We are extremely shocked at the rape and murder of a 12-year-old madrasa student by her teachers in Brahmanbaria's Nabinagar upazila. Reportedly, the girl's body was found hanging in a room of the madrasa she was studying in on February 24. According to her mother, the principal of the madrasa often sexually harassed the girl and asked her to have a physical relationship with him. It was when she refused his proposal that the principal, along with three others, raped and killed the child.
The incident reminds us of Nusrat, a madrasa student who was set on fire and killed last year on the orders of her madrasa principal because her family had filed a case against him for sexually harassing her. We only knew about Nusrat's ordeal when she was set on fire by the associates of the principal. The fact that we often get to know about the incidents of sexual harassment and rape of madrasa students only after they are killed brings to light some basic problems about these institutions that need to be addressed. First, the madrasa students often do not have the courage to report the incidents of harassment by their teachers because of their (the teachers') religious identity. Second, madrasas, being religious institutions, are revered by people in general, which eventually stops them from interfering with the madrasa authorities in case an incident of harassment inside a madrasa is reported. Third, it is hard to know about the abuse students face inside these institutions because there is apparently no overseeing mechanism in place.
Our children are increasingly falling victims to sexual predators everywhere, including in schools, colleges, universities, and madrasas. We are especially concerned about the madrasas because of the particular place of respect they enjoy in rural Bangladesh and because of their somewhat closed environment which allows the perpetrators to get away easily after committing crimes. So, the government should take into cognizance the vulnerability of the madrasa students and take action accordingly.
Ten years ago, the High Court had given a directive to all educational institutions, including madrasas, to form sexual harassment complaint committees to prevent such offences. Given the increase in sexual harassment and rape cases inside the educational institutions, including madrasas, we appeal to the education ministry to ask the madrasa board to form such committees in all madrasas so that students can report sexual abuse without hindrance.
In this particular case, we hope those who raped and killed the madrasa student will be punished according to our law and will not get away through legal loopholes.