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We can’t talk about rape

  • Published at 02:55 am May 14th, 2017
  • Last updated at 07:37 pm May 15th, 2017
We can’t talk about rape
This is a story about a teenage girl, who is among thousands of teenage girls in Bangladesh who can relate to her story. Sometime last year, she was walking home after her classes in the evening. She was tired and in a hurry to go home, she took a shortcut which was not on her usual route. As she quickly walked along the narrow and secluded alley, a hand emerged growing dark and gripped her wrist. Gasping, she turned and found her assailant to be a local she had seen around the neighbourhood. Her face became contorted in terror as apprehension dawned upon her. She walked home bleeding and bruised in body, numb with trauma in her mind. Her father lashed out with inquiries about where she had been. But her mother understood, without anything being said, and fell upon her daughter in a tearful embrace. rape The girl was instructed by her mother to never discuss the rape with anyone. “You’ll never get married. Nobody will talk to you” were the silencers disguised as warnings. The stigma of being raped is too overwhelming in Bangladesh, where society itself collectively ostracises the victim and their family. Repressing the trauma, a semblance of normalcy was re-established into the girls’ life. After several years, when she got into college, the rapist appeared again with a statement: “I will rape you again whenever I find an opportunity.” How do we talk about rape? Thousands of women know of the dread that follows after rape, to say nothing of the harrowing ordeal itself. There are no adequate support services, no provision of protection for victims and witnesses, a bestowment of condescending patriarchal judgments, protracted court proceedings, ineffectual police investigation and a gaping hole in rape shield provisions. A person who has been raped is subjected to a plethora of tests that compel her to relive the incident. Considering all these limitations, it comes as little surprise that most rapes in Bangladesh go unreported. Sheepa Hafiza, executive director of Ain o Shalish Kendra (ASK) said: “Our country is not ready to talk about rape. The fact that so many rapes go unreported only show that rapists go about with a sense of impunity and rape victims are scrutinised. “There is an abysmal idea that a woman’s honour is explicitly tied to the sanctity of her body. There is a pressure on women to be chaste, a pressure to not get raped. If the accused is wealthy or powerful individual, victims can forget about justice.” “If all the rape charges are followed up one by one, people will feel less reluctant to report sexual assaults,” Sheepa said. Maya Apa, trying to make a difference Fearful of the stigmatisation, the girl turned to Maya Apa – an anonymous messaging platform connecting users to vetted expert advice on health, psychosocial and legal issues. Since 2014, after partnering with BRAC, its anonymous messaging service has continued to assist people with queries about sexual assault. Shuvashis Monigram, growth manager at Maya.com.bd told the Dhaka Tribune that they deal with a number of unreported sexual assault cases and provide support with health, psycho-social and legal experts. "Compared to last year, we have seen a 50% increase in the number of questions regarding sexual harassment,” he said. Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) Executive Director Sara Hossain said countless rape cases go unreported because of social stigma. She said: “Victims feel insecure, they know what they have to go through when they come forward with allegations. Their fear silences them.”