Maisha Ahmed

Sexual harassment is a form of violence that includes undesirable and unjustified bodily advances with sexual overtones. It is able to show up everywhere, from places of work to educational institutions to public locations, and so on. In Bangladesh, women face sexual harassment at work. A female-friendly operating environment is important. Unluckily, no legislative framework criminalizes “sexual harassment” in Bangladesh. Regardless of that Sexual harassment has been addressed in our laws, which is necessary to follow.

Applicable Provisions

Section 509 of the Penal Code 1860- Whoever utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object with the intent of insulting a woman’s modesty, or intrudes upon her privacy, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term up to one year, or with a fine, or with both. section 10 of the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain introduced an offence generally interpreted as “sexual oppression” which states that Sexual oppression is punishable with a maximum sentence of ten (10) years but no less than three (3) years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine for illegally touching a woman’s or child’s sexual organ.

After the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) decided to file a writ petition in 2008 challenging the great occurrence of sexual harassment of women on university premises and in offices. In 2009 The High Court issued 11-point directives in the form of guidelines on the prohibition, prevention, and recourse of sexual harassment in the workplace and educational institutions till sufficient and proper legislation in this field is enacted. The court based these guidelines on Bangladesh’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and our Constitution on gender equality and women’s rights.

By amending Bangladesh Labour Rules 2015, Bangladesh Labour Law brought a provision that addresses the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace for women in 2022. Bangladesh Labour Rules 2015 (as amended in 2022) have become law in September 2022.

Sexual harassment for women is defined in Bangladesh amended Labour Rules 361(KA) as follows:

Rule 361 KA (2) stipulates that a five (5)-member sexual harassment prevention complaint committee should be formed in each workplace, led by a woman, with a majority of women representatives from the organization.

Rule 361 KA (3) stipulates that Sexual Harassment Prevention Guidelines should be developed by the organization and distributed to all of its employees. Each workplace should have one (1) complaint box, and all complaints should be recorded in the register and disposed of.

Sexual harrassment would inavitibily qualify as misconduct within the definition under the labour law and hence the employer will have an oppertunity to terminate the employment subject to compliance of labour law.

The above-mentioned provisions (Sections 509 and 10) of the Penal Code 1860 and the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain 2000 penalize specific acts of sexual harassment committed by the offender and may be more applicable to sexual harassment of women in public places, On the contrary, The High Court guidelines focus on institutional obligations to protect women inside the workplace and educational institutions, in addition to recourse for sexual harassment.

Should your organization requires any guidance for the compliance under this provision or committee formation, feel free to reach out info@juralacuity.com or +8801886119800

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