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OP-ED: Counting rapes

  • Published at 12:35 pm October 10th, 2020

How many more women must be brutalized before this comes to an end?

Ours is a country where we keep counting the number of rapes by men and curse our stars. Our curses continue for a few days. Maybe for a week. 

And then, the entire nation forgets about what happened. Observing the media reports on rapes and subsequent reaction of society, I developed a perception, over the decades, that we usually take it for granted that we, men, will keep violating women and we will read the news in the papers, and watch the news on TV, and then forget it until something new and sensational is once again reported by the media. 

News of the rapists and the victims will eventually stop and, a few years later, the violators will also get away, free in society, perhaps to rape many more women.

Is there a sudden surge in rape incidents across the country? In fact, no. When the media considers a rape incident “sensational” enough, it is covered and, eventually, we start receiving a spate of rape stories in the media. 

And these days, a rape incident only gets importance when it becomes viral on social media. Otherwise, we don’t care much.

Let me cite some headlines from one day’s newspapers:

Father rapes his own daughter.

Madrassah principal rapes a 13-year-old girl in his `room after fajr prayer.

Priest rapes a girl at a church.

Imam of a mosque rapes a girl.

What do these headlines imply? It implies that the psyche of men has started to rot and we don’t know why. But wherever there’s something sensational, the media gets energized and we have all kinds of statistics on rapes.

The attention of the media is very short-lived. When it is following up on a big incident, another incident happens and the media gets diverted. Politics gets more importance than the suffering of the people. 

When the media loses its focus, it becomes very difficult to get justice in this country. So, the media has a big role to play consistently to curb these heinous crimes.

It has become routine for rights organizations to publish statistics on violations across the country on a quarterly and yearly basis. They also come up with a set of recommendations. However, unfortunately, those recommendations, no matter how good they are, are shelved for another year to go with a new set of statistics.

Ain o Salish Kendra has just said that a total 975 women were raped, including 208 who were gang raped, from January to September 30 this year. Out of these 975, 45 were killed after. 

And another 12 women killed themselves. Apart from that, 627 children were raped and 20 boys were molested while 21 women fell victim to acid attacks.

The actual situation is much graver than these statistics. We don’t know about how many women simply go silent after being raped. There’s no way to know; there’s no way to protect our women from perpetrators.

Rape may be nothing new in Bangladesh. But in recent years, it has become an everyday affair and we know anybody can get away with it even after committing these horrendous crimes. 

We have accepted the fact that, after a rape incident, a few men will be arrested and then, after a few weeks, they will be released with support from law enforcers. 

A media report last week said that 97% of perpetrators get off the hook in many different ways. The objective of formulating laws is to curb and contain crimes in society. 

The court will punish one criminal so that others don’t commit those crimes. We would normally believe that. But, in our country, we haven’t seen any exemplary punishment for sex offenders. The potential rapists now believe that it is easy to rape a woman and get away with it.

The experts have found out various reasons for the rise in gender crimes. They think the failure to contain sexual urges, alarming rise in drug abuse and pornography, patriarchal attitudes towards women, and a very weak criminal justice system are the main reasons for which the violence against women is growing in Bangladesh. They also think that law enforcers have a history of improper dealing of cases and clearing offenders through underhand dealings.

I’ve recently come across research that surprised me. The study, run by icddr,b, said that 89% of men in the villages and 83% of men in urban areas think that they have the right to beat their wives up if their wives make a mistake. 

In addition, 50% of men in cities and 65% of men in rural areas believe that women should accept the torture from men for the sake of the family.

How valiant!

Where do these beliefs come from? Well, it is us who have instilled these in the brains of men. We only care about our economy, but we hardly think about how we can create a peaceful society with all those economic developments. 

We have just come to know that the government is going to amend the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000, to make death sentence the highest punishment for committing rape. Currently, the highest punishment is life imprisonment. 

We believe it has been a timely decision. However, there are many more miles to go. The next task is to fix our police department so that they don’t let the perpetrators go. 

And then, we must bring about a paradigm shift in men’s psyche so that they consider women as human beings. 

Ekram Kabir is a yogi, a story-teller and a communications professional. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.  

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