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OP-ED: From Hathras to Begumganj, the horror continues

  • Published at 12:33 pm October 10th, 2020
protest rape
Photo: MEHEDI HASAN

Let us no longer accept the unacceptable

There was this meme making rounds on social media a couple of days ago. In the meme, a woman is asked what she is going to do if there are no men in this world. The woman says that the first thing she will do is take a walk in the middle of the night. 

No, there is no “man-hating feminist” propaganda here. What I see in this meme is a reflection of the fact that women in this part of the world have to sacrifice little things like taking a moonlit stroll, enjoying the sunset from a dinghy boat, or simply breaking the curfew of staying outside after dark for too long. 

We, as women, are absolutely done being reduced to “prey” for a section of perverted men. It is a good sign that protests have erupted after a video went viral on Facebook depicting a woman in Begumganj who was stripped naked and sexually assaulted by a group of men in front of her own house. 

A similar protest is going on in neighbouring in India against an alleged gang rape and killing of a Dalit woman in Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh. But the real question is how far-reaching it will be. 

Much has been said about the changing mindset to curb rape incidents. However, it needs to be said over and over again. 

One of the cures of the rape pandemic is to raise our voice against rape culture. 

It is not feasible for everybody to chant slogans against rape on the street until we end rape once and for all. But we can still do our part by fighting the sexist uncle at the dinner table who thinks women provoke men to rape, calling out the netizen online who posts obscene comments under a female celebrity’s photo on social media, and telling our parents to raise their sons to not become sexual predators. 

We can do our part by not accepting the unacceptable.  

A study conducted by the United Nations Development Program has found that 10% of Bangladeshi urban men  interviewed for the survey had reported perpetrating some form of rape against a woman or girl in their lifetimes. 

About 82% of rural and 79% of urban Bangladeshi men said the reason for rape is men’s sexual “entitlement.” 

It is high time we include topics like the contribution of toxic masculinity, everyday sexism, and muscle power to promote rape culture into our daily conversation. 

It is high time we take this conversation to classrooms, office meetings, seminars, and family get-togethers. We cannot protest on the street for months but we can continue to fight rape culture every day with our actions.

Feminist author and The Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti once said: “In decades of research on rape, no one has found a link between what a woman wears and her chances of being attacked. 

“The only relationship between clothing and sexual assault is how much a victim will be blamed, period.” 

Let’s read and re-read what she said. If you think along the lines of “we want justice for the rape victim but women should not expose themselves and provoke men to rape,” you have already picked the side of the rapist. 

Rape is not just an issue relevant to countries where women are treated as second-class citizens. 

Many developed countries where women enjoy much more freedom compared to countries like Bangladesh have high rates of rape and other forms of sexual offence and misconduct.

When the #metoo wave hit the United States in 2017, the whole world witnessed how women in powerful and privileged positions were shamed into silence after they were sexually assaulted by powerful men. 

Sexual violence against women is a global crisis and it is only through a global protest that we can put an end to this.

Kohinur Khyum Tithila is a staff reporter at Dhaka Tribune.

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