TRAUMATIC, humiliating and frightening. For victims of sexual abuse, the experience can be all this and more. But as the cases surfacing in the pages of newspapers and electronic media screen indicate, there is no dearth of men–precisely speaking, villains and monsters – willing to target women at all places in Bangladesh now. The bestiality of a human rapist as reported in a section of the press on July 26 shames every human being on earth. Jahidul Islam Litu (23) of Jhenaidah village, a human-beast raped a 5-year old girl of Kanchanpur under Jhenaidah Municipality on 18th July. More alarming, a report published in the local dailies on July 25 last indicated that a rape victim in Gopalganj, a class eight student killed herself by ingesting poison. The rapist Al -Amin hailing from Bagerhat is still at large. According to sources close to Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, in the last two months ending in April this year, 184 women and children had been raped. According to statistics provided by the organization, 2208 gender-based violence occurred over the last six months. Of them, 304 women and children were raped, 82 were gang raped, 45 were killed after rape and there were 51 cases of attempted rape. Activists and Human Rights Organisations sources say that this is only a fraction of the crime situation in the whole country and only the most glaring cases come to light.
Ominously, all these reports and scores of others that do not reach the media suggest that the country is experiencing almost a total breakdown of law and order. Quite frequently, the role of law enforcing agencies has been questioned and their inaction has only fueled the criminal activities. The concerned ministry's response, at best, has been to ignore the crime graph or shuffle police personnel. The overriding feeling is that not only the city but the whole country is policed by a beaten force. Otherwise, how do we reconcile with the fact that the arrestees in a women and children repression case in Fulbari upazila of Kurigram while they were being brought to court under police custody ran away from the grip of the armed police personnel ?
In recent times, troubles mostly started with the women workers in business houses and garment factories to respond to co-workers and boss' sexual advances. In most cases women workers refusal to respond to such overtures land them to distress situation. Most victims would rather not approach either police or courts and are left with a little choice, since in most cases no action is taken to redress the grievances of the women victims. If and when the victim or her parents have gone to a court, that seems to be a perilous journey, an inordinately long judicial procedure dragging on for years. Now in the backdrop of rising number of rape cases, where women are silent victims, it has become necessary that all legal processes that want to institute an enquiry must comprise a woman member, especially a lady doctor to carry investigation and look into the grievances of women victims with sufficient powers to take legal action.
Sexual abuse hurts children both physically and psychologically and the violence becomes doubly repulsive when the victim is a minor. When such violence keeps on occurring and as such poses to become a norm of the society, one is led to think that apart from individual aberrations, a lot of other things are wrong with the society and the social culture that makes inroads to such perverse propensity.
More atrocious and shocking, the alleged rape, torture and murder of minor girls in the country shame us all. In a country that we proudly call cultured, civilized, and its people imbued with religious, ethical and moral values, such ghastly incidents of rape and subsequent murder put a stigma on our collective psyche. Munira , a 12 year old girl at Gazipur committed suicide after being gang raped. Not even the innately evil and pathologically delinquent could commit such crimes even in the most rustic and vicious society or place on earth. Then why were they so emboldened to o behave so recklessly ? The answer is obvious. Like merchandise, recourse to law in this country is negotiable, depending on your pocket, status and connections.
Because of the media role women these days are emboldened. The result—more and more such cases are coming into the open. Admittedly, there is an awareness that sexual harassment, or abuse or violation or rape is not anything that should go unchallenged any more. But despite the awareness, fear of a social stigma drives most women to silence. Reports published in the dailies on August 2 say that Sonargaon rape victim's family members have left their houses because of the threats issued against them after they filed a case in the thana naming the perpetrators. The report further says that in spite of the fact that the alleged culprits are moving freely in the area, police have made no attempts to arrest them. For most of the rape victims and their families, the experience can be like this and more.
The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.