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Abstract

With the global rise of the #Me Too movement and hashtag, sexual harassment has become a buzzword. The term “sexual harassment” was initially used to refer to a workplace phenomenon (Farley 1978, Mackinnon 1989). However, since the pioneering work on the issue, it has become clear that sexual harassment is inclusive of public space, educational institutions, and the home. It has been defined as “unwanted sexual advances, request for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1980). Two types of harassment are identified: the first is a “quid pro quo” and the second, a hostile work environment. Though both of these refer to workplace sexual harassment, these are different in nature. The first one occurs when a supervisor demands sex, sexual favors or sexual contact from a subordinate or from a job applicant. It is inclusive of employment related decisions such as a favorable recommendation letter or promotion. A quid pro quo can occur if there is a threat of negative work consequences for refusing to confer sexual favors. For example, the target of harassment might lose a job or be relegated to unfavorable work. In such situations, targets are punished for stepping outside of patriarchal norms regarding the gendered division of labor, job benefits, titled positions, and so on. Thus, the quid pro quo is a form of sexual harassment that is regarded by some misogynists as the price women must pay for stepping into male dominated workplace worlds. This “price” includes humiliating and inappropriate verbal language and/or actual physical violations of women.

It is well-known by many that #Me Too was initiated by Tarana Burke in 2017, an African American woman who herself had been the victim of sexual violence becoming a widespread platform overnight to share previously unreleased stories of pain, insults, and injustices caused by sexual harassment both within the workplace and beyond. #Me Too hit Bangladesh in 2018 when survivors began to express their own experiences to show the solidarity with the worldwide, viral #Me Too movement. Despite the growing success in women’s empowerment, Bangladesh fails to ensure safety for women and girls, and they are prone to sexual assault and harassment almost everywhere, including within their own homes, workplaces, public transport, educational institutions, and holy places.

This article focuses on an overview of sexual harassment in Bangladesh followed by #Me Too survivors’ stories, analyzing them from multiple theoretical perspectives including patriarchy, women as a second sex, child sexual abuse, and male-domination specifically in the work-setting. An additional objective of the paper is to explore how Bangladeshi socio-cultural norms deeply rooted in a patriarchal mindset, condone malicious practices that jeopardize women. The findings indicate that even though #Me Too shone only a temporary light in Bangladesh, it nonetheless served to raise awareness of the problem, and focused attention on rethinking and revising both existing law and education. Thus, the Bangladeshi version of the movement joined in global solidarity and sisterhood.

Note on the Author

Shampa Iftakhar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Daffodil International University. She obtained BA (Hons) and MA from Jahangirnagar University. Her research areas cover fourth wave feminism with a special focus on the #MeToo movement in Bangladesh, violence, human rights, rape-culture, the Rohingya Issue, politics, religion and diaspora literature. Her publications include nine articles published in different journals. She can be contacted via her email address shampa.eng@daffodilvarsity.edu.bd

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