Understanding Sensual Violence with Media

Issue, National

By Mahmudul Hasan

It would be hard to find anyone in Bangladesh who did not hear the phrase eve-teasing for last few years.  It is widely used in our country to mean the sexual harassment to women. Oxford Dictionary refers it to be an Indian word and says the time of origin is 1960.   During the sixth or seventh decade of twentieth century when cinema was becoming popular in our country this word was also becoming popular. And for last few years when there is a dramatic increase of satellite television channels this word is also becoming a greatly talked buzz everywhere. This assumption indicates a deep interrelationship between mass-media and incidences what we call eve-teasing. Before going to discuss more about eve-teasing we should introduce with a real picture of it. I am going to share a story of a 16 years old teenage girl, Suporna Roy.
From her childhood, Suprona loves to go to school with group of friends. However, sometimes she needs to go to school alone. As usual someday in the last winter she was returning from her school alone through a quiet muddy street. On her way to home, she was enjoying the sunny afternoon seeing the scenic beauty of her village. Suddenly while she was crossing the nearby post-office, some miscreants stopped her way and threw slangs at her with some unmentionable gestures. Though it was a common   situation for her to face even when with her friends but on that day she returned home being extremely embarrassed and harassed.  She never wanted to face these boys again but her fate pushed her to face them again and again. One day the slangs and gestured were more acute and severe.  Some of the boys motioned to her hands and body. She was outraged with utmost shame and insult.  She thought of a solution to solve this problem, but not finding any she was compelled to commit suicide, and unfortunately she did it at late night only leaving a suicidal note on her bed. .
From many of us, that might be end of story. Yes, that would be if we don’t raise our voice against sexual violence and its brutal consequences right now. We are not ready to see how the society is getting burdened with another immature death like Suporna’s one.
I guess you are quite uncomfortable after listening to this terrible story. It is not the only one story we have just read through; it is one of many other incidents happening in Bangladesh and many other countries.
Now let’s see some statistical reports of such incidents. Reportedly there were 131 incidents of sexual harassment, 14 incidents of suicide, two attempts for committing suicide, 11 murdered after refusal and nine stopped going to school in 2013 alone.  And during the first six months of 2014 the  list is already quite long with 90 harassments, four suicides, one  suicide attempt, five  killed after refusal, 57 injured and two stopped going to schools (Ain O Shalish Kendra (ASK): 2014). Obviously, the possibility remains that, these numbers do not reflect the real incidents wholly. Rate of reporting of such incidents are still quite low considering the societal setback and vulnerability of gender based role in our country.
If I have bothered you by telling the dreadful intensity of sexual harassment incidents in Bangladesh, I suppose you need some sort of refreshments. Better to go for a Bangla or Hindi film on the television. If you do not have any idea about Bangla or Hindi films, then I can name some for you; such as  Eve Teasing (2014),  Valobasha Zindabad (2014), My Name Is Sultan (2014), Ranjhaana (2013), Shootout at Wadala (2013) and so forth. In addition to that you can watch plenty of western and Indian television channels broadcasting films and dramas to please your eyes.
We can predict for you the storyline of the movie that you have just started watching. The villain stops the heroine to offer his love in an arrogant way but the heroine is stubborn not to make any relationship with the villain. The villain becomes violent with his gangs so the hero reaches flying to rescue the heroine. The heroine is impressed by the altruistic behavior of hero. So a relationship starts to grow up between hero and heroine. It can be the way round as such the hero himself stops the heroine offering his love. And even though it’s not so decent, the heroine has no other option but to accept his love considering the intensity of it.   So nothing is remained to stop those making romance and singing melodious songs.  I believe I have rightly described the movie you have just finished watching. Because I know the film directors yet have no new else story to amuse the audience.
So now let’s go back to the story of Suporna we told earlier.. If I say Suporna should have accepted the offer of the boys like the heroine of the film disregarding her modesty, her parents’ social status, you might protest. So let me ask what was the fault of those boys? They desperately needed a heroine to love just like in the movie. They approached to offer their love in the way they had been learning since their early life. They might have wanted to be a hero in the cinematic way to find their heroine.  It was the easiest way to them to convince a girl as per their acquired idea and concept about love and building relation.
Perhaps you are now searching for a quick solution. You are thinking about pushing the government for enacting a law for prosecuting the perpetrators responsible for Suporna’s death or if there is already one to implement that. But are you thinking how much  over crowded the prison cells will be  with thousands of offenders who do sexual violence? What will make you happier to see either more criminals punished in the prison cells leaving behind equal number of crimes or fewer criminals with fewer crimes? You may protest me by saying that people will think twice before committing such crimes if the law is strict enough.  But many scholars would argue otherwise.  Social scientists and criminologists like Durkheim, Albert J. Reiss, William Glasser, Adolphe Quetelet , Rawson W. Rawson, Joseph Fletcher,  John Glyde, Robert E. Park, Henry McKay and Clifford R. Shaw  viewed law to be a lame tool for crime prevention when society itself lacks morality and ethical values.
So, how can sexual harassment become a social phenomenon? If we think deeply, can we relate these offences with the programmers our media broadcast? When someone inspires you for something repeatedly means giving you permission or legitimacy for that act. Showing people the poor quality programmers such as the film you have ended witching help them to forget that these acts are not crime. And there are a lot of cheap films which are distorting our thinking process. Perhaps you can detect the similarity between the way the hero of your watched film followed to offer his love and the way the boys approached to Suporna.
Think about the boys whose age is between fourteen and nineteen years, how much they understand about society and real life.  We cannot expect every one of them to be equally conscious about social honor and respect, and to the consequences of an unusual acts, due to different negative social factors, in particular, poverty, illiteracy etc. By allowing them to watch an act which can be considered as a crime in your society you are ruing them in two ways. Firstly, you are reducing the sensation of criminality among them for that act; and secondly, you are increasing their interest for such an act.
To end this problem the prime concern should be the formulation of a strict filtering system which will justify every programmed before airing of them.  The proposed filtering system will allow only those programmed not harmful for our culture and society especially from ethics and values.
We should keep our eyes open to our young generation so that we will have no little chance to watch any poor and ill featured programmed on television except  programmed helpful for the education and life.