Visual: Salman Sakib Shahryar

How is it that despite the tremendous strides made by women across sectors, they still don't have the right over their own bodies? Why must their lives continue to be circumscribed by violence, and their desires dictated by patriarchal norms? Why is there still such a taboo around reproductive health and sexual rights of women, girls and gender diverse populations?

This issue, a collaboration between The Daily Star and Nijera Kori, is an attempt to break the silence around topics that affect women's everyday lives.

| How medical evidence is used to discredit rape complainants

Taqbir Huda

In October 2020, thousands of enraged protestors took to the streets of Dhaka after a gruesome video of a woman from the South-eastern district of Noakhali being gang-raped went viral on social media. Public outrage about the widespread impunity with which rapes occurred was already common, but the video caused it to reach a fever pitch. The government hastily responded by reforming the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act 2000 (VAW Act) and reintroduced the death penalty for single-perpetrator rape.

This reform was widely (mis)interpreted as "introducing" the death penalty for rape and therefore served a largely symbolic function since the death penalty was already an available punishment for gang rape (and therefore the Noakhali rape case) under the VAW Act. What this reform should have done was address the longstanding protection gaps in rape legislation perpetuated by colonial legal provisions.

One such impediment is the colonial rule of corroboration, which requires judges to verify the truthfulness of a rape complainant's testimony with other evidence.

| A Long, Collective Hug in Photos (Oct 2020- Dec 2022)

Shahoshika’s sisters

Shocked and horrified at the brutality of the assault[i], we, who had been friends and fellow activists for ages, shared notes on our urgent need to go see her, to tell her she was not alone. We were her sisters, we stood by her. By then, outrage had spread like wildfire, hundreds were out on the streets in Dhaka and elsewhere, protesting against what came to be known in the English language press as the "Begumganj gang rape"

| Love beyond Boundaries

Nasrin Khandoker

As the women in the Bhawaiya lyrics express sexual desire, sorrow, rage and resistance, contemporary female Bhawaiya singers also use it to voice their agency in negotiating patriarchy. Emerging in the margins of a new Bengali patriarchal public sphere, Bhawaiya's mobility between the border and social centre enable the popularisation of lyrical "illicit" passion. By crossing the geographical, linguistic, cultural, and gendered borders, its liminal existence nurtures this subversive feminine subject.I believe that this feminine subject has the potential to construct the temporal feminist subjectivity that crosses the individual and gendered body/mind binary with collective emotions of love.