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Dhaka Tribune

ED: It is never, ever the victim’s fault

A more severe punishment will mean nothing if women are made to feel culpable for crimes committed against them

Update : 07 Dec 2023, 09:06 AM

When it comes to rape and sexual assault, the mindsets of many are still, regrettably, stuck in the past.

For example, shaming and blaming a victim for their choice of clothing is still a prevalent practice. Alarmingly, this retrograde mode of thinking is not limited to undereducated or poor segments of society, but in our society at all levels.

The issue reared its ugly head again when movie star and entrepreneur Ananta Jalil made comments about the provocative clothing worn by women, which he said may cause men to make unwanted advances. While it may be easy enough to dismiss Jalil’s views as ill-informed and unenlightened, it is frightening that figures such as him do command large fanbases, and as such influence people’s thoughts and opinions on the matter.

Protests have broken out recently all over the country to call out our rape culture, and to instigate change. But change in this case does not mean slapping on a death penalty or making some token legal change to appease protesters. Change has to happen in the very marrow of culture, rooting out deeply held misogynistic beliefs that gaslight victims of rape and sexual assault while providing avenues for perpetrators to go free.

It is this toxic culture of shame and bullying that stops women from coming forward in the first place. A more severe punishment will mean nothing if women are made to feel culpable for crimes committed against them.

In the fight against rape and sexual violence, then, there is still a long way to go. This is not merely a legal battle, but one of hearts, minds, and attitudes.

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