Only 2% of women seek aid because of all the obstacles in the path to receiving legal support
In Bangladesh, which saw the reported rape of 1,093 children and women this year alone, it has become imperative to repeatedly pose the question: Are the measures being taken really enough?
The nationwide anti-rape protests just last month culminated in the government’s slapdash effort to make the problem go away by increasing the maximum punishment for rape. Despite experts’ repeated warnings, the death penalty was reinstated.
This has overlooked what numerous protest platforms upheld in their demands, that it is not the severity of punishment that is the issue, but rather the ever pervasive rape culture which continues to haunt this country. Failing to address this culture of stigma and impunity when it comes to matters of gender-based violence will only lead to higher rates of rape and violence.
A holistic approach to tackle this epidemic is the least the government could do. This includes extensive law reform, such as broadening the definition of rape to include marital rape, as well as the rape of men, and trans and Hijra people; it also means getting rid of the Evidence Act, and other acts and laws which incline towards victim-blaming. In a country where only 2% of women seek aid because of all the obstacles in the path to receiving legal support, investigating this consistent underreporting should have been at the top of the list. Increasing the punishment does little to curb the issue if even the existing cases are not seen to.
But even legal reform is not enough. The culpability for our culture of gender-based violence extends to our society, our families, and us. We hold the same values as our laws, of stigmatizing and shaming survivors. Taking a truly holistic approach means addressing these issues as well, by way of awareness campaigns, comprehensive sex education, etc.
It is high time that more effective solutions, which are not undertaken only to appease an enraged public, are adopted and implemented. Our country, with its 2,711 reported cases of violence this year, has seen enough.