Baffling recurrence of gender violence
The increasing frequency with which violence against women and girls is being carried out, despite a number of legal safeguards and a seeming national consensus about such violence, is mind-boggling. Two reports in this newspaper on Thursday described the killing of one girl and the rape of another, both students of class-III and nearly the same age. The incidents took place in Brahmanbaria and Pabna, when the girls went out from their homes to distribute sweetmeats in their neighbourhoods as part of a traditional ceremony associated with the Shab-e-Barat. That such heinous crimes occurred on a holy occasion is equally upsetting but what baffles us is the futility of the preventive measures and awareness programmes undertaken by the institutions concerned, which should have delivered some results by now.
Which begs the question: how effective are those measures and programmes? Are we doing enough to ensure safety for our girls and women? And what emboldens the criminals to indulge in such crimes despite there being severe punishments for doing so? The answer to the last question is simple: absence of justice. According to a recent estimate by a Bangla daily, 97 percent of the cases of violence in five tribunals in Dhaka district, over the last 15 years, ended up with no conviction. What's happening in the rest of the country is anybody's guess. Unless the government strengthens its justice-delivery mechanism and holds those involved in the process accountable, the recurrence of such crimes cannot be prevented. Equally importantly, we also need to review the existing awareness raising measures. A lot of these neighbourhood occurrences can be prevented with proper community involvement, a practice that's known to have brought dramatic changes in the fight against gender violence in many countries.