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UN coordinator in Bangladesh: The system failed Nusrat

  • Published at 06:44 pm April 17th, 2019
Mia Seppo, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh
UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The UN resident coordinator referred to the murder as a call for action, urging justice for Nusrat, to ensure these things never happen again

The tragic death of madrasa student, and sexual harassment victim, Nusrat Jahan Rafi, in Feni is emblematic of the systemic failure and retaliatory violence following her outspokenness, said Mia Seppo, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh.

She made the remark at the launching of UNFPA Bangladesh’s annual flagship publication – the State of World Population 2019 Report titled “Unfinished Business: The Pursuit of Rights and Choices for All” on Wednesday. 

Discussing Nusrat’s murder, she said: “Here, we have a case that is tragic on so many different levels, in terms of the system’s failure, in terms of a girl who is brave enough to stand up against gender-based violence. And what happened is that, her brave decision to do so led to more violence leading to her death.” 

The UN resident coordinator referred to the murder as a call for action, urging justice for Nusrat, to ensure these things never happen again. She said the case revealed that the system must be in place to protect women and girls from sexual harassment. And then perpetrators must be held accountable without impunity. She stressed the importance of providing security to women who speak up. 

“If you cannot manage that, we will be back to discussing this, years from now when we speak about unfinished business,” Mia Seppo opined. 

Former Dhaka University professor Dr Barkat-e-Khuda said, Nusrat’s murder is an embarrassing truth. He observed that commitment is deteriorating among current teachers.

Soheli Parvin, head teacher of Burichar AMG Secondary High School, said the case has shamed teachers by pitting a student against her teacher for her honour. 

State Minister of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Murad Hassan said, the government has already taken steps to ensure justice for Nusrat, particularly noting that political affiliations will not protect anyone in this matter. 

Mia Seppo, who was the special guest at the program, in her speech about “unfinished business”, said violence against women and gender inequality go hand-in-hand, and it hinders women’s right to choose. 

She said, the United Nations recognize that Bangladesh has some good laws in place. Bangladesh also has two recent national action plans – one to tackle violence against women and other to prevent child marriage. 

Mia also noted that there are some challenges, like “a relatively weak judiciary, the laws are not women-friendly, lengthy trials, lack of sensitivity among law enforcement agencies, judiciary, administration, and the media.”

She also noted that, even though the government has established 54 special tribunals for women, the conviction rate for rape cases are very low.

The UN resident coordinator said, there is a lot left to do – like passing legislation in accordance with the High Court verdict to criminalize sexual harassment in educational institutions, workplaces, and public places. 

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