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Marriage with rapist!
Khan should have been in prison for raping a 14-year-old girl, his neighbour
in southern Bangladesh. Instead, the 26-year-old man became the husband
of his victim. Village elders forced the girl to marry his attacker. The
elders considered the settlement the best they could to punish the attacker
and reward the victim. For Babul the marriage was a gift and way out of
Babul wanted to marry the girl, who was considered the prettiest at her
village in Patuakhali district. In spite of being poor, the girl and her
family resisted the marriage proposal from Babul. The man took the rejection
as an insult. He vowed to take revenge. The revenge came in the form of
a sexual assault on the girl. Babul fled his village after the incident
in August last year. Police investigated the rape allegation filed by
the girl's family and charged Babul with rape violence while he was still
Month's later Babul was arrested during the Operation Clean Heart by the
joint forces. But as the army prepared to send Babul to jail elders from
his village intervened. The village elders promised to punish Babul. The
army agreed to let him go. The girl's family was too poor and weak to
reject the elders. He gave in to their pressure and persuaded her daughter
to accept her rapist as the husband.
"What an irony! How can I live a happy life? Thundered the girl.
She spoke for many such Bangladeshi girls and women who are forced to
marry their tormentors. Some of those who control the society are responsible
for such odd marriage. Another northern village girl suffered a similar
attack in 2001. She was also forced to marry her rapist and the arbitrators
thought they saved the girl from humiliation and even death.
The country's law has provided for trial and punishment for such violence
against women. Rape offenders face up to life term in jail in Bangladesh.
But kangaroo courts set up by village elders often help the offenders
escape trial by a court of law and evade punishment.
In most cases, the victims and their families are forced to accept such
marriage. Considering the social stigma, the victims also agree to marry
the men who raped them. The women and their families lack social standing
to oppose the elders. They also lack the ability to go to court. Such
unequal marriages may appear to be bizarre. But the practice has become
common in Bangladesh. In most cases the attackers are far higher in social
and financial standings than their victims.
Predictably this type of marriage does not last long. Most such marriages
are terminated within months. After the focus on the crime peters out,
the rapists-turned-husbands usually ditch their victims-turned-wives.
Men in Bangladesh have hundreds of reasons to abandon their wives. No
one really cares about the abused women.
Nazma Begum (not her real name) of Chhit Gangua village in Ranishankail
upazila under Thakurgaon district is a glaring example of this odd phenomenon.
She was married to her rapist Mosharul Haq, 29, following arbitration.
After marriage, she was subjected to torture by her in-laws.
The husband not only tortured Nazma; he also divorced her abruptly without
showing any reason. Nazma was in troubles. She had difficulties in rearing
her one-year-old baby. She could not claim any compensation, as the marriage
was unregistered. She had no document to prove that the marriage was legal.
Another 14-year-old girl from Dharmahata village in Paba upazila of Rajshahi
district was violated by two people - Shafiuddin and her brother-in-law
Nayan. Then arbitration was arranged and the village 'matbors' ordered
Shafiuddin to marry Ruma without considering the consequence.
Lawyers said forceful marriage has no legal basis even if the marriage
is registered. If the bride is forced to marry by any quarter she may
agree and say 'kabul' which is considered as her consent to the marriage.
But unless and until the bride gives her consent willingly and independently,
without any pressure, the marriage cannot be completed.
Advocate Salma Ali, executive director of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers'
Association, said if a rape victim is forced to marry the rapist and the
marriage is broken thereafter, it becomes very difficult to bring about
remedy. "In that case, the rape victim and divorced woman cannot
file a rape case and the rapists go unpunished. In fact, they take the
marriage as a strategy to avoid court case and punishment," she pointed
A general public sentiment in Bangladesh society is when a woman is raped,
she lost her dignity; and when she is married, she regained her dignity.
Advocate of the Supreme Court Zahirul Islam said a new law should be enacted
so that the rapist cannot divorce his wife soon after the marriage with
rape victim. "And that divorce should be treated as proof of the
rape so that the culprit can be punished as per law," he said.
Dr Mahbubuddin, a professor of Sociology Department of Dhaka University,
said the government as well as society should ensure stern punishment
to the rapists. "Then it will be possible to check the trend of the
arbitration trial," he added. "If civic norms are properly followed
and law is enforced without any lapses, the tendency of rape will reduce