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First they came for our statues

  • Published at 08:14 pm May 21st, 2017
  • Last updated at 10:32 pm May 21st, 2017
First they came for our statues

I won’t pretend to understand the complexities of governance and politics in an ostensibly democratic nation such as ours, but surely one would agree that the core concept isn’t anything up for interpretation: People vote you to power, and you try to do good by the people.

It’s rarely as simple as that, of course, with multiple lines dividing the people itself, colouring each section according to their own nuances and quirks.

You have the influential, the wealthy, the staunchly conservative, those who are just trying to get by, and, of course, those in the chum bucket -- the wretched refuse for whom society has no use for except as grist for when time calls for it.

Unfortunately, it seems, if you are either a heterosexual woman or a homosexual man, the majority has all but decreed that you fall into that last category.

The necessary evil

This month has seen two monumental news stories pretty much flood every other topic of conversation.

The case of the Banani rape, in which a couple of fine pillars of our community had their way with two young women without their consent; and, more recently, the busting of a congregation of 28 purportedly homosexual men at a community centre in Keraniganj.

If there is even a hint of disrespect in what I’m about to say next, I beg your forgiveness:

The Banani rape case was necessary.

Stay your pitchforks, ladies and gents, allow me to explain myself.

When I say that what happened was necessary, I do not mean the act of the rape itself, rather the media frenzy that followed.

The incident opened the floodgates to discussion on rape the likes of which I personally have never seen before in this country.

It’s no big secret that our society views women through a much less respectable lens than more progressive settlements, and it appears to be an attitude that transcends class, and perhaps even education, as our own Luba Khalili argued in her op-ed “With friends like these.”

Where did all that “women empowerment” spiel we’ve been hearing about for the last seven years or so go?

Is our definition of that particular term exclusive to underprivileged women being stuck next to a sewing machine for 10 or so hours a day, being paid in discarded peanut shells, and making a grand, positive statistic out of them?

But I digress.

It’s a frightening prospect for the government, one that has quite recently reiterated its commitment to scrubbing away Islamist radicalisation from the nation, to be giving a radical Islamist group so much time of their day

Intolerant voices

Certainly, a large part of why this is still the prevalent attitude for us is the peanut gallery of misogynists taking refuge behind the retrograde understanding of Islam.

These are the kind of people who suggest that the media stop referring to the women who were raped as “raped” and go for something that would suit their palettes better; who think that halting the “free mixing” of men and women (the interpretation of which I shall leave to you) is the silver-bullet solution that this country needs to stop horrors like this from occurring.

Now, imagine the prospect of our own government pandering to these lunatics. Which brings us to the big gay bust of 2017.

By now, a lot of people should be aware of Section 377, an archaic law left dangling in our penal code that decrees homosexuality an “unnatural offence.”

There is no reason to believe that life will get any better for gay folk in Bangladesh, but the general rule thus far has always been, as far as I know, “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

I hardly think that the gentlemen who had congregated in that community centre had some kind of giant neon-lit sign advertising the nature of their meet.

So how exactly did RAB come to know of it? A hunch? An assumption that sexual activity between the same sex was occurring somewhere in the vicinity?

It’s important to notice the timing of the bust, of course.

In light of the Banani rape case, a righteous move to rid the country of any further sexual deviancy (as understood by the majority) stands to gain a lot of political capital among the few screeching intolerant voices in our country and the silent majority that they claim to represent.

Whether they call themselves IS, al-Qaeda, JMB, or Hefazat, none of these groups have the best interests of the majority at heart, even if they have deluded themselves into believing they do.

Which is why it’s such a frightening prospect for the government, one that has quite recently reiterated its commitment to scrubbing away Islamist radicalisation from the nation, to be giving a radical Islamist group so much time of their day.

First they came for our statues, then the women who stay out late, then the homosexuals … and unless we speak out now, there’s nothing stopping them from coming for you.

And come for you they shall.

Rubaiyat Kabir is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. He can be followed on Twitter @moreanik.