Culture of victim-blaming, political impunity and absence of women-friendly environment are compounding the problem, say discussants
Incorporating the death sentence in law will not bring down incidents of rape and repression against women if justice is not delivered and society does not change its outlook towards women, participants at a discussion said on Thursday.
The main issue is that even in this day and age, women do not have the same social status as men, said the discussants. Moreover, the culture of victim-blaming, political impunity and the absence of a women-friendly environment are compounding the problem.
Citizens for Good Governance (Shujan) arranged the online discussion meeting on violence against women and the steps that can be taken to rectify the situation. It was participated in by experts working in various fields.
A concept paper presented at the program showed that the Covid-19 pandemic had worsened women’s already precarious situation. Lockdowns, decreased mobility and dire financial constraints brought on by the coronavirus pandemic were to be blamed for the situation.
A vast majority of the population do not have access to legal measures due to the lack of empowerment in their socio-economic-political status. On the other hand, political patronage of criminals and a culture of impunity and corruption hinder the proper enforcement of law, according to the paper presented by Dr Shahnaz Huda, professor at Dhaka University’s (DU) Department of Law.
According to statistics compiled by Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), in the last eight months, there have been 975 incidents of rape and 204 incidents of attempted rape. At least 43 women were murdered after being raped, while 12 committed suicide.
Shujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said that ensuring justice was the key. He noted that issues such as a prolonged trial process, a culture of impunity and political influence had been working against the victims.
Renowned women's rights advocate Salma Ali said victims in Bangladesh were not given psychosocial counseling and, at the same time, people who were supposed to deal with the legal aspects of a rape case were not well trained.
“Those who work against gender violence — judges and lawyers at trial courts and the High Court — all need to be gender sensitive and well trained,” she added.
Tania Haque, associate professor at the Department of Women and Gender Studies of DU, said the country should introduce a comprehensive plan that would cover all aspects of the issue.
She continued: “For example, we can focus on responsible parenting that would build a generation of responsible citizens in the future. We can incorporate sex education in the syllabus.
“Besides, presenting women as a product in the media should be stopped.”
Reason behind recent rise in rape
Prof CR Abrar of Dhaka University said there had been bad people in society in the past too but one needed to think about the reason behind the recent sharp rise in rape incidents.
“It is because people believe that they can do anything and escape punishment,” he commented.
Regarding the amendment to the law against rape, he said the government should consider citizens’ opinions before taking any decision.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, a central executive member of Shujan, said the problem was multi-dimensional and the remedy should come from all sides — family, society, state — and not only from the government.
She also urged everyone to work towards building a society where rapists and not victims would be socially boycotted.
Prof Robaet Ferdous of DU argued that men committed rape as a way of asserting their dominance and that the act had very little to do with lust.
Shujan President M Hafizuddin Khan said the most important thing at present was to come out of the culture of injustice. “We have to ensure that the victims get justice.”