Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), a human rights body, on Thursday filed a writ petition seeking implementation of a decade old order of the High Court on prevention of sexual harassment of woman and children at workplaces and educational institutions.
On behalf of ASK advocate Md Shahinuzzaman and Sayeda Nasrin submitted the writ against the Public Administration secretary and 42 others.
The bench of Justice Md Mojibur Rahman Mia and Justice Md Kamrul Hossain Molla is likely to hear the petition next week, said court sources.
In 2009, the HC passed a guideline with direction to form a five-membe committee at every organization for preventing sexual harassment.
The direction was not implemented and even the Supreme Court Bar Association has no such committee to prevent sexual harassment, said ASK’s lawyer Md Shahinuzzaman.
On August 7, 2008 advocate Salma Ali, director of Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association (BNWLA) filed a writ petition before the High Court in public interest seeking directions to put a stop to sexual harassment at educational institutes and workplace.
On May 14, 2009, HC passed the order to form a ‘Sexual Harassment Prevention Committee’ at all organizations including educational institutions, media organizations, national and private institutions.
In compliance with the order, University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a guideline and directed all the government and private universities to implement it.
“But it was not implemented and stricter direction to form such committees at the secondary to higher educational institutions is needed to prevent sexual harassment,” said advocate Shahinuzzaman.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Committee
According to the HC order, the committee will consist of at least five members and most of its members will be women. Two members will be appointed from outside the institution and a woman will have to be made head of the committee if possible.
The order also directed all the educational institutions to hold orientation with the students in this regard at the beginning of each academic year followed by at the end of every month.
It directed to publish the direction on gender equality and sexual harassment stated in the constitution as a book.
The court said until these directions are not transformed into a law it will act as a law according to paragraph 111 of the constitution and guidelines will be effective at the educational institutions accordingly.
Definition of sexual harassment
The HC in its order said, both physical and mental torture will be included in sexual harassment. Disturbance through e-mail, SMS, telephone, pornography, obscene images, comments, complementing someone in a suggestive way will also be concluded as sexual harassments, it said.
The court mentioned such acts outside the organizations will also be considered as sexual harassment.
Threatening, pressurizing or making false promises to form sexual relationship with a woman, obscene image, offending acts and writings on the wall will also be counted as sexual harassment, said HC in its order.