’ shobdoti porihar korar jonno mediashoho onnano khettre (NGO level-e, shorkari-porjay-e, e bishoyok Shova-shomabeshe-manobbondhoner jaygagulote) eta nie porishkarbhabe alap tule shobdoti porihar korar pokkhe jono-mot gore tolar cheshta kora jete pare. Oneke shob jeneo e bishoyok manobbondhoner baynar-e ‘EVe teasing’ shobdoti-e otut rakhchhe! Amader deshe issue bhittik kaj-kormo(kore-kommme khaua!) korar shathe e dhoroner dharona-bibharntimulok-nam chalanor prokria roechhe. Phole, shobdotir bayboharer shimaboddhota/osharota nie kotha bola chalie jete parai kaj.

      Samia Ahmed….. Nice logic no doubt. But on legal point of view, there can be distinction between the two words, Sexual harassment and “Eve Teasing”. Rather we can term the word in ‘Teasing” may be the word “eve” is giving the feeling of softness.
      Again, for any support from legal point, then we have to term these based on our technical views. We i.e., women are always emotional, based on our emotion we are always in the trap of wrong calculation. Then my view is – definitely we need to give an wording which will be appropriate, but not in such way, when we will ask for justice, we won’t be able to prove it properly, as a result will be in false case. Which is always happening under “Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Domon Ain 2002”.

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