News Desk: Some recent incidents of police harassment and insensitive attitude towards women drew condemnation and raised concern about the gender sensitivity of some of the force members.
Women rights activists and experts said that lack of awareness about rights issues, lack of accountability and monitoring, absence of exemplary punishments and a sense of impunity had worsened the situation.
There have also been allegations of sexual harassment of female colleagues within the force.
A few women recently came up with allegations of police harassment and insensitive attitudes.
Bangladesh Mahila Parishad president Fauzia Moslem told us that there might be some vested groups in the police force who were insensitive and disrespectful towards women and wanted to impede women’s advancement.
Those vested groups might be representing communal forces, said Fauzia. She said that police officials from all ranks must be trained more on women’s rights, human rights and gender sensitivity.
The training policemen receive is inadequate. Their trainers may not be very efficient to train them up properly, said the Mahila Parishad president.
In a recent incident, two constables of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Gulshan Division were withdrawn from duties for allegedly harassing and physically assaulting a female model and her husband in the capital’s Banani area on the night of April 19.
The accused were serving respectively as the driver and bodyguard of an additional deputy commissioner of DMP’s Gulshan Division.
In a live Facebook streaming, the victim model Sadiya Suchita said that she was crossing the road near Sheraton Hotel in Banani after Iftar when she noticed that two people were giving her an incident look.
Sensing the matter, her husband Sazzad Bin Azad asked the two policemen not to do that. As they were not complying with the request, Sadiya’s husband warned them, she said in live streaming.
The two policemen then tied her husband and started assaulting him physically and also tore his shirt off, she said.
As she tried to rescue her husband, the two policemen pulled off Sadiya’s scarf, pulled her dress and slapped her, Sadiya alleged on Facebook live.
Contacted, DMP Gulshan zone assistant commissioner Newton Das said on Thursday evening that the probe into the incident was yet to be completed and that the two constables were withdrawn from duties.
The incident created a public outcry as many protested it on social media.
DMP Protection division deputy commissioner Mostak Ahmed said that they had submitted their probe report to the DMP commissioner and recommended departmental action.
Dhaka University sociology professor Nehal Karim said that the absence of exemplary punishment and poor supervision from senior officials were among the major reasons to be blamed for such repeated incidents.
He said that in uniformed forces, such assaults and harassment of women by personnel were considered major offences, and the accused must face major punishments.
Even some high-ups in the police force get involved in different controversial activities, which give the junior and field-level members a sense that they can dodge punishment after getting involved in such activities.
There have been some complaints about sexual harassment of female colleagues within the force, said force members.
Police superintendent Moktar Hossain of the Police Bureau of Investigation faced an allegation of raping a female inspector, his subordinate in August last year.
The victim accused him of raping her several times ‘promising to marry her.’
The SP was discharged on April 11 from the rape case after he married the female inspector and submitted a marriage certificate.
Former additional inspector general of police Mokhlesur Rahman found the repeated allegations against policemen about insensitivity towards women disappointing.
He said that the incidents were unacceptable, but the accused policemen did not represent the entire force.
Only a handful of police members are showing their disregard and insensitive attitudes towards women, he said.
The former senior police official said that such offences were mostly perpetrated by field-level officials.
‘Police training includes human rights, women’s rights, gender sensitivity and all other major issues, but the problem is that the field level force members only get six months’ training which is not sufficient,’ said Mokhlesur.
Mentioning the police detention of Sayeda Ratna, an activist who protested against constructing a police station in Tetultala playground at Kalabagan of the capital, for hours without any charge, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust honorary executive director Sara Hossain said that police attitude towards women in many instances were highly insensitive.
Sara said that police take some instant actions when some incidents of harassment of women by force members emerge, but they don’t make public their investigations’ outcomes over the incidents.
‘We want to know the results and findings of the police investigations and what ultimate actions were taken against the accused force members,’ said the rights activist.
Deputy inspector general of police (operations and media) at police headquarters Haider Ali Khan said that the force is respectful towards women and fights to uphold women’s rights.
He said that police authorities arrange training and workshops for all the force members about women’s rights, and gender sensitivity. All the welfare meetings also address the issues, he said.
Haider added that they address all the allegations against force members, including harassment of women.
The accused force members face departmental actions and legal actions if necessary, said the police official.