POST TIME: 10 December, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 10 December, 2019 01:29:44 AM
Violence against women, rape continue unabated
Human Rights Day to be observed today

Violence against women, rape continue unabated

The body of a 19-year-old female student of Comilla Victoria College was found inside the Comilla Cantonment on March 20, 2016,. It was revealed later that the victim, Sohagi Jahan Tonu, had been raped and murdered. Perpetrators of the crime have not been brought to book as the police are yet to submit the investigation report. More than 160,000 cases, under the Prevention of Women and Children Repression Act, remain pending before various courts across the country. This exposes the sorry state of the human rights situation.

Against this backdrop, Bangladesh will be observing Human Rights Day today (December 10). The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on this day in 1948. This year, it will be the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the theme “Stand Up For Human Rights”.

Rights activists blamed a culture of impunity, bias on the part of law enforcers and the administration, social and political unrest, moral decadence ,and lack of awareness for the increase in violence against women.

Although cases of violence against women and children occur daily across Bangladesh, few of them are reported and even fewer win the legal battle for justice.

What data reveals

According to the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP), a women's right organisation, 392 women were victims of violence in November. Of them, 120 were victims of rape and 24 were gangraped.

Earlier, the BMP revealed that the number of rape incidents reported in the country in September was the highest in a single month since 2010.  It said 232 rape incidents, including 19 gang rape cases, took place in September. The number was 169 in August. In October, the number of violence against women and girls was 465, among whom 151 were victims of rape.

According to Manusher Jonno Foundation, at least 399 children were victims of rape in the last six months of this year and 26 died after rape. In 2018, 356 children were raped and 22 among them died.

According to information on the project related to torture by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, 38,124 women have been admitted to one-stop crisis centres (OCC) at 11 medical college hospitals across the country in the last two-and-a-half years. Among them, 11,428 were sexually assaulted. According to Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), from January to October 1,253 women were raped across the country and 287 of them were gang raped. The rights body also revealed that 101 were raped at the age of less than six years, 192 were aged seven to 12 years, and 206 victims were aged 13-18 years. As many as 62 women were murdered after being raped. However, only 800 cases were filed against rape. In all, 200 women were victims of rape attempts and 128 cases were filed against culprits.

On the other hand, 1,509 children were victims of violence from January to October, among which 206 were tortured by teachers, 44 were sexually harassed by teachers, 82 were victims of physical torture, and 149 were victims of rape attempts.

The rights body also revealed cases of sexual harassment by stalkers for the same months. A total of 247 people, both male and female, were harassed by stalkers.

A total of 396 children were killed from January to October in 2019. In these incidents, only 185 cases were filed. In all, 78 children were killed after physical torture, 70 were killed after torture (in domestic sphere), 49 were killed after abduction, and 37 were killed after being raped.

ASK also revealed cases of violence against women in the domestic sphere from January to October. It shows that 337 women were victims of domestic violence. According to a recent research done by Action Aid Bangladesh, only 3 per cent of the victims get justice in cases of violence against women. The rest 97 per cent remain deprived.

What experts say

Rights groups observed that delayed justice creates impunity for the accused and gives them courage to commit the same crime again.

Talking to The Independent over the telephone, human rights activist Nur Khan Liton, also former executive director of Ain-O-Shalish, said that the human rights situation in Bangladesh is now in a pathetic state. “Violence against women and children should not be judged by numbers. We have not found any cure for the core problem. Cultures of impunity, fear, and hatred have become the main issue for which the crisis prevails all around,” the rights activist added.

BMB president Ayesha Khanam said even though women occupied important positions in the country, their rights were not established. She also said girl children were not safe even in their homes. The law and order situation has deteriorated to such an extent that women now feel insecure to travel by public transport, she added.

“Aggressive mentality of a person grows in the family. We have to create conciseness by cooperating with both male and female members of a family,” she observed.

However, Dr Jebunnesa, associate professor of the public administration department of Jahangirnagar University, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is trying her best to eliminate discrimination between men and women. Since 2013, women are being honoured with the Joyeeta Award in different sectors.

“The present situation in our country is good as strict steps have been taken by the government,” she said. “We have to teach our kids about equal rights of men and women from the family. Parents should take care of their girls as they do for the boys. In co-educational institutions, boys and girls should have equal opportunity of learning. Teachers shouldn’t discriminate between girls and boys,” she mentioned.

According to the Human Rights Watch, the authorities have failed to properly enforce laws to protect women in cases of sexual violence, rape, domestic abuse, and acid attacks.

Although the government took some steps in recent years, such as declaring legal recognition of a third-gender category for hijras (transgender), policy implementation on access to state benefits was weak, and sexual and gender minorities remained under constant pressure and threat.

However, it mentioned that Bangladesh continues to have one of the highest rate of child marriage in the world. In spite of the government’s stated pledge to end the practice by 2041, it has yet to make meaningful progress in this regard.

Extrajudicial killings

Extrajudicial killings are condemned all over the world by various human rights groups.  According to ASK, at least 204 people were victims of “extrajudicial killings” by law enforcement agencies across the country in the last six months.

“Among the victims, 59 were killed in crossfire with the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), 92 were killed in crossfire with the police, 12 with the DB, one with joint forces, one with the Coast Guard, and 28 in crossfire with the BGB,” according to the report.

The findings were prepared based on reports of top national newspapers in the last six months from January.

Nur Khan Liton told The Independent: “The scenario is getting worse day by day and we are in a crisis moment. We want a probe commission, but the government has not yet done it.”