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OP-ED: A battle too important to overlook

  • Published at 07:17 pm October 18th, 2020
sexual assault
The world is starkly unequal BIGSTOCK

Forget the politics -- it's time to create a nation free of sexual violence

The incidents of sexual harassment and other form of violence against women are skyrocketing at an alarming rate. It is undeniable that this rape culture did not grow overnight. 

There is an underlying reason for it: A culture of impunity. But the time is now to fight back against violence against women.

After a home-maker was raped and tortured on September 2 in Begumganj upazila of Noakhali, people from all around the country began protesting for justice. 

What’s ridiculous is that the police, who are responsible for ensuring the safety of all citizens, came to know about this heinous incident over a month later when footage of the assault went viral on Facebook. This is a reflection of how prompt police officers are at fulfilling their key responsibilities. 

This is not a rare case in the history of Bangladesh. There have been numerous times when women had to experience harassment in schools, workplaces, and outside. 

According to Ain O Salish Kendra, from January to September this year, 975 women were raped, 43 of whom died after, and 12 committed suicide after being raped. 

A media report says that the number of rape incidents was 1,413 last year. This clearly demonstrates that occurrences of sexual harassment is widespread. And these are only the ones which have been reported. 

If rape is taking place constantly, are the women of this country safe at all? If no, what is the judiciary doing? What are the police officers for? What are the judges for? 

Around 200,000 cases of abuse involving women and children are pending in 64 districts across the country. 

Out of them, 40,000 have been pending for more than five years; nearly 70% of these 40,000 cases have been waiting more than 10 years to be disposed of. 

Seeing these frustrating statistics of negligence by the justice departments, it can definitely be said that a culture of impunity is one of the prime reasons for such a spike in rape cases across the country. 

There are a myriad reports in print and electronic media on the issue. Yet, what prevents the government from adopting a zero tolerance principle against rapists? Is it the oblivious attitude or nepotism? 

Media reports say many of the accused are not brought to justice solely because of their political identity. If you take the recent Begumganj rape into account, you will see that the mastermind Delwar is a renowned terrorist in Noakhali. 

Another report implies that he was involved in politics related to the ruling party. For the last five years, he has been committing plenty of crimes, including rape and murder, but the police were unable to arrest him because of his association with powerful people, which protected him for years. 

It is high time that the government opened its eyes and started making the country safe for women by implementing the law properly, irrespective of personal, social, or political identity. 

A criminal is a criminal no matter which political group he or she belongs to. If any group patronizes those criminals, it implies that it condones the rate of soaring crimes and sexual violence. It further propagates such incidents of harassment and violence against women. 

It is time to stop this once and for all before this country becomes a safe haven for rapists. 

If a country, after 49 years of independence, cannot ensure safety for women, are the citizens really independent? Is it not ridiculous to see such a failure of justice? 

Where justice should have restored peace and safety for women, it is instead putting them in jeopardy by doing the exact opposite. According to the Dhaka Tribune, only 4% of victims receive justice of any sort in court.  

Is this the country Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt of? Is this the country that millions of martyrs fought for? 

If it is not, forget politics, forget abuse of power, forget personal identity, and work in unison to build a nation free of violence against women and children. 

It is high time that the government and law enforcement agencies became more stringent and impartial while implementing the law. 

The government’s efforts, along with our collaboration and awareness, can bring about a transformation. Let’s be determined to make Bangladesh a better place to live.

Mahde Hassan is a faculty member of IELTS at Saifur’s Private Ltd. He can be reached at [email protected]

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