Bangladesh's emerging cricketer Tanzim Hasan Sakib, who made a remarkable debut against India on Friday and helped his team successfully defend 12 runs in the final over, has been the talk of the town due to the resurfacing of some of his old Facebook posts that undermine women and disregard the importance of women's rights to education and empowerment.
In one of his posts, Sakib expressed: "If the wife works (outside home), the husband's rights are not fulfilled; if the wife works, the child's rights are not fulfilled; if the wife works, her charm is lost; if the wife works, the family is destroyed; if the wife works, the screen is destroyed; if the wife works, the society is destroyed."
In another post, he wrote: "Marrying a girl who is used to the free-mixing hangouts of university life means you will never be able to provide a dignified mother for your child."
However, none of these posts can be seen on his verified Facebook account any longer, as he has either removed them or changed their privacy setting. Still, such derogatory comments didn't go down well with the country's civil society, who have been actively calling for appropriate measures to be taken in response to the cricketer's past remarks. Some have even gone to the extent of demanding the removal of the cricketer from the national set-up.
Suborna Mustafa, legendary actor and also a current Member of Parliament, said that the comments made by Sakib were not only insulting to women, but also to the entire human race. She reckons it is high time the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) took necessary steps against him.
"I firmly believe that the BCB should treat this issue with the utmost seriousness and demand a public apology from the cricketer. If he refuses to apologise, I advocate for a lifetime ban from cricket," Mustafa told The Business Standard.
"This is even more unacceptable owing to the fact that ours is a country which has a female Prime Minister, female opposition leader and a female speaker. It's also crucial to remember that our country's independence was achieved through the sacrifices of two lakh women," she added.
The 'Kothao Keu Nei'-famed actor also emphasised the need for the BCB to implement a comprehensive 'background checking' process before allowing any cricketer to represent the nation at the highest level.
Meanwhile, Robaet Ferdous, professor of Mass Communication and Journalism at Dhaka University, believes Sakib's comments shouldn't be taken lightly for the sake of freedom of speech.
"Certainly, every citizen in our nation should enjoy freedom of speech, but there are limits to it. They cannot demean individuals from different races or genders, as stipulated in Article 39 of our Constitution," said Ferdous.
Sabrena Sultana Choudhury, associate professor in the same department, also weighed in on the fact that national figures harbouring such attitudes can have a profoundly negative impact on the country's young generation.
"When a public figure voices an opinion, it transcends personal views. If we, the general people, say something, they don't carry much weight, but when influential figures with a substantial following express unacceptable sentiments, they propagate them among a larger audience," Choudhury observed.
She further commented, "On one hand, we are advocating for progress and development, but on the other hand, our collective mindset seems to be regressing. A 20-year-old displaying signs of misogyny and religious fundamentalism is deeply concerning. This mindset is contrary to our cultural values from the past. It serves as a stark reminder that our nation may be heading in the wrong direction."
Ranjana Huda, a communications specialist, voiced similar concerns and characterised Sakib's comments as thoughtless. She proposed that the BCB should tackle the matter by engaging in a direct conversation with the cricketer.
"They ought to engage with the cricketer and gauge his response," she recommended. "If he remains steadfast in his views even after this dialogue, then he may not be suitable for a spot on the national team."
Jahanara Khatun, program manager at Naripokkho, said, "In order to shift this kind of mindset, it is crucial for the top leadership of the BCB to have a clear understanding of the issue. They must instil within their organisation a culture of 'respecting women' as a fundamental practice. Most importantly, they should compel the cricketer to issue a formal apology for his derogatory comments."
However, human rights activist Farida Akhter takes a more compassionate approach towards Sakib, viewing the cricketer as a product of the broader system. She asserts that the primary focus should be on fixing the system itself.
"Keep in mind, he [Sakib] is only 20 years old. His beliefs and attitudes have been shaped by our education system and influenced by the state's actions," Akhter noted. "So, it's unrealistic to expect better from him alone. Instead of holding him solely accountable, I place the responsibility on the system, and it's the system that needs to undergo positive change," she added.
It's disheartening to see a 20-year-old express such views. However, it's essential to consider his lack of experience and youth as significant factors. By offering gender-sensitive education and creating a gender-sensitive environment, there is potential for positive growth in his perspective
In a recent research conducted by Dr Sayed Saikh Imtiaz, a professor at the Department of Women & Gender Studies at the University of Dhaka, presented during the 8th SRHR Knowledge Fair 2023, jointly organised by Share-Net Bangladesh and Aspire to Innovate (a2i), and supported by UNDP, several concerning statistics were unveiled.
The study indicated that 61.65% of boys under the age of 18 have been exposed to child pornography. Furthermore, 56.65% believe in men having the final say in family decisions, 57.45% have contemplated using force to fulfil their sexual desires, and a significant 66.2% concur that women should not frequently leave their homes.
"We may discuss the importance of empowering women, but that alone isn't sufficient," emphasised Dr Imtiaz. "We must also focus on shaping the mindset of young boys, who will grow into adults sharing their lives with empowered women."
Drawing from a recent conversation with an American colleague, Dr Imtiaz highlighted that issues of gender equality persist even in countries like the USA within the realm of sports. However, he noted that gender-related workshops for athletes are held to provide proper education.
Dr Imtiaz and Ferdous both advocate for similar practices in Bangladesh. Ferdous cited examples of gender workshops at Sharda Police Academy and stressed the importance of implementing such programs for cricketers, footballers, volleyball players, and all other athletes representing Bangladesh on the global stage.
"It's disheartening to see a 20-year-old express such views. However, it's essential to consider his lack of experience and youth as significant factors," Ferdous remarked. "By offering gender-sensitive education and creating a gender-sensitive environment, there is potential for positive growth in his perspective," he concluded.
We tried to reach out to the top BCB officials to obtain their perspectives on the entire matter and inquire about any potential actions against the cricketer.
"The issue has been brought to our notice. BCB's cricket operations chairman Jalal Younus will officially address the issue before the media on Tuesday (19 September)," BCB's media committee chairman Tanvir Ahmed informed The Business Standard.