We are deeply concerned by a report in The Daily Star on February 23 that a rape victim and her family members in Gazipur city are passing days in fear being threatened by the rapist and his associates. Reportedly, since the victim has filed a case against the rape accused and his associates on February 18, he (the rape accused) and at least a dozen of his associates have been pressurising the victim's family to withdraw the case and settle the issue through "social arbitration". They also threatened the family to leave the area. What is even more shocking is the fact that someone claiming to be a law enforcer called the victim and threatened her to hush up the matter, as the victim has claimed.
If we look into the details of the case, we would know precisely why rapists in our society almost always get away with impunity, while the rape victims and their families pass their days in fear, facing social stigma associated with rape. Clearly, the rapist in this case is a socially powerful person who have a gang of associates to cover up his misdeeds while the victim's family is vulnerable, socially and economically. Now the rapist has been roaming around in the area without any fear and has even managed to persuade a local law enforcer to threaten the victim.
Unfortunately, this is what we see in the majority of rape cases where the law enforcers, instead of arresting the rape accused, work in favour of them for their petty interests. A number of such cases were reported in this daily in the last few months. There had also been instances where the police at first did not want to file cases against the rape accused, and only did so in the face of pressure from the media. Reportedly, cases are filed only in a number of incidents while only two percent of them end in conviction. The culture of impunity enjoyed by rapists in general not only emboldens them to commit more such crimes but also send a signal to other potential rapists. And this is why we see an alarming rise in rape cases across the country, which has been reported by different rights organisations as well as by the Police Headquarters.
In order to stop crimes like rape, the state must ensure that the rapists are arrested and punished according to our law. And the rape victims should be given institutional support so that they along with their families feel safe while the cases are ongoing and do not feel pressured to withdraw them. In this particular case, we hope the police will arrest the rapist as soon as possible and give necessary protection to the victim and her family.