A platform against rape, sexual harassment and sexual violence DaagKata Dal launched their first magazine in August. Titled DaagKata, the magazine includes eight articles on related topics. After attending a discussion session arranged by them, writes Nasir Uz Zaman
STUDENTS of Jahangirnagar University have created a platform titled DaagKata Dal with the aim to raise voice against gender discrimination. From the platform, students are continuing theoretical discussions on the issue and publish quarterly magazine. Besides theoretical discussions, they pledge to collectively protest against gender discrimination and all forms of sexual violence.
According to the DaagKata Dal, spaces in Jahangirnagar University to talk and write against gender discrimination is shrinking. In the culture of fear that we are living today, it is hard to talk about any form of violence, it is even harder to raise question about gender discrimination. Existing patriarchal domination and the unaccountable power-practice force people to keep silence. DaagKata Dal hopes to intervene in this political culture that is violent, classed and equally gendered.
Precisely, in public universities, there exists a culture of oppression in different forms and dimensions. There is a tendency of nurturing the culture of impunity in both institutional and un-institutional spheres by victim blaming, practicing patriarchy or protecting the offenders. In addition, such practices not only repeatedly create the culture of oppression but also help such culture to exist. DaagKata Dal believes that the issues such as gender discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence are very much relevant in academic spheres.
The platform has pointed out how patriarchal practices are incorporated in students’ organisations for their leaders to remain in power. It has also mentioned that ragging, sexual harassment and sexual violence are threats to their academic development. Relationship between a man and a woman, be that romantic or friendly, should be based on mutual consent. However, earning consent through deceit or by force has become quite normal these days.
DaagKata Dal has published the first issue of its magazine titled ‘DaagKata’ in August. The first issue includes eight articles. In the writings, students have presented their point of views on gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual violence, ragging, victim blaming, paedophilia, anti-sexual harassment policies and many more with a hope to eliminate sex crimes in society.
On August 8, the DaagKata Dal arranged a public discussion at Jahangirnagar University titled ‘’98 Students’ Movement against Rape and Past and Present of Sexual Violence’. They organised the event was with the hope to understand gender issues of present days in the light of the 1998 movement. The 1998 students’ movement against rape has played significant role in breaking down the silence regarding sexual violence. Later on, the High Court has delivered directives on sexual harassment prevention policy and sexual harassment prevention committee. DaagKata Dal has arranged the public discussion to shed light on how the movement is still relevant in present context. Teachers, activists and students have participated in the public discussion.
Anthropologist and activist Rahnuma Ahmed, who was then a teacher of the university and participated in the movement actively, shared her experiences about 1998 students’ movement and also talked about present situation of the country. In her words, ‘The liberation war of Bangladesh has not finished yet and also the fight for women’s safety or the fight against sexual violence on women has not ended. During the movement of 1998, we thought, if we became successful, there would not exist sexual violence or harassment on women and the patriarchal system would be disbanded at least. But reality is different today and it is the truth for university campuses as well as for the whole country. From a wider view, present situation of this country is much worse.’
‘State’s governing system has effects on every spheres of the country including on campus environment. Autocratic practices in governing system where accountability is absent, rapes, murders and forced disappearances are widespread there the culture of impunity is established automatically to protect the offenders. It should be mentioned that the cultural organisations of that time played an important role for the success of 1998 students’ movement. But it is a matter of concern that it might not happen in present situation. Fear is contagious and we need to remember that collective courage is also contagious to overcome fear. I participated in the movement from the realisation that the campus is mine and such unjust practice should not be tolerated.’
Economist Anu Muhammad talked about the outcomes and significances of 1998 students’ movement against rape. He said, ‘Besides breaking the silence regarding sexual violence, the movement has some other significant achievements. In those days, the words such as rape, sexual harassment or sexual violence were a matter of taboo in newspapers or in television as well as in the society. It seemed that rape was not a problem but using the word was! In present days the taboo has been somewhat eased. The movement also made the left political organisations to realise that they should think more on gender discrimination.’
Anu Muhammad also shared the history of how sexual harassment prevention policy has been taken and how the movement played significant role in initiating the policy. ‘Though, taking a policy or establishing a committee was crucial achievement but it is not all and we have heard complaints against committee members several times. If widespread insecurity in the society exists, the issue will not be solved but will comeback repeatedly in various forms. Universities are not separated from the society. From a wider view, intellectual, cultural and organisational collective engagement is a must for a change.’
Anu Muhammad expressed the importance of documentation of history. He said that the book Oshuchi — a documentation of 1998 students’ movement is carrying historical significance and students should continue the process.
Mirza Taslima Sultana, Sayeed Ferdous, Manosh Chowdhury and Mahmudul H Sumon also shared their views and experiences about 1998 students’ movement. In a conversation with New Age Youth, the members of DaagKata Dal informed that they will continue arranging public discussions and publications of their trimonthly magazine on gender issues.
Nasir Uz Zaman is a member of the New Age Youth team
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