The news of a female madrasa student in Feni being set on fire because she refused to lift the sexual assault case against the principal of the institution is extremely shocking. The teenager, with 75 percent burns, is now struggling to hold on to dear life at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
This is not the first time that madrasa students have faced physical abuse—although this case is particularly noteworthy due to its sheer brutality. So, why is it that nothing is being done to provide a safer environment to students—both in madrasas and other educational institutions? These incidents happen in urban areas as well; however, they are perhaps more common in rural pockets of the country. We barely hear about the horrific abuse faced by children in madrasas and schools all over the country, unless they somehow make the news. Girls, in particular, are vulnerable to sexual abuse and unfortunately, the culture in most parts of the country is such that the environment is simply not conducive for girls to freely speak out against sexual abuse. The student in Feni who was set on fire by four unidentified persons is paying the price for voicing herself. It is disappointing that no one in a position of authority in the government talks about the dangers of misogyny being internalised by children at an impressionable age in madrasas and schools.
We simply cannot give these so-called educational institutions a free hand. A system of strict monitoring should be in place and inspection teams and complaint cells should be set up all throughout the country.
Tamanna Khan, by email