COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Authorities at Bangladesh’s main tourist resort have removed a section of beach dedicated to women and children after an outcry on social media over gender segregation, officials said on Thursday.
On Wednesday afternoon, Cox’s Bazar officials inaugurated a section of the shore on the world’s longest natural sea beach as an exclusive area for women and children. But hours later, the administration issued a press release saying it had “withdrawn its decision” after “negative comments”.
Abu Sufian, a senior official at Cox’s Bazar, told AFP the section was created following demands from conservative women in the predominantly Muslim country. “They requested a dedicated beach section for themselves because they felt shy and insecure in a crowded place,” he said.
Earlier this month, the gang rape of a woman in Cox’s Bazar sparked an uproar over the safety of women in the city. But the decision to cordon off a section of the beach sparked an uproar on social media, with critics saying it was to flatter die-hard Islamists who still wield considerable influence in the country.
“This is Talebistan,” veteran journalist and commentator Syed Ishtiaque Reza wrote on Facebook, referring to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Another commentator compared him to “Mollahtantra”, which translates into a harsh Islamist ideology.
Parts of Bangladeshi society remain very conservative, and in recent years a die-hard Islamist group has staged massive rallies demanding gender segregation in workplaces and factories.
Hundreds of thousands of people visit Cox’s Bazar during the festive seasons, and the tourism industry has been booming in recent years. To ensure the safety of the growing number of tourists, authorities have set up a tourism police unit to patrol the seaside towns.