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Feature: Many cases of sexual harassment reported during Bangladeshi New Year celebration

Xinhua, April 20, 2015 Adjust font size:

Sexual harassment or molestation of women is something not unusual in a Third World country like Bangladesh. But what happened during last week's Bengali New Year celebration in this capital city was not only deplorable but also most shocking considering that such crimes were committed in large scale.

The joyous celebration of the Bengali New Year 1422 was marred by a mass sexual assault against a group of women on the campus of Dhaka University on Tuesday evening last week.

Some 30 to 40 rowdy youths assaulted and sexually harassed around 20 women at the gate of Dhaka's lush green Suhrawardy Udyan Park while the women were returning home late afternoon after celebrating the New Year along with family members and friends.

The incident caused a massive show of indignation and anger throughout the county. A barrage of protests and calls for the government to bring about justice for the victims were posted on social media.

Witnesses gave a vivid description of the mass assault which is now being used as reference in media reports about the incidents since April 14.

According to an eye witnesses, the attackers were divided into three groups with each group consisting of 10-12 men. People around were blowing vuvuzela so loudly that nobody could hear the victims' cries for help. Thousands of people were milling around the area, making it difficult for the victims to prevent the attackers from sexually harassing them.

Although the offenders managed to escape from the scene of the crimes in two other incidents, the perpetrators were caught and beaten by angry students and bystanders.

On the same day, students of Dhaka's Jagannath University beat three members of the student wing of a political party for harassing female students inside the university bus.

Also on Tuesday, a group of activists of a political party in Jahangirnagar University in Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka allegedly assaulted on campus a second year female student of Botany Department of the university during the Pahela Baishakh celebrations.

Fortunately, the student fought against the attacker and called for help and other students immediately responded.

Student leaders have called on university officials to ensure the safety of the students and to prevent sexual harassment on campus.

Geeti Ara Nasrin, a teach from Mass Communication and Journalism Department of Dhaka University, said that women in Bangladesh have long been victimized by men with evil intent because the government has been lax in punishing perpetrators. " This culture of impunity must be stopped," she said.

Politicians and prominent figures have joined students and faculty members in expressing their grave concern over the upsurge of sexual harassment and other crimes against chastity.

Days after the attacks, female students of the Dhaka University continued their protest marches by forming human chains. "We demand the immediate arrest and the filing of charges against the perpetrators. The victims should be given justice," said a Dhaka University student leader.

Dhaka police have already identified some of the alleged perpetrators and have assured the victims that arrests will be made soon. "We have noticed (in the CCTV footage) that the incidents fall within the definition of sexual assault,"Monirul Islam, joint commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, was quoted as saying in a report on Sunday.

Sexual harassment and rape in Bangladesh have driven some women to commit suicide as a means of escape.

Dozens of women who have been raped commit suicide in Bangladesh every year. Before killing themselves most of the victims have written notes demanding an end to the sexual harassment, known locally as"eve teasing," which means boys intercept girls on the street, shout obscenities at them, laugh at them, touch their private parts and, in some cases, rape them. Endi