ACCORDING to women's rights organisation, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, 44 women have reportedly been victims of gender-based violence at the hands of law enforcers. The alleged perpetrators in 40 of these cases were policemen. The statistics, which were compiled based on reports in 10 national dailies, are highly alarming, particularly as they may only be a fraction of the actual number of such cases.
The cases filed against police personnel include murders of wives, dowry-related violence, rape and abuse, as well as violence inflicted on women during protests and rallies. Harassment of women from families of suspects and death threats targeted towards women have also been reported.
Violence against women is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed by the state. However, if state agencies themselves become perpetrators of such violence, where will women turn to for justice? In addition, questions remain as to how impartial the investigations can be if police members themselves are involved.
The chauvinistic attitude of law enforcement agencies has been a major hindrance to ensuring justice for gender-based violence, as the insensitive police reaction following sexual assaults at TSC were to clearly highlight. The consistent refusals of the police in acknowledging the severity of the sexual assaults and the unwarranted attacks on young protestors demanding a swift investigation of the incident tell a disturbing tale of police apathy and brutality. The Police IGP's comment that the TSC sexual assault was the “mischief” of a few “naughty” boys portrays the extent of gender insensitivity of the police.
The government must adopt a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment and inculcate gender sensitive values among the law enforcement personnel. Otherwise the public, especially women, will continue to mistrust them.