The Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA), a group of women lawyers aiming to promote women and children rights, filed a writ petition against the Government seeking urgent steps be taken to prevent sexual harassment against women at the place of work or study. The petition highlighted several instances of sexual harassment in workplaces as well as in places of study. Bangladesh did not have any legislative provisions protecting women from abusive behavior by men in high-level positions in the workplace or in educational institutions at the time the petition was brought. BNWLA requested that the Court order the Government to pass legislation aimed at preventing sexual harassment and protecting and safeguarding the rights of women.
The Court acknowledged that sexual harassment experienced by women at the place of work or study constitutes a violation of a number of Constitutional provisions, including Article 26 which entitles all citizens to equal protection of the law, in addition to impairing or nullifying the observance, enjoyment, and exercise of the rights and freedoms granted to women by the Constitution. The Court held that, in order for these rights to be exercised, women must be free from sexual harassment at the place of work or study. The Court considered its responsibility to guarantee women’s enjoyment of the fundamental rights enshrined by the Constitution, even in the absence of pertinent domestic legislation, based on the international conventions to which Bangladesh is a signatory. The Court highlighted that protection from sexual harassment and the right to education and work with dignity are universally recognized basic human rights.
The Court issued a set of guidelines, which will be considered law until necessary laws are enacted by the government. The guidelines included a definition of sexual harassment, and steps that the workplaces and academic institutions should follow.