Sexual violence inherent in violent political culture

Published: 00:05, Aug 13,2017 | Updated: 00:47, Aug 13,2017

 
 

IT IS now undeniable fact that male members of the affiliated youth and student organisations of the ruling Awami League are indiscriminately committing sexual offences. Some ranking leaders of the party, in the face of media criticism, have started grudgingly admitting the fact. What is, however, disturbing is the fact that the party leadership does not appear to have been serious about digging deep into the why many a youth of the party have been indulging in such sexual violence against women. In the event of rape and subsequent torture of a girl in Bogra by Sramik League convener that shocked the nation, even Awami League leaders have acknowledged and expressed concern about the issue. The report mentions incidents of rape and sexual violence by Juba League and Chhatra League activists in all corners of Bangladesh while the victims include women of all ages, even children and pregnant women.
The party must realise that patriarchal power relation in a society, which entertains ‘domination’ of women by men, has something to do with the sexual violence repeatedly committed by Chhatra League-Juba League boys. Besides, the sense of impunity that they enjoy because of their party being in power and that political power controls the administrative mechanism meant for punishing the guilty, it is not for no reason that a group of BCL members indulged in sexually assaulting girl students on the Jahangirnagar University campus in 1998, when their party Awami League was in power.
When it is most important, however, for the party to find out political and psychological reasons for its young men’s sexual behaviour, some leading members of the party are rather seen to be covering up the crime, which found expression in the case of the Bogra rape when the AL-backed local councillor herself was reportedly involved in threatening the rape victim from seeking justice. In the face of nationwide protest, the party’s presidium members claimed that they had discussed the matter of ‘intra-party feud and unruly attitude’ of the members and took legal and organisational action against them. The only action that the Awami League has so reportedly taken is to expel the rapists and stalkers after the incidents of sexual violence. That such action is inadequate has been proved in the recurrence of the same crimes committed by the Chhatra League-Juba League men. It is time that the party, and its genuine advisers, made intellectual efforts to understand why a significant section of its male members has developed such a heinous tendency. They even need to find out whether their use of masculine violence, arising out of the coercive forces of the state, to retain power is related to the sexual behaviour of the men in question. In case of a failure, the Awami League’s much celebrated campaign for women’s empowerment will continue to remain an empty rhetoric and do very little to prevent rape. Meanwhile, social organisations must start questioning the power relation, social and political, that allows sexual violence.

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