This year alone, the number of headlines about minors as young as four-years-old being raped was disturbingly high.
On July 30 this year, 35-year-old Shipon raped and killed a four-year-old girl in Badda, Dhaka.
The victim, who lived with her parents in a rented room in a slum in, was returning home from a friend’s house around 5pm. Shipon, who lives near the victim’s family with his wife, lured her into his house with promises of food, said Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s (DMP) DB Joint Commissioner Abdul Baten at press conference on July 31.
Once he got her inside, Shipon raped the child and, when she screamed, he strangled her to death. Later, he threw her body inside a bathroom near her house.
Most of girls however aren’t killed. They are left out in the open bleeding for hours before help arrives.
Twenty-year-old home tutor Sujan Mia raped his eight-year-old student last month in Shibchar, Madaripur.
He pounced on her the moment he got the chance when her parents were not home, and then told her he would kill her if she ever spoke out.
The incident was reported by the girl’s grandmother who walked in when he was raping her, and Sujon fled, but was later arrested after a case was filed with the local police station.
Statistics from Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF) show that 325 children were raped during January-September.
A total of 1,301 children were raped between 2012 and September 2016. The number was highest in 2016 with 521 children raped.
According to BSAF statistics, a total of 169 children were gang raped, 93 were murdered after they were raped, 32 committed suicide after being raped and 165 escaped attempted rapes.
The average age of these girls is between the ages of 5 to 12. The rapists tempted the children with chocolates, toys or gifts and took them to a deserted place.
Children between 13 and 18 years of age were raped with offers of marriage or rapists forced them to go to a secluded place, or they were raped when they were home alone.
It is no wonder then, that 66% of patients of rape at the One-Stop Crisis Centre (OCC) are children.
Data collected from eight OCCs across the country shows that between January to June this year, out of 560 rape survivors the Crisis Centre treated, 369 of them were minors.
The data was collected from the OCC in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna, Barisal, Faridpur and Ranpur. The OCC staff said that a large number of rape survivors at the centre were between the ages of 9 to 13.
The overall number of minors being raped is probably higher as a large number of them are unreported
because of social stigma.
Another rights group, Odhikar in a recent statement said incidents of child rape outnumber reported rapes of adult women. Between 2012 and October 2017, a total of 2,788 minor girls were raped.
According to Odhikar, however, the data is just the tip of the iceberg because most rapes go unreported due to social stigma and fear of further harassment and abuse.
In an earlier report, Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) Sheepa Hafiza said rapes of children aged between 7 and 12 has greatly increased in the last five years, adding: “most of these cases are an act of retaliation over some fight, land dispute or money.
“People think being raped makes these children lose their purity and that is why they use it as an act of retaliation. But raping children means the men have lost their sanity.”
Dhaka and Sylhet sees highest incidents of child rapes
Data from the One Stop Crisis Centre (OCC) shows that Dhaka and Sylhet are most dangerous for young girls.
From January to June, some 131 female children in Dhaka were taken to the OCC for rape. The numbers peaked in May where 36 children were admitted to the centre for injuries from sexual assault, mostly rape.
In Sylhet this year, 105 minor rape survivors were taken to the OCC for treatment. On average 17 girls had to bed rushed to the centre every month.
In the last six months the OCC's at Rajshahi had 26 girl rape survivors seeking treatment, Chittagong had 42, Khulna saw 13, Barisal had 22, Faridpur saw 21 and Rangpur admitted nine.
A doctor seeking anonymity at the OCC at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) told Dhaka Tribune that most of the rape survivors at the department were under aged girls.
“I am shocked by the numbers. We found out that most of the girls were raped by relatives or neighbours, teachers or family friends. Basically people they trusted,” the doctor said.
Most of these children were raped while playing at a neighbour’s house or at home alone.
The doctor from the OCC said: “Theyoung rape survivors are mostly from low income families. Their parents are usually not able to look after them at home because they work long hours.
“The slums are packed in very close together with each neighbour having access to another’s home, which leaves female children at risk when left alone.”
Threats by rapists also forced them not to file a case, the doctor added.
Many of the staff working at different OCC in the country said that the parents of child rape survivors do not want to seek legal aid because of social stigma attached to rape in Bangladesh.
Speaking on the issue, Dr Abul Hossain, director of Multi-sectoral Program on Violence Against Women under the Women and Children Affairs Ministry said: “We are trying to raise awareness and help people raise their voice against rape. We have created some public awareness programmes on TV, radio, published booklets, brochures, magazines and posters.”