Sexual assault on women and children, especially rape, has reportedly increased in the district, raising concern about safety and security of women.
A majority of the rape incidents are reported from rural areas and most victims are daughters of labourers, said district Bangladesh Mahila Parishad General Secretary Suchorita Dev. While investigating the incidents, she found that most of the women and children are victimised by people known to them, she added.
More than five rape cases on average are filed with different police stations of the district every month, according to police records.
That agrees with the claim made by the district Bangladesh Mahila Parishad at a press conference in November of 2017 that 50 rape incidents took place in five upazilas of the district between January and October of that year. The victims were as young as four-years-old, and teenage girls and housewives.
The actual number could be much higher, said Suchorita, adding that because of the stigma that rape victims face, and the consequential harassment, most victims and their parents covered up the matter.
As per information gathered from Thakurgaon General Hospital, as many as 112 rape incidents took place in the district from January to December last year. Of them, 48 incidents were reported in Sadar upazila, Suchorita said.
“Twenty-one rape victims were housewives while others were teenage girls. The situation is really worrying,” she added.
According to Ain O Shalish Kendra, 1,378, including children, were raped across the country from January to November last year.
Superintendent of Police (SP) in the district Farhat Ahmed said a total of 70 cases, including six gang rapes, had been registered with five police stations of the district in 2017. The number was 52 in the previous year, including four gang rapes.
Thakurgaon, a north-western district in the country comprising five upazilas, has a population of 13.80 lakh, of whom 6.83 lakhs are females, according to the Bureau of Statistics in the district.
The number of accused was 123 in 2016, which went up to 161 the next year.
SP Farhat said police had submitted charge sheets in 41 of 52 rape cases filed in 2016 and 38 cases in 2017. Fourteen of the other cases of 2017 were being investigated.
“We have been doing our best to solve the cases,” he added.
The police department of the district is also concerned about the rising trend of rape incidents, the SP said, emphasising the need for raising awareness to fight the social menace.
“Widespread campaign can be a solution,” Suchorita said, adding that non-governmental organisations alongside the government can play a vital role in this regard.
There is a committee in the district to monitor such crimes against women and children, said Women's Affairs Officer in the district Morshed Ali Khan. All the elected representatives of the union parishads and upazilas are members of the committee and the deputy commissioner is its president, but it has no visible activities, he added.
Most members of the committee even skip the monthly meeting, Morshed said.