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Presuming guilt for sexual crimes – A case for

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

– William Blackstone

The Blackstone’s ratio has served as the bedrock for our legal system, assuming the accused as innocent until convincingly proven guilty (also known as presumption of innocence). The burden of proof rests with the accuser – the victim – to convince the judge beyond reasonable doubt. In this article, I will forward a case for legally assuming the accused of rape and sexual crimes cases as guilty until they are convincingly proven innocent – legally known as presumption of guilt.

My proposition – strictly a sociological comparison than a legal one – will illustrate the need for this change. Further, it will illustrate how shifting the burden of proof onto the accused ensures greater scrutiny to prove the innocence of the accused instead of the crime on the victim, and better narratives that protect victims who often are subaltern women conditioned to believe their victimhood only amounts to silence. The analyses are well-informed about the cons of presuming guilty and how they continue to manifest in Japan and China.

However, I believe necessary legal measures can be taken to regulate any extra-judicial activity that can result from presuming the accused as guilty, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this article.

Consent and innocence

In most countries, consent is considered to be a dynamic and all-encompassing pre-requisite to physical and mental access. Therefore, states and their judiciary are willing to do everything to protect the sanctity of consent. In these countries, consent isn’t a feeling that can be obtained by the highest bidder, rather is an absolute institution that is protected, preserved and championed through state laws.

In Bangladesh, however, the understanding, application, protection and preservation of consent are absent because the law looks at consent as an irrevocable, one-time contract even though sexual crimes become a crime if consent is withheld at any moment.

For instance, the state recognizes marriage as automatic consent for sexual intercourse between a man and his wife, even though consent is multi-dimensional and asking consent is a continuous process. The collective inability to comprehend that consent can be revoked at any point looks like a world where no means “I have to seduce more”, or “why not? Am I not a good person to get with you?” or the worst, “why did I even marry?”

There is further complexity. Throughout time, a host of reasons have contributed to consider sexual crime cases as “monster” cases. This means, we stereotypically perceived sex crime offenders to be angry and violent, and especially men of low social class.

In reality, regardless of appearance or class, sexual crimes are a unique manifestation of dominance, where the perpetrator assumes they are in control of who can or cannot give consent for the victim, breaching any constitutional rights that protect all citizen, or a God-given ability to govern ourselves – whichever you prefer. The stereotype presents a problem if the accused appears any less frightening than, easily ushering us to consider our surrounding to be safe enough. The likely impact is that we generally become reluctant to accept terrible things happening without the victims’ fault- without the victim allowing it.

Therefore, a presumption of innocence is not establishing equal rights for the victim and the accused, since the available stereotype advantage, the accused insofar the accused only has to prove sufficient doubt to be acquitted.

Shame, guilt and patriarchy

Patriarchy has made women feel shame and guilt for being a victim of sexual crimes. When we presume the accused innocent, the victim’s shame automatically turns into guilt of being inviting, of never finding a husband, of letting their family down, etc.

While both shame and guilt are negative emotions of self-evaluation, guilt has a lot to do with responsibility for fault. Theoretically, shame can guide an individual’s reckoning towards guilt, but for all purposes should not be considered same. Neither do we socially distinguish between shame and guilt, nor is there legal recognition between the two.

Evidently, shame is the master emotion because of its bearings on an individual’s conscience. Therefore, we crucially ask: Having the victim continuously feel shame by presuming the accused innocent, are we in any way furthering individual dignity and positively reinforcing social decency?

The rise in official statistics of rape cases says no, and clearly there are more unreported cases. However, the consequences run far deeper. The shame attaches itself to the victims’ memory, reproducing again and again, making their convictions weaker and their voices softer. The most explicit impact of it is, in court, a woman’s shame is weaponized against them to disprove any and all counts of coercion.

On top of this, the presumption of innocence allows the accused the ability to refuse, reject and disprove any accusation or evidence with minimal effort since it’s the victim’s onus to convince the court beyond any reasonable doubt that they have been raped.

Our legal system has been blind of such social levers tugging at sexual crimes and their verdicts for decades, subduing already subjugated women with insurmountable pressure to not only prove the crime, but to rather prove if they are they are worthy of dignity, decency and consent.

Presuming guilt for added pressure

I posit that the burden of proof has to shift onto the accused. Presumption of guilt debases the dignity of the potential perpetrator and it becomes the defendant’s onus to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, they are innocent.

I claim this because the defendant has to provide a comprehensive and circumstantial rebuttal to disprove any and all counts of sexual crimes against them. This is crucial because the accused cannot achieve an acquittal, or a lighter sentence, by showing it was a mistake, or there were no initial eyewitnesses to prove any or all stages of the incident, or the claim presented by the victim is in any way vague.

At a time when rape has become an epidemic in Bangladesh, I believe pushing the burden of proof on the accused to prove themselves completely innocent – no matter how difficult the burden appears to be for the accused – can be adequate response to trigger deterrence and retribution.

I claim this because the criminals’ current narrative circles around doubt, slight regret, and at its’ worst – acceptance. Currently, an accusation does not destroy the accused’s life, nor do they feel insurmountable shame. Patriarchy has successfully managed to protect the integrity of a man even when they are accused of crime as vile as rape.

For the perpetrator, even if the act is not acceptable in society, the current relaxed outlook of the law oddly helps them negotiate and justify the crime in their heads, dismantling any chance of legal retribution or rehabilitation. Only when we force perpetrators to feel pressure, guilt and shame for the crime, then can we have collective moral conscience tighten to hold perpetrators accountable even before they commit the act.

Therefore, even if the perpetrators now find themselves justifying the crime in their head, they are more likely to feel that the consequences of their crimes are inescapable simply because they have to prove innocence in all counts as opposed to proving the inadequacy of some evidence. Public moral conscience can gradually be reinforced so potential perpetrators feel shame to commit sexual crimes along with fear of punishment.

Most importantly, a presumption of guilt will neither account for the victim’s immoral character nor will the victim be required to scramble against the accused’s resistance and find eye-witness testimonies. Presumption of guilt of the accused paves the way for their DNA test and that, in comparison to current ways of deliberating sexual crimes, is significantly better.

Sexual crimes are heinous. But we cannot navigate assuming the criminals look like animals among men. This assumption is not ignorance. As societies evolve, the nature of crimes, how they are committed and how to get away doing them keeps on evolving too.

While the law serves to deter crimes, punish criminals and rehabilitate the society, it cannot serve well if it remains estranged from the society that not only creates the crime, but contextualizes it.

Justice, as a verb, is about quantitative proportions, and it should rightly be so. Justice, as a noun, however, should be about qualitative adequacy.

Brojen Das: The Bangladeshi king of the English channel

Bangladesh has not earned any Olympic laurels ever. In the current sports arena, cricket and football dominate television and social media news waves. Beside the much-vaulted champions of the pitch, a hero once made strides in the swimming pool bringing Bangladesh to the attention of the wider sporting world.

The man was Brojen Das, widely known as the first Asian to swim across the English Channel as well as setting the world record for swimming the channel a record level of 6 times. Born in 1927 in Bikrampur, in what is now part of Munshiganj district, Das grew up in what is known as the Ganges belt. As luck would have it, his first experience with water was rather an ironic start for a star swimmer: he almost drowned at the age of four in a pool. Quite, a fine stepping stone.

Calming his nerves against the torrent of the Ganges as the years passed by, he quickly climbed up the ranks getting his swimming abilities noticed paving way for multiple victories in local competitions. In a sweep of astonishing feats in numerous freestyles of swimming, Das had won the East Pakistan swimming competition. Consequently, in becoming the national swimming champion of Pakistan in the 100m and 400m freestyles, he had become a top favorite for making it to the 1956 Australia Olympics as part of Pakistan’s swimming team. Unfortunately, bad luck struck as an injured arm sidelined his entry.

Disappointed but never not full of hope, he decided to try out his luck in the annual English Channel Swimming Competition in 1958 which he saw as an opportunity of  a lifetime and a lifeline to secure his swimming credentials in the history books. Brojen successfully completed the Mediterranean swimming competition from Capri to Naples prior to this. A man of stout physique and being the only South Asian privy to racial slurs, he was widely seen as an underdog by his competitors.

Brojen wanted to set records in swimming and it was his raw determination that got him to persevere over the cold European waters. For someone coming from hot and humid climates, the weather was his biggest barrier. Training at night with oil and grease sprayed on him to deter the chances of getting a cold, he was a spectacle for those who came to see the Channel at night. Conquering the Channel on a yearly basis from 1958-1960, Brojen’s final adieu ended with him swimming the English Channel for the last and sixth time in 1961. Edging on his strokes inch by inch, the Bengali swimmer from Pakistan had swam the Channel in a record-breaking time of 10 hours and 35 minutes, cutting time by being 15 minutes early, creating a new world record thus earning himself the moniker – “King of the Channel”. A record of hitting the shore and crossing the Channel six times had gotten his name in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Beguiled by his records and victories, the Queen and Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India called upon him to be their guest. A Hall of Famer in the world of swimming, he was the coach of swimmers in Bangladesh. Dying of cancer in 1998, he was a hero to Pakistanis and Bangladeshis alike, being awarded their top national honors – Pride of Performance and Independence Day Award – respectively. The King had finally departed but not without making his admirers and countrymen happy and honored to have had him.

Time to upgrade your regular deadbolts to smart locks

In home automation, smartlocks are probably one of the best entry points. These active security devices are designed to add function and style in every house. These locks are work with remote or app-based connectivity or via Bluetooth and generally comes in all shapes and sizes. Thanks to their effective usage and luxurious design at an affordable price, their availability is quickly growing. No matter what type of door you have be assured there is a smartlock for your out there. Amongst the multiple brands out there, ZKTeco, a fairly renowned brands, has several products out there for the Bangladeshi market. Be it your residence or business premises, you are bound to find one solution to suit your purpose. Here is some of the most prominent ones that might interest you

AL40B

This one is probably the sturdiest looking deadbolt in their portfolio. Thanks to the the plush zinc-alloy construction of the device, this AL40B is a zinc-alloy made deadbolt digital lock with Bluetooth enabled features. The device can be operated from both directions hence offers extreme advantages in you have a busy residence. Like any conventional lock it can be opened using a manual key besides all the other sophisticated options. The private mode and silent modes are some of the features you will find very appealing if you have guests coming and going in odd hours. For disable persons, options of voice guide and volume adjustment are also there. It can be used by up to 100 unique users and has a battery life that can support up to 5,300 lock cycle. That is really pleasantly astonishing!

HBL100 / HBL200

This stylish hybrid biometric lock is bound to impress you with its wireless connection and facial recognition features. This lock goes with all kinds of doors making it perfect for offices, and high-end residences. The user experience of the lock has also been emphasized in its design with graphical user interface and support on ZK SmartKey for mobile management. This reversibly designed lock comes packed with several must need features including lockout mode, smart alarm, touch screen, mobile management. Like most best functioning smartlocks, this device comes packed with a Lithium battery that can operate more than 6,500 times in its lifetime. The Mifare card support makes the device even more user-friendly. If you prefer style and convenience in one device, this one is the right choice for you.

GL300

Ever wonder if it is possible to secure your sliding doors with the next generation smartlocks? Well, do not wonder any more cause ZKTeco has a specific device just for this purpose: the GL300. This hybrid verification glass door lock can fit on any sliding door without a hiccup. The fingerprint enabled MF card and password verification as well makes solid security for your premises all the time. This solution can can easily support doors of 10-12mm thickness, and the battery power of the device can withstand usage of up to one year. The device, as all other ZKTeco smartlocks, can operate on extreme environment without any problem.

Padlock

It is obvious you have seen padlock before. But, ever imaged what you padlock can transform into in the twentieth century? ZKTeco’s padlock is probably that very glimpse of that future in today’s time. It comes with the smart fingerprint scanner right in the centre for verification and features a USB rechargeable & extreme long-life battery with low battery warning mode. On a single charge it can operate up to 1000 scans. This very feature ensures long-term security and the minimum cost. Like the conventional padlocks, this device is small, lightweight, hence portable. Moreover, this padlock can be used in bolts, chains, and small doors easily and efficiently.

ZK SmartKey

Would not it be wonderful if you had one key to open all the doors? ZK SmartKey is probably that very solution that can open and manage all your door looking solution from a single touch point. This app is not just door lock management software for mobile devices, it is even a full-fledged mobile user management and user information review system. Does not matter if your system is Apple or Android, this can be loaded in any platform. To operate the app, the user needs to enable Bluetooth and location sharing. The smart and simple UI of the app makes it extremely easy to operate compatible devices through the app.

These are just the highlights. ZKTeco has several other smartlocking solutions that might interest you. To check those out, visit: www.zkteco.com.bd

Is a bank account worth it? We break it down

At this age, almost everyone has a bank account. Not having a bank account is rather an anomaly in the current world. It is simply because having a bank account can be a great tool for managing your personal finances. The account statements from your bank can help you determine how and where you are spending your money. This can also help put you on track for a reasonable savings plan. To add icing on the cake, personal savings accounts often pay interest, which basically earns you free money. But is it worth opening for everyone? Let’s look at it from a neutral point of view.

The benefits are:

Earning from interest

You get to earn without doing anything. The savings account, depending on the interest rate can help you earn some money without actually doing anything.

Keeping a track of your spending

The transaction records help you to keep a track of where you spent all your money. You can plan your monthly or yearly expenditure from this. This can also greatly help you grow a habit of saving.

Going cashless

Most banks provide a form of a card, which can be used anywhere. This provides you with the option to go cash-free. This provides a more secure form of carrying your money, and it is essentially hassle-free.

Security

Banks are more or less secure. Keeping money in your home or wallet is not safe most times, and the incidence of burglary or theft is quite common. The main reason why the banking industry grew is still a classical reason to have a bank account.

Personal finances typically are significantly easier with a bank account, but you might have your reasons for living life without one. It might be a temporary thing while you clear up identity theft issues or problems you’ve had with banks in the past. Maybe you just decided to do without banks altogether. Either way, it’s essential to know how to function bank-free if that is your choice.

 These are the disadvantages of opening a bank account:

The Debit card fee at times is quite significant. At times the cardholder doesn’t have enough cash compared to the charges he has to pay for the debit card fee. There are other charges in the forms of GST charges, Cheque leaf fee, Minimum balance fee which a customer has to bear. The cost at times is not worth it if you don’t have enough money in the bank.

The security issue is another key drawback while opening a bank account. You share your identity, address, and your source of income to the bank. Although the chances are very slim, there were incidences of hacking, but the chances are like having a snowfall in a desert. Banks thus give quite a significant amount of importance to security nowadays. You also expose your unique details like your transaction and income details with the bank. You need to keep in mind and make an informed decision before opening a bank account.

The advantages and disadvantages point out that it is good to have a bank account in general. Whether or not you will have one depends on your choice, and as a smart person, you should make an informed choice.

Stay tuned to learn more about basic banking and financial system in coming articles.

Films and TV shows you can watch to learn why “black lives matter”

As protests keep raging on around the world surrounding George Floyd’s death and the subsequent resurgence of the BLM movement, many of us in this part of the world are starting to take a closer look. If you’re finding yourself under-resourced on contexts, and have little time or patience, or perhaps both, here’s a handy list of movies and TV shows that will educate you on the struggle of coloured people in the US. If nothing else, you’ll at least end up watching some good reels. Stream away.

Watchmen, the TV series

When masked vigilantes are treated as criminals by government agencies, some band together to start a mutiny while others aim to stop it before it yields chaos.

13th

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.

Selma

Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Help

Skeeter, an aspiring author, decides to write a book on African-American maids and the struggles they face on a daily basis.

To Kill a Mockingbird

In the Depression-era, Atticus Finch, a lawyer, sets out to defend a black man, who is accused of raping a white woman. Meanwhile, his children, Scout and Jem, spy on their reclusive neighbour.

Callosum BD celebrates ‘World No Tobacco Day’ through “Exradico”

Tobacco is one of the greatest health threats the world has been facing. It kills more than 8 million people around the globe per year. Every year on 31st May, ‘World No Tobacco Day’ is observed around the world. The theme for this year was “protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use”.

To celebrate this day, CallosumBD organised a 6-day long online competition, ‘Exradico’, starting on 31st May 2020, which included article writing, drawing and digital art/illustration, for both medical and dental students. Exradico is a Latin verb which is synonymous to ‘obliterate’, ‘exterminate’, ‘root out’. This event aimed to eradicate the use of tobacco by making people aware of the harm they are inflicting upon themselves and upon their loved ones, keeping in mind the slogan for this year #TobaccoExposed.

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Over 100 participants, from 30 medical colleges around Bangladesh took part in this online competition, held in Callosum bd’s official website, engaging over 2,500 people. 50% of the points were assigned based on claps, and the rest were given by the judge’s panel, out of 50. The clap system is a special feature on this website, which allowed people to vote for their favourite content. And it is through this, such a huge mass of people could be involved in order to raise awareness among the community.

Perhaps, the most attractive part of this competition was the judge’s panel, which included the most accomplished and prestigious personnel of the medical sector. The first member was

Prof Dr. Muna Shalima Jahan, one of the most elegant and resourceful professors of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Sir Salimullah Medical college (SSMC). The second member, Prof Dr. Shikha Paul, is one of the most knowledgeable professors of Microbiology, currently teaching in Sir Salimullah Medical college (SSMC). The third, fourth and fifth members include, Dr. Durba Halder (Associate professor, Department of Medicine SSMC), Dr. Ireen Parveen Alam (Associate professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology SSMC), and the most friendly assistant professor of Anatomy (Sheikh Hasina Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute), Dr. Mazharul Islam Milu, respectively. And last but not the least, Dr. Rafiul Alam (Assistant professor, Department of ENT, SSMC)

The results will be announced on June 10, 2020, on Callosum bd’s Facebook page. Exciting prizes and certificates await the winners of this competition. All participants will be receiving participation certificates as well.

And not to mention, Callosum BD is a voluntary non-political team run by students of different batches of Sir Salimullah medical college. Callosum BD intends to help students, both medical and dental, by making the tough BMDC curriculum as palatable as possible, by providing videos on difficult topics of Medical Science, is the most simple but informative way. Being named as one of World’s top 20 anatomy channels by feedspot.com, it has already gained acceptance among the students as a reliable and authentic educational channel on YouTube, with around 27k subscribers. It is also one of very first medical education-based YouTube channels of Bangladesh and has over 200 videos on various topics.

Ensuring safety and security as offices reopen amid the COVID-19 scare

As the number of COVID-19 victims keep on rising, the unofficial lockdown has been lifted and offices, private and public, are re-opening again. Most offices, however, have been asked to main strict monitoring of body temperature of the personnel and ensure that everyone wears masks at all times. Operating regular office businesses maintaining all these measures and ensuring safety and security at the same time remains a new challenge that needs to be dealt with. The scare of contamination from frequently touched surfaces also remain a threat at large.

In these scenario, touchless security and movement control devices may play a huge part in ensuring an adapted method in the fields of security and crowd control. Realizing this very need, leading Bio-tech security giant ZKTeco has already brought several solutions for SMEs, Businesses, Corporations, and Public institutions. Here are some devices that you might consider for your office or business:

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Access Control

SpeedFace-V5L: SpeedFace-V5L Series is a fully upgraded version of the SpeedFace-V5L Visible Light Facial Recognition Terminal, using intelligent engineering facial recognition algorithms and the latest computer vision technology. It supports both facial and palm verification with large capacity and speedy recognition, as well as improves security performance in all aspects.

The Series adopts touch less recognition technology and new functions namely temperature detection and masked individual identification which eliminates hygiene concerns effectively. It is also equipped with the ultimate ant spoofing algorithm for facial recognition against almost all types of fake photos and videos attack. Importantly, the 3-in-1 palm recognition (Palm Shape, Palm Print and Palm Vein) is performed in 0.35 sec per hand; the palm data acquired will be compared with a maximum of 3,000 palm templates.

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ProFace X: ProFace X Series is a fully upgraded version of the ProFace product line, which is designed to deal with all kinds of scenarios. Powered by the ZKTeco-customized CPU for running the intellectualized engineering facial recognition algorithm and the latest computer vision technology, the ProFace X series supports both facial and palm verification with large capacity and rapid recognition speed, boosting the security performance in all aspects.

The facial recognition capability of the series has reached a new height in the biometrics technology industry with a maximum of 50,000 facial templates, recognition speed of less than 0.3 sec per face, and ultimate anti-spoofing ability against almost all types of fake photos and videos attack.

In addition, the 3-in-1 palm recognition (Palm Shape, Palm Print and Palm Vein) is performed in 0.35 sec per hand; the palm data acquired will be compared with a maximum of 5,000 palm templates.

Security Inspection

ZK-D3180S: As the number of cases has been increasing and the geographical spread has been widening, the novel coronavirus outbreak has raised grave concerns about public health and personal hygiene.

The disease can occasionally cause symptoms like high fever, and ZK-D3180S is a walk-through metal detector that can assist in body temperature measurement at the forehead and wrist of passengers. If the temperature detected is over 37.3°C or any other value set by the administrative user, ZK-D3180S will raise an alarm to inform the guards.

ZK-178K: ZK-178K is an infrared thermal imager equipped with a visible light camera that combines surface temperature measurement and real-time thermal image detection.

It also has a wide range of measurement and photography features that can be adapted in a variety of environments. For example, the built-in high brightness lamp can easily find a suspicious object in the dark environment.

Entrance Control

SBTL8000: The ZKTeco SBTL8000 series single lane speed gates are elegant, yet high performance entrance control system designed for high-traffic volume. Equipped with multi-entrance system for choice, and module design, ZKTeco SBLT8000 series offers modification with more flexibility.

Face Kisok

FaceKiosk-H13A: FaceKiosk-H13A, our 13.3-inch touch screen multipurpose facial recognition smart Kiosk with Android system, is designed to provide friendly and interactive user experience by incorporating fingerprint, and Mifare module in it.

FaceKiosk-H13A has a range of optional module functions available on the basis of FaceKiosk series, including built-in Mifare card reader and fingerprint sensor, which can not only verify user’s identity through facial recognition but also fingerprint and smart card even hybrid verification.

FaceKiosk-H13C: FaceKiosk-H13C, our 13.3-inch touch screen multipurpose facial recognition smart Kiosk with Android system, is designed to provide friendly and interactive user experience by incorporating fingerprint, ticket-print, QR code and Mifare module in it.

Thermal Camera

ZN-T1: The ZN-T1 includes on-board temperature-detection algorithm, dual lens, subject detection up to 16 targets and 14 colour palettes among other features.

ZN-T95 Body Temperature Detection Network Camera: The ZN-T95 includes on-board temperature-detection algorithm, dual lens, thermal sensitivity and 3 colour palettes among other features.

For details about the product, visit: www.zkteco.com.bd

Peace Talk Café brings woman leaders who rose to the occasion

The recent unprecedented circumstances have brought forth multidimensional issues. In addressing the varies facets of these issues, UNDP is stepping up to address different sections of society. Our Partnerships for a Tolerant and Inclusive Bangladesh (PTIB) has been organising Peace Talk Café since last year to give the youth a voice, and responding to the new normal, Peace Talk Café once again took to the digital space.

Peace Talk Café – Presented by Digital Khichuri Challenge, organised an online discourse with the youth on the topic ‘Women in Pandemic: Survive – React – Evolve’, on 14 May from 11:00AM-12:00PM.

In this edition, Peace Talk Café focus on how women are contributing to create positive impact, what sort of evolution we are witnessing among women altogether, how this pandemic has affected women in general. In these dire times, we cannot afford to exclude women from any sort of conversation related to growth and rebuilding, while bringing to the forefront the more important conversation around the rise of domestic abuse and cyber harassment during this pandemic.

Addressing the stereotype surrounding madrasah students, Shagufe Hossain, Founder, Leaping Boundaries, mentioned “They are not as backward as we think they are. Here is not a world of difference between us and them. In fact, this ‘us and them’ dichotomy that we observe is problematic.” Apart from increasing mainstream representation of female madrasah students, her organization Leaping Boundaries has been over 100 children and staff members at partner madrasahs and 25 surrounding households in this crisis.

Tina F Jabeen, Investment Advisor, Startup Bangladesh, ICT Division, emphasized the importance of the dealing with empathy as we go through this collective traumatic experience. “Those of us who are privileged need to be empathetic and approachable. We need to expand our area of support and create access to provisions, wherever possible. This is the time for us to rise to the occasion”, she said.

Hasin Jahan, Country Director, WaterAid, has been addressing COVID-19 by supporting 5 lac slum population directly with handwashing facilities and awareness programs. “We are trying to promote and internalize regular handwashing in the rural and urban level, which is the most effective preventive measure against COVID-19”, she mentioned.

Tawhida Shiropa, Founder, Moner Bondhu, has been providing 24/7 free tele and video counselling to those whose mental health has taken a toll during this crisis. In explaining the inexplicable surge in domestic violence during the lockdown, she said “In any crisis, women and children are the most vulnerable”.

Peace Talk Café was attended by Bangladeshi youth from all over the world who shared their remarks and shed light on initiatives they are driving to tackle the crisis. Sharnila Kabir, Head of Partnerships, Footsteps and Mithela Haque, Co-founder, Stories For Peace, shared how they have been actively mobilizing efforts in response to COVID.

This discourse is arranged every quarter to expand the space for dialogue between youth and speakers coming from diverse backgrounds, underlining the fact that building peace is not only the responsibility of technical specialists, rather each and every individual has a role to play. This is a part of UNDP’s ongoing Digital Khichuri Challenge, a youth engagement platform that aims to create a peaceful and inclusive society.

COVID 19: Balancing the economy with a safe lockdown

Recently, there have been much debate in Bangladesh and abroad on whether or not it is economically sustainable to continue complete lockdowns in countries, in both the developing economics i.e. Bangladesh and also in developed countries i.e. the USA, calling for an urgent need to balance economic functions with a safe lockdown.

On the other hand, while Bangladesh plans for a phase by phase plan of removing the lockdown, what’s important for the government is to assess not only whether the business is essential to open up, but also to assess whether the business is capable of operating and serving its customers via alternative modalities of operations i.e. via e-commerce, f-commerce and/or telecommerce.

To start with, any industry categorized as serving its customers in the service sector should primarily need to apply to the government for permission if they want to operate in-person during the lockdown, against an assessment form justifying why their business cannot serve its customers via alternate information, communications and technology (ICT) based channels.

Such service sector enterprises may include for example those operating in the education sector; the entertainment industry; creative agencies; head office and branches of development organizations that do not have direct field engagement; etc. Exceptions can be made for industries with relatively low-income customers as target groups, who otherwise would not be able to exploit such ICT based platforms for purchase decisions.

Similarly, sales and retail industries, plus those in the financial sector should also be required to justify whether they have made efforts to minimize on-site customers via online or call-centre based sales and service modalities.

Enterprises, especially sales and retail outlets, should also be encouraged to source from home-based produce of suppliers, workers and farmers via partnerships and networks with cooperatives, NGOs, trade unions and trade union federations.

Tele-consultation hotlines, whether paid or unpaid, should especially be made mandatory for those operating in the health sector, to enable primary remote advice in any medical discipline or speciality. People have ongoing health needs, not just in regards to COVID 19, but also in needs starting from hypertension to diabetes to back pain, etc. Such services will aim to reduce the number of visits to the doctor’s chamber or hospital a patient may need to take, reduce the risk for the patient as well as the doctors.

Loans, whether via bank loans or microfinance, can also be facilitated to such service-based industries for setting up ICT platforms for them to expand their operations via mobile apps, e-commerce, social media, and / or telemarketing.  Such loan services can also match businesses with enlisted ICT service providers in the field.

Industries, whether manufacturing or service, on the other hand, will strictly need to be inspected if open to check whether social distancing measures and hygiene practices have been adapted in their workstations and customer outlets in line with national and international social and labour standards i.e. the ILO occupational health and safety guidelines for COVID 19.

On-site staff of companies should also be minimized to essential employees only i.e. those involved in production and distribution, with others kept on teleworking modalities as applicable.

On the other hand, as the lockdown is eased, it is essential that the government adopts and continues a curfew modality, restricting people from travelling together or gathering in groups larger than two in public places.

Originally published in Dhaka Courier