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OP-ED: When we can finally breathe

  • Published at 10:37 pm October 6th, 2020
Stop rape
Photo: Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

We hope for a day when there are no new rape statistics

Amidst this crushing pandemic, as we scroll through our social media feed and newspapers, we see a plethora of shocking developments of rapes in Bangladesh over the last few months. Especially for us women, we can literally feel a sense of shivering panic whenever we see even one case, let alone hundreds of women being raped. With these incidents looking back, there is the obvious fear: Am I the next target?

Sadly, the answer is uncertain and with time passing by, the rot is running deeper. From a child barely a few months old to an old woman of 70, absolutely no one is spared.

According to Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), 889 women were raped, 192 women were victims of attempted rapes, 41 women were killed after being raped, and nine women committed suicide after rape during the first eight months of the year 2020 as the world comes to grips with Covid-19.

Wait. What is the use of writing these statistics even? These are not the only rapes that are occurring, just the ones that are being recorded. There must be uncountable cases in the nooks and corners of this country.

There are bound to be countless rape incidents not reported because the victims have been silenced by those wielding power and influence, often through threats and intimidation, and the victim fearing for her life. There are also countless rape incidents not reported because the victims themselves did not come forward, to save themselves from public shaming.

What about them? For a victim, the whole process of claiming justice in Bangladesh is extremely complicated. The money and muscle power of the perpetrators most often silence the victims’ voices.

The culture of impunity is also to blame for the rising sexual violence in Bangladesh. We have made strict laws about violations against women, but sadly, there is little to no implementation. Justice is delivered in only around 4% of cases. This prevailing culture of impunity is the reason why rape cases are increasing every day.

Being in a country where the prime minister herself is a woman, the speaker is a woman, and where major influential positions are also filled by women, we are led to believe that this country will be a safe place for the women. But the question is, when?

As we are busy writing numbers of how many women are being raped every day, who knows how many more rapes are occurring as we speak. We see the numbers. We see the cases. But every single case of rape has a story, a story of a woman who suffered unimaginable trauma, physical pain, and sometimes death.

Just try and put yourself in her shoes. How would you feel?

From MC College, Sylhet, to Begumganj, Noakhali, how many more lives will have to be lost before we can finally erase these immoral shameless criminals from the soil of this country?

We do not want punishments just for one or two cases. We want punishments which eventually will put an end to the life of every monstrous culprit in this country, or end this brutal culture of rape.

We don’t want people to consider this rape epidemic as just an another issue which will eventually be cushioned by a new topic. We want a day when we don’t have to write any more statistics regarding rape cases, when we don’t have to worry about the safety of our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and ourselves. We want a day when we can finally freely breathe. Is that too much to ask? Is it that hard?

Saharin Priya Shaoun is a freelance contributor.

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