Rights organisations -- Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) -- have demanded justice for 14-year-old Lakingme Chakma who was abducted, converted and married off to one of her abductors, and eventually murdered in Teknaf of Cox's Bazar last year.
Justice must be ensured and the perpetrators must be held accountable for this crime, they said in a joint statement issued on Saturday.
"Lakingme's family now feels insecure. The perpetrators are their neighbours," the statement said.
The organisations alleged that the family received no help from the local police; rather, the Bengali settlers and police took the side of the abductors.
It mentioned that five crimes have been committed in this case: abduction, forced conversion, child marriage, rape, and instigation to suicide/murder.
Such crimes cannot go unpunished in any state with a functioning rule of law, the statement said.
According to the organisations, at least 54 cases of violence against women from ethnic minority communities were reported between January and December 2020 alone.
Of these 54 cases, 35 were reported in the plains and 19 in CHT. At least five of the women were sexually or physically assaulted in these incidents. At least 18 women were raped, and attempted rape was committed against another 14, they said.
Among other incidents recorded, three women were gang-raped, five were physically attacked, four were killed and, in two cases, land belonging to the women was grabbed by terrorising.
AIPP and IWGIA placed nine demands to the government regarding the death of Lakingme Chakma. These are:
- Take immediate action against those involved in Lakingme Chakma's abduction, forced conversion, child marriage, rape, and instigation to suicide/murder.
- Ensure exemplary punishment of perpetrators.
- Conduct an impartial investigation into Lakingme's death and release her autopsy report.
- Make a divisional enquiry to the Police Bureau of Investigation team and Cox's Bazar Public Prosecutor for the negligent handling of Lakingme's abduction case.
- Ensure punishment of those involved in forging Lakingme's birth certificate, her forced conversion and the marriage of a minor.
- Take the initiative to ensure the safety and care of Lakingme's baby.
- Ensure the security of Lakingme's family and their proper compensation.
- Ensure access to justice and security for all indigenous women and girls in Bangladesh.
- Implement the recommendation "to effectively investigate all reports of gender-based violence against indigenous women connected to land grabbing and take measures to bring those responsible to justice" as issued by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).