The fight for justice goes on
The heinous gang rape of a mother of four children in Noakhali has brought back national attention to the act of rape on women and children, which has become an epidemic. The recent report of the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad concludes that, in 2018, there have been almost 950 reported cases of rape, among which 182 were gang rapes.
There have been at least five cases of rape or attempted rape just within the first five days of 2019. The time has come that we take concerted, well-crafted, and immediate actions to stop and annihilate this social cancer before it gets out of control.
While the number of reported cases is already staggering, undoubtedly the actual number is much higher -- as many such cases are never reported, the victims fearing social stigma and potential persecution. As a result, the innocent victims are left in perpetual torment, and the perpetrators proudly roam around to find the next prey.
A 2017 report suggests that the disposal rate of rape cases in the Dhaka Court was less than 50% with a desecrating conviction rate of only 0.77%. This will only worsen the situation for the victim, the family, and society as a whole.
Rapists are monsters who prey on anyone and everyone they find. In March 2018, a three-year-old toddler was raped by a 50-year-old assailant. Attacks on children, and the assault on young and mature women continue to grow alarmingly.
The situation can be especially perilous for minorities and people with special needs. A few days ago, a 22-year-old young woman with special needs was allegedly gang-raped by three men. Men are also susceptible to such harassment, and several have come forward and shared their worst nightmares of getting harassed in their homes, markets, or public transports.
In reality, no one is truly safe from these deplorable assaulters. And the perpetrators come in all ages.
An adolescent boy of 12 attempted an assault on an eight-year-old girl in Comilla; a 60-year-old man raped a 22-year-old speech-impaired woman in Madaripur. Indeed, shamelessness and lust do not have any age restrictions.
It will be naive to assume that these culprits are unknown people. In plenty of cases, the assaulters are known to the victim and the family. These are people living amongst us -- as family members, relatives, neighbours, friends, teachers, religious leaders, politicians -- who are lurking in the darkness and constantly looking for an opportunity, and only then revealing their true identity as the monsters that they are.
In this deteriorating situation, individual and collective efforts need to be made to contain the spread and growth of this cancer. The complete obliteration will surely need time, effort, and resources. Unfortunately, if we wait for change to happen, we, along with our family members and others we love and care about, might fall victim to these hyenas.
Thus, the responsibility lies particularly on the shoulder of every individual to be vigilant about their own behaviour, and the tendencies of their friends and associates. Parents need to be extra cautious to not to let their children be alone in places or situations where there are risks.
They should also encourage their children to share incidents, threats, or premonitions of potential sexual assaults so that necessary actions can be taken.
On the other hand, we, as a community, should encourage, empower, support, and protect the victims and their families so that they can come forward without fearing shame or persecution, and the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
As individuals, we should continue the discussion, debate, and protest against sexual harassment until the legal system is strengthened, the safety nets are properly knitted, and justice is served.
Makshudul Alom Mokul Mondal is a graduate student at the Alliance Manchester Business School and a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum. He is also a researcher on socio-economic issues and international affairs.