“Protest Gathering by Bangladesh Mahila Parishad Demanding Justice for Fairuz Sadaf Abantika”

On March 19th at 11:30 am in front of Jagannath University, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad held a protest gathering demanding the trial of student from the law depertment Raihan Siddique Amman and Assistant Proctor Deen Mohammad on charges of abetting the suicide of Fairuz Sadaf Abantika. The protest was chaired by Dr. Fouzia Moslem, President of the Central Committee of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP). Various speakers at the gathering included Joint General Secretary Shima Moslem, Organization Secretary Ummay Salma Begum, Legal Aid Secretary Rekha Saha, training, research & Library Secretary Rina Ahmed, Advocate Dipti Shikdar, Rehana Yunus, Shamima Afroze Irin, Hena Chowdhury, and Advocate Halima Khatoon.

Dr. Fauzia Moslem, in the president’s speech, expressed deep sadness over the suicide of Abantika at Jagannath University on March 15. She mentioned that incidents of sexual harassment are occurring in many universities in Bangladesh. Dr.Fauzia Moslem highlighted that preventing such incidents is not only the responsibility of women’s organizations or student groups but also of the university administration. She referred to a recent study showing that 9% of teachers in educational institutions are involved in organized sexual harassment, and the remaining 91% should strongly condemn such actions. She called for the quick approval of a comprehensive law based on a 2009 High Court directive on preventing sexual harassment in educational institutions. She highlighted the lack of understanding among student teachers about the complaint committee and emphasized the need for their training. She also stressed the importance of removing political influence from educational institutions, giving them more authority, creating a society free from violence against women, raising awareness among young people, ensuring transparency in teacher recruitment, and establishing law enforcement to make educational institutions safe.

Shima Moslem, the Joint General Secretary of BMP, highlighted that despite the efforts made towards women’s empowerment in Bangladesh, discrimination continues to hinder true empowerment. She pointed out that even though universities in the country have achieved a gender balance in student enrollment, incidents of sexual harassment persist, creating an unsafe educational environment that impacts students’ learning and mental well-being. Moslem stressed the need to address power dynamics among educators, rather than solely focusing on academic programs, in order to improve the quality of education. She also criticized university administrations for their lack of proactive measures in response to sexual harassment incidents, and highlighted the negative impact of power struggles among teachers on creating a conducive learning environment.

The other speakers present at the event demanded the administration of Jagannath University to take action in response to Abantika ‘s suicide and urge an end to ongoing incidents of sexual harassment in various educational institutions across Bangladesh. They expressed concern about the increasing crimes and abuses against women in society, including female students in the highest educational institutions not feeling safe today. Many are suffering in despair due to incidents of sexual harassment like the case of Fairuz Sadaf Abantika. The speakers emphasized the need to prevent women who fall victim to such incidents from committing suicide, by raising awareness among families and teachers, providing them with mental health services, and ensuring swift and harsh punishment for the perpetrators to deter crime. They also called for standing against incidents of sexual harassment and ending violence to ensure a normal life for students, urging everyone to be vigilant regardless of class, religion, or gender.

Sanjida Sultana, Additional Executive Director of Working Women, Tahmina Islam, Program Coordinator of Acid Survivors Foundation, and Jagannath University student Shah-Sakib also expressed solidarity. Representatives from the central and Dhaka city committees of the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, members of the local committees, students from Jagannath University, journalists from print and electronic media, and organization workers were also present at the event.

Advocacy & lobby director Jana Goswami led the event. At the end of the gathering, the leadership team of the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad met with Dr. Sadeka Halim, the respected Vice-Chancellor of Jagannath University, and demanded a fair trial for those involved in the tragic incident of the suicide of Fairuz Sadaf Abantika, providing a memorandum.

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