Monday, April 15, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Has sexual violence become part of our culture?

Will women in our country ever be safe?

Update : 22 Jul 2019, 12:03 AM

Afghanistan, a recent BBC investigation reveals, has been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment at the highest levels of government.

A woman shares her harrowing experience to the BBC reporter -- the victim, who had applied for the government job, was asked to meet a close aide of President Ashraf Ghani.

“This man appears in pictures with the president,” she recounts to the reporter. “He asked me to come to his private office. He said, ‘Come and sit, I’ll approve your documents.’ He moved closer to me and then said ‘let’s drink and have sex.’”

Afghanistan, BBC informs us, consistently ranks as one of the worst countries in the world to be a woman in.

A UN report released in 2018 detailed how women who are victims of sexual crimes and violence are pressured to withdraw their complaints. In many cases, they are blamed for the offenses committed against them.

Does this Afghan scenario ring any bell? The latest Nusrat murder case in Bangladesh’s Feni, for instance? The 19-year-old madrassa student, Nusrat Jahan Rafi, was doused with kerosene and set on fire on April 6, on the very roof of the school building.

Her crime? Just some days earlier she had filed a sexual abuse complaint with the police against the madrassa principal. She had been, however, repeatedly warned to withdraw the case after that.

Nusrat’s murder, decidedly, rocked Bangladesh, but our country is a far, far better place to live in than Afghanistan.

Our law enforcement agency takes immediate actions if there is any complaint of sexual violence and crimes. Although, there are occasional reports of the police not willing to register the sexual crimes under the pressure of local influential and political figures.

Unlike Afghanistan, by and large, Bangladesh has surprisingly become a role model when it comes to women empowerment. As per the Global Gender Gap Report, Bangladesh ranked 47th among 144 countries in 2017.

Our position in this regard is way better than our neighboring nations in South Asia. And Bangladesh is set to be a developing country by 2021.

All kinds of sexual violence are commonplace in every country. It’s a perennial problem, in fact. But in the last few years, incidents of ghastly sexual crimes -- child rapes, in particular -- are plaguing Bangladesh.

A recent report published by the Bangladesh Mohila Parishad (BMP) unveils that 731 women and children were raped in the first six months of the current year, whereas 942 rapes were recorded in all of 2018.

BMP also added that in the midway of 2019 the number of incidents of violence against women and children rose to 2,083 compared to 3,918 in the previous year. BMP compiled these figures from the news published in the 14 national newspapers over the first half of this present year.

The actual number, as the analysts say, will be far greater. I stumbled upon a Facebook post lately of a doctor working in the victim support center at Sher-e Bangla Medical College, Barishal.

He allegedly said that during his one year tenure at the center he came across about a hundred rape cases, but only six of them were reported. The number horrified me to the bones.

There has been an alarming increase in child rape incidents too. A report published on July 1 by “Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum” (BSAF) claimed that between April to June, child rapes rose by 102% from the previous quarter in 2019.

Earlier this month, the murder of a 10-year-old girl after rape in the capital’s Wari shocked Dhaka denizens. The girl was killed in the same apartment building of her residence.

It seems Bangladesh is heading towards a dark age where “morality” is becoming a dead and extinct word. The sickening and shocking news is even coming to newspapers where madrassa or school teachers raped their girl students and videoed the incidents.

A few days ago, Ntv news reported that a father drugged his wife and raped his 15-year-old daughter. This incident happened in the capital’s Khilgaon area. The police said the rapist father, Md Jalal Bhuiyan (40), is a yaba addict, who had earlier served a three-month sentence for taking yaba.

There is a significant correlation between drug and sexual violence. Drug addiction can gradually destroy a person’s moral judgment. The number of drug addicts and sexual crimes, simultaneously, are rising in Bangladesh.

Analysts say that it is the “culture of impunity” that is propelling the rise of such heinous crimes. I spent some years abroad. I had to live in shared flats. You probably know that in the developed countries housing is crazy expensive.

Students and people on low incomes live in shared flats. Two or three unknown men and women may live in one flat in separate rooms. I never heard of any rape incidents. Well, sexual harassment and assault happen everywhere more or less.

Bangladeshi parents worry a lot when their daughters go to study in Western countries. We know what this worry is about. But the truth is, girls can walk there even in the night streets with a far safer feeling than walking during the day in Bangladesh.

Everybody knows there if you call the police in case of emergency they will arrive in minutes. This sense of safety and the belief in the country’s legal system is fiercely important. Bangladesh is far, far behind to get there.

Rahad Abir is a writer.



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