Bangladesh says 'eve-teasing' belittles sex crimes

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 27, 2011 09:50 hrs

Bangladesh's High Court has ruled that using the South Asian term "eve-teasing" to describe the sexual harassment of women downplays serious crimes, a lawyer said Thursday.

"Eve-teasing" is a common phrase employed across India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to cover offences ranging from public groping to minor sexual assault, but campaigners have frequently decried it as a damaging euphemism.

The term, which is a reference to the first woman created by God in the Bible, was criticised by the court in Dhaka on Wednesday during a ruling on a class action over sex abuse filed by legal activists last year.

"The court ruled that using the term 'eve-teasing' to describe sexual harassment makes light of a serious crime," a lawyer for the petitioner, Fahima Nasrin, told AFP.

"The High Court has ordered that from now on, any kind of harassment of women, which is known as 'eve-teasing' in Bangladesh, must be considered sexual harassment."

The court heard the class action after a spike in female teenage suicides that activists say is due to stalking or harassment, which often goes unpunished as it is dismissed by police as just "eve-teasing" by young men.

The court also ruled that stalking, either physically or electronically, must be considered sexual harassment.

From January to November 2010, 26 women and one father of a bullied girl committed suicide, and 10 men and two women were murdered after protesting against sexual harassment, according to a Bangladeshi rights group.

Since coming to power in December 2008 the Awami League government has launched a crackdown, including stationing undercover police in playgrounds to prevent young males from molesting female pupils.