DHAKA // A district in northern Bangladesh has offered karate training to all female school and college pupils following a spate of suicides and killings due to bullying, officials said on Tuesday.
Learning the Japanese martial art would make girls more able to protect themselves, said Bazlul Karim, head of Tangail district administration.
"They need to be strong to tackle the menace of bullying," he said.
Local police chief Mizanur Rahman said sports teachers and police instructors would run the programme.
"The response from the girls and their guardians has been very positive," Rahman said, adding the police have also set up a 24-hour "text-message hotline" for bullying victims to report abuse and receive specialised help.
Since coming to power in December 2008 the Awami League government has launched a major crackdown on sexual harassment, particularly in schools, including stationing undercover police in playgrounds to arrest bullies.
The Tangail district's measures follow the deaths of three people across Bangladesh this week in bullying-related incidents, bringing the total number of deaths to 36 this year, according to police statistics.
On Monday a 15-year-old Hindu girl committed suicide after she was kidnapped by a stalker who locked her up and rubbed vermilion on her forehead -- a mark of marriage according to Hinduism.
A 50-year-old woman died after stalkers drove a motorcycle over her when she protested the bullying of her daughter last Tuesday. A college teacher who intervened in a bullying incident was also brutally murdered last week.