No matter what women wear, no matter how they behave, they get blamed
Today I want to give you a figure: 945 degrees Celsius.
That is the burning point of gasoline. Imagine a young girl, about to sit for an exam she set her whole future on, being set on fire. Imagine her skin seared, her organs boiled. Imagine her fear as she looked her attackers in the eye, girls like herself, who sought to defend the lecherous advances of their masters.
A heart beating its dying beat, lungs rising and falling one last time, tears falling endlessly for a nation that lost its innocence long ago.
Let’s not beat around the bush: Women in our country are not treated as people. They fulfill various “functions” based on the day and locale -- most of the time they are objects to be lusted after, in classrooms, in offices, in public transport, etc.
In these specific locales, they function to inflame the libidos of lecherous men. What strikes me as surreal is how, so often, the victim is considered to be bringing it upon herself -- the image of waving a piece of meat in front of salivating dogs is often used to describe these incidents.
Wrap it up, protect it, and nothing of this sort will happen. Of course, that logic fails in this case, as it does in almost all cases. She was fully covered up.
Sometimes women are treated in Bangladesh as trophies. Objects to be won over and controlled after a lifetime of attaining skills and educational competence. Get smart, get rich, and get married to a beautiful religious angel who has never before known the touch of a man and will love, cherish, and pamper you like your mother used to.
That is the underlying cultural myth that we all subscribe to. Fail to do that, deviate in any way from the accepted norm, and you become an object of scorn.
Simply put: It’s pathetic.
It’s pathetic and disgusting how often the same story repeats itself in our society. While the perpetrators in such cases are often men, they are many times aided and abetted by the fairer sex.
This case is remarkable because it is one where the supporters of the perpetrator in question were female, and chose to use physical punishment to defend … what exactly?
What exactly were these women protecting? The reputation of a man who was a pillar of their community, who used his position as a religious and educational leader to prey upon on underage girls?
In the coming days, over dining tables, over cups of tea and cigarettes shared, this incident will be dissected again and again. Everything will be blamed -- the foreign media will be blamed for flooding our airwaves with wanton sex and debauchery, religious leaders will decry that our country is losing its moral foundation, global warming will be blamed for increasing the temperature causing the blood to heat up and causing this pandemic of violence.
All of that is hogwash.
The real cause of this is in the mirror. Our society gets uglier a little bit at a time with our actions. It gets uglier when we see something and say nothing, it gets uglier when we don’t step in to help when we can. It gets uglier when the first thing we ask when we hear such news is: “What was she wearing?”
In the future, I expect women in Bangladesh to roam around wearing suits of chainmail armour.
Even then, when such incidents do happen, I’m sure that there will be some stalwart sages in our midst who will ask: “Why was she wearing a suit of armour? She should have been sitting inside a tank. Then this never would have happened.”
Zubier Abdullah is an engineer and a short story writer.