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Desperate times, desperate measures

  • Published at 10:55 pm June 21st, 2019
Photo: BIGSTOCK
Photo: BIGSTOCK

Do sex crimes call for extreme measures?

A vernacular daily in Bangladesh has reported that the American state of Alabama has passed a new law in order to prevent child rapes. The law states that a male who has been convicted for raping a child under 13 will be given an injection that will make the offender sexually incapacitated for the rest of his life. 

The offender will be castrated chemically. The rapist will not be able to have sexual intercourse ever again. 

If he’s released on parole from prison, he has to get that injection that will prevent him from committing further sexual violence. If he doesn’t agree, then he will have to spend the rest of his life in prison.

I had mixed feelings when I first came across this news. I first thought: “Wow! What an appropriate measure against the most abominable crime in the world.” The passing of the law also reveals the helplessness of society in the face of sexual crimes. 

No steps against rapes are possibly working in society, and that’s why they thought of introducing such an extreme law.

Indeed, in many societies, rapes have become a problem that cannot be contained even after taking various steps, both legal and social. The women are seen to feel quite helpless as well as angry in the face of these heinous sexual crimes. 

In Bangladesh, not a single day passes by without any news of rape in the media. Some say rapes are increasing in Bangladeshi society. 

Social scientists, lawyers, and field level crime investigators have expressed deep concerns over the rising number of rape incidents, and they blame the slow criminal justice system, drug addiction, and unemployment, among other things.

A newspaper report said that, on average, nearly 13 women and girls were raped in Bangladesh every day in the first four months of 2019. Rights organization Manusher Jonno Foundation said at least 44 children were either raped or subjected to attempted rape in the nine days between May 1 and May 9 this year. 

Police statistics say 20,835 cases have been filed on charges of rape since 2014. And of those cases, 1,538 were filed between January 1 and April 30 of 2019. 

In such a backdrop, should we employ measures as extreme as that of Alabama? Many would want to know. 

I asked around, and people around me were all in favour of introducing such a law that may be able to create fear among future offenders and stop them from committing those crimes. In an emotional society such as ours, hoping for such a law is quite normal -- we always want to implement extreme measures. 

We have seen some of the sex offenders being killed in “crossfires.” I wonder if the news of these crossfires created any fear in the minds of future offenders.

Say we castrate an offender chemically, and let him roam freely, who would monitor him? Failing to engage in sexual intercourse, he is bound to be affected psychologically and that may lead him to commit other crimes like murder, acid violence, etc. 

He would surely try to avenge what has been done to him. Another set of crimes, then, come into existence. 

Having said that, time has come for us to ask ourselves about our progress in preventing sexual crimes. In a society with 13 reported rape incidents each day, what steps have been taken in response? 

Why would women be raped in a society as religious as ours? Why would rapes be committed in a country where both the government and NGOs have been working to uphold women’s rights and their empowerment?

NGOs and UN agencies have been talking about changing the behaviour of the people and creating an atmosphere in which all of us will consider rape as a crime. Sadly, any attempt at this has not worked in Bangladesh. 

We have also tried special tribunals and speedy trials. Some offenders have died in crossfires with law enforcers. No matter what we have done, this evil called rape is still increasing in our country.

Our women have become more financially empowered than they used to be two decades ago. We have been trying to establish gender equality in our society. Have these developments helped us to prevent rape incidents or gruesome atrocities against women at all? 

Many told me that we may have to go beyond what we have been doing to prevent such crimes. Maybe we need to strike at the root of our education. 

The education against rape has to start from early childhood. We have to put mechanisms in place that would help us wipe out this crime from our society. But we don’t know what or how.

Ekram Kabir is a story-teller. His works can be found on ekramkabir.com.