Retrograde societal views towards abuse, which time and again sweep the truth under the rug, protect the abuser
As a society, we have a solemn obligation to protect the most vulnerable group among us: Children. In Bangladesh, we have been failing badly at that task. Children here routinely become victims of sexual abuse, often at the hands of those entrusted to protect them, and all too often, nothing is done to address the crime that has taken place.
According to Manusher Jonno Foundation, from January to March this year, at least 20 students were raped or sexually violated in some form at madrasas, colleges, and technical institutions. It goes without saying that this number is a tiny fraction of the overall number of children that were raped or sexually abused in the country.
The primary problem here is one of accountability. Madrasa administrations generally think of themselves as self-governing, and that they fall beyond the purview of the law. As MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam has said: “The issue of sexual harassment in educational institutions should be brought under the culture of accountability.” Schools and madrasas, then, need to be clear on the fact that children are not their property, and that children have rights to not be assaulted, harassed, or abused in any form. If those rights are violated, the violator will be brought to book.
Bangladesh has a long way to go in tackling child sexual abuse. Retrograde societal views towards abuse, which time and again sweep the truth under the rug, protect the abuser. No more hiding behind the cloak of religion or authority can be allowed. Each and every child abuser must be brought to book.