The idea of a dedicated area for females at a popular Bangladesh resort had faced backlash
The authorities in Bangladesh’s main tourist resort have swiftly backtracked on their decision to open a women-only beach zone after social media users compared them to the Taliban.
An exclusive area for women and children had been set aside at the Cox’s Bazar Beach on Wednesday – the world’s longest natural strand, stretching some 120km (75 miles) – and a large sign erected in the sand to inform beachgoers of the new rules.
A senior official told the AFP news agency that local women had “requested a dedicated beach section for themselves, because they felt shy and insecure in a crowded place.” Bangladesh is a Muslim country of 161 million, with a largely conservative population.
The move had been made in the wake of the gang rape of a woman in Cox’s Bazar last week, which raised concerns about safety in the area, which is visited by foreign and local tourists alike. However, just several hours later, the female-only zone had to be scrapped.
The authorities subsequently issued a statement saying the decision had been “withdrawn” over what they described as “negative comments.”
A number of social media users had trashed the initiative, accusing the resort’s administration of gender segregation and of pandering to Islamists.
“This is Talebistan,” prominent journalist Syed Ishtiaque Reza proclaimed on Facebook, referring to the Taliban radical movement, which has been imposing its strict Islamic rules on the conduct of women since taking power in Afghanistan in August.
He was backed by many others, who insisted the authorities shouldn’t give in to the hardline Islamist groups that have been staging rallies across Bangladesh in recent years and demanding segregation of the sexes in workplaces.