• Tuesday, Nov 24, 2020
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Rape culture in Bangladesh: Put the rapist on trial, not the victim

  • Published at 08:15 pm October 14th, 2020
TRIBUNE TALKS: What can we do to dismantle rape culture in
TRIBUNE TALKS: What can we do to dismantle rape culture in...Dhaka Tribune

Misogyny, culture of impunity, victim blaming need to go

The root causes of rape culture in Bangladesh are misogyny, toxic masculinity, culture of impunity, victim blaming, and loopholes of legal system, speakers of a webinar have said.

They said this while speaking at Tribune Talks, a virtual talk show hosted by Dhaka Tribune titled “What Can We Do to Dismantle Rape Culture in Bangladesh?” on Wednesday.

Condoning rape by blaming the victim has become a common place practice in Bangladesh and in many parts of the world, they said.

Noted women’s rights activist Shireen Huq, a member of Naripokkho, said the first teaching on how to dismantle rape culture should cme from the family, because rape culture is pervasive and almost omnipresent. 

“It is not always the law or societal change we should work on. It is very important to talk about family and parenting. Parents are telling their daughters to shut up when she is victimized. It is time to confront that as well,” she said. 

Rape culture will continue if people do not stop sheltering the perpetrators, Shireen added.

Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan said: “Rape culture is not just about rape. Fundamentally, the root cause of this is the misogynistic mindset. That has to change but it needs a long term solution.”

Some parts of the rape law are old-fashioned and do not fit in 2020 society, he said.

“The certainty of punishment is much more effective than the severity of it,” he added.

Seeking justice lead to more violence, sometimes

Taqbir Huda, research specialist at Bangladesh Legal Aid and Service Trust (BLAST), put emphasis on the protection of victims and how this weak system is making rape survivors not to report the crime.

“We do not have a witness protection system. In many cases, seeking justice is like opening up to more violence. It is high time we invest in a witness protection system,” he said.

Victims should not feel they are on trial instead of the perpetrator, Taqbir said.

Barrister Sarah Hossain said there is no robust culture of speaking out in Bangladesh.

“In many cases, the victim's own family dissuades them from reporting,” she said. 

Media could be a strong ally to fight rape culture but unfortunately some news portal in online space are invading the victim’s privacy for writing stories on rape, Sarah added.

While moderating the show, Esha Aurora, assistant news editor of Dhaka Tribune, said the level of intolerance has built up in this country and the reactionary mindset that people exhibit online, need to be addressed. 

Ishtiaque Rahman, editor of Muktiforum, said the best thing in this situation would be a systematic change. 

“We need to dismantle misogyny and toxic masculinity. Men get raped but often they are being laughed at for not being masculine enough,” he said.

Religion does not have to be the opposition in fighting the rape culture, if a liberal interpretation of religion could be presented to the common people, he also said.

Protectionist mindset needs to go 

Susannah Savage, Dhaka correspondent of The Economist, said the narrative against rape in the protests need a major overhaul. With slogans like “We need to protect our mothers and sisters,” protesters show a protectionist mindset toward women which is a patriarchal element, she said.

“People often support sexist ideas as harmless and sometime laugh it out. But it is really important to raise our children not to take it for granted,” Savage added.

The speakers also discussed about male rape as it is still an unspoken issue in Bangladesh.

Rape is seen as an inevitable outcome of female wrong doing and therefore people do not want to admit that male rape is happening, Taqbir said.

“Rape in madrasa is something people do not want to talk about because it happens in religious schools. Religion is something people hold close to their heart. As a result, perpetrators often gets away with rape,” he further added. 

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