By limiting the Pahela Baishakh celebrations, the government is encouraging those trying to legitimise torture and sexual harassment against women, said rights activist Sultana Kamal yesterday.
The state was supposed to ensure round-the-clock security for its citizens but the announcement proved that it had bowed down to fundamentalist groups, she added.
“We are constantly experiencing a shrinking space for women outside home,” she said. She demanded withdrawal of the time restriction on the day so people can celebrate uninterruptedly. Sultana was addressing a press briefing at the capital's Jatiya Press Club. “Nari Nirapotta Jote” and “We Can” organised the event with a call to “not to restrict women during New Year celebrations this year”.
Nari Nirapotta Jote, a platform of rights groups, was formed following the incidents of sexual assault on women on Dhaka University campus during Pahela Baishakh celebrations in 2015. We Can is a platform of civil society members and organisations, aiming to end domestic violence against women.
Pahela Baishakh, the first day of the Bangla calendar, is celebrated on April 14. On April 2, the government instructed all cultural and other organisations to conclude Pahela Baishakh celebrations at open places by 5:00pm.
“All programmes at open places have been asked to wrap up by 5:00pm while the authorities of Rabindra Sarobar shall end their programmes by 7:00pm,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said after a meeting at police headquarters.
Criticising the government instruction, Sultana said it will ultimately give a scope to the perpetrators as the authorities concerned will not take any responsibility if any incident of harassment takes place after that time. “Celebrations are universal. It is the freedom of an individual to decide when she or he will stay home or remain outdoors,” she said. The organisers also came up with a four-point demand in connection to the Bangla New Year 1425 celebrations.
Mahua Leya Folia, programme coordinator of Manusher Jonno Foundation, read out the demands including withdrawal of the time bar.