The human chain started around 11:40am and ended at 12pm
In a major and coordinated protest over growing sexual abuse of women and children, and demanding expedited justice to the victims, several human rights groups, like-minded platforms and civil society organisations staged demonstration across the country on Tuesday.
Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) held protests in association with 118 organisations, while Naripokkho, ActionAid Bangladesh, Utsha Bangladesh and Concern Worldwide did the same along with 50 of their associate bodies.
The protests including sin-in programmes, human chains and distribution of leaflets were staged at 200 venues in all 64 districts of the country.
MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam while addressing a rally in Banani of Dhaka suggested formulating child security committee at every neighbourhood, to help stop rapes and sexual abuse.
“Guardians, child-based platforms, rights groups, educational institutes and local youths-- all will have to step forward to stop the criminal offences,” she said.
Demanding exemplary punishment of the rapists, speakers said the culture of impunity and the loopholes in the justice system in this regard, are pushing up the cases of rape and other forms of sexual exploitation as the real culprits roam free.
MJF referring to the rapes of 572 children from January to July, and 630 women in the first six months of 2018 termed the figures to be horrendous.
Meanwhile, Naripokkho, a top women rights organisation, held rally near its office at Dhanmondi 5/A in Dhaka with the slogan “No more sexual assault.”
Protesters expressing solidarity to the countrywide event staged an hour-long sit-in programme in front of Naripokkho’s office from 4pm.
Rowshon Ara, coordinator of the event, said their protests came in the wake of an upward trend on violence, especially sexual, against women.
“Rapes and other forms of sexual abuse are on the rise across the country. We need to wage a mass demonstration to fight such criminal acts,” she told Dhaka Tribune.
“If we can stage a coordinated demonstration, we can help reduce violence against women,” added Rowshon, also a Naripokkho member, calling for the participation of all concerned to contain sexual abuse.
The women rights leader went on to say that their protests will be held regularly till November 25 marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
During the protests, several protests wrapping their arms with bandages to portray Feni madrasa girl Nusrat Jahan Rafi, who succumbed to her injuries she suffered after being set afire by the cohorts of a sex offender in April, were seen distributing leaflets to passers-by.
Naripokkho leaders Afsana Chowdhury and Nazmun Nahar were among the speakers at the rally.
Moreover, teachers, students and employees of Central Women's University (CWU) formed a human to protest rape and sexual harassment against children and women in Dhaka.
They formed the human chain in front of the university campus at Hatkhola, from around 11:40am to at 12 noon, reported our Staff Reporter Fazlur Rahman Raju.
Addressing the event, CWU Vice-Chancellor (VC) Parveen Hasan said : "Touture, rape and sexual harassment against children and women have become festival, and each and everyone in Bangladesh needs to take proper action to prevent such heinous incidents."
“It is terrifying for women and children to fall victim to sexual harassment by their closed ones,” she said, hoping to build a rape and sexual abuse free country, with the help of people from all sphere of lives.
Protests outside Dhaka
Citing that violence against women has increased many folds across Bangladesh, speakers at rallies and human chains called for speedy trial the perpetrators of sexual violence regardless their occupation and power in the society.
They also highlighted that children and even minor boys were the victims of sexual assault and called for forming of sexual violence prevention committee in every institution as per the order of the apex court in 2009.
Teachers, lawyers, young entrepreneurs, journalists and personnel of different occupations joined the human chains and rallies.
In Noakhali, Non-governmental organizations such as Participatory Research Action Network, Bandhan, Gazi Asram Trust, Noakhali Rural Development Society and other organizations led the human chain in front of Noakhali Press Club in the morning.
In Jhenaidah, Representatives of the civil society formed a human chain under the banner of a volunteer organization named "Wellfare Efforts" on the Sher-E-Bangla road in the town.
In Panchagarh, human chain and protest rally was organized in front of the Panchagarh Central Shaheed Minar in the afternoon.
In Gaibandha, Gana Unnayan Kendra in co-operation with Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) led the human chain at the DB road in the town.
In Bhola, protesters formed human chain and brought out a procession starting from Bhola press club to the Notunbazar area of Bhola sadar upazila. The demonstration was chaired by Adil Hossain Topu of Tarunner Kanthashar Platform.
In Thakurgaon, Under the banner of an NGO named as "Eco- Social Development Organization, a human chain and protest rally was formed at the intersection in the town.
In Nilphamari, an hour-long human chain and rally was organized at the Chourangi intersection of the town under the banner of Pallisri in collaboration with MJF.
Our correspondents Ranjit Chandra Kuri, Noakhali; Nayan Khondoker, Jhenaidah; Sazzadur Rahman Sazzad, Panchagarh; Md Tazul Islam, Gaibandha; MA Ahad Chowdhury Tuhin, Bhola; Zakir Mostafiz, Thakurgaon and Taiyeb Ali Sarkar, Nilphamari contributed to this report.