PUBLIC trust in the law enforcement agencies is declining especially when it comes to tackling sex crimes. They are often found covering up crimes to protect rapists. The Pabna sadar police officer-in-charge was withdrawn and a sub-inspector was suspended over allegations of arranging for the marriage of a woman gang-raped with one of the rapists. The victim was abducted on August 30, taken to a local Awami League leader’s office and had been raped by four people, including a local Awami League leader, for four days. The police officer in question on September 5 forced the woman, a mother of three, to divorce her husband and marry one of the rapists instead of recording the complaint. The rapist was then set free and the victim was compelled to go to her parents’. It is only after the protest of a women’s organisation and the intervention of the High Court that the victim was able to lodge her complaint and action was taken against the police officers. It is not surprising that sexual violence has taken an epidemic turn as the law enforcement agencies have repeatedly been found covering up crimes.
The negligent behaviour of the police once again showed that the police operates in close connection with local influential quarters and do not take rape or sexual harassment allegations seriously. The unethical and illegal way that the Songazi police officer-in-charge treated Nusrat Jahan Rafi, in Feni substantiates the point. When Nusrat went to the police on March 27 to file a sexual harassment case against the principal of the madrassah she was a student of, the officer-in-charge tried to dissuade her and illegally videoed her narrative and released it on social media. The recording of the victim’s narrative with malicious intent constitutes a criminal offence. In this case too, no action was taken against the officer until citizens intervened. The legal protocol for the police as directed by the High Court requires an officer to record the statement of victim respectfully without any further harassment; but in reality, victims are constantly harassed.
What happened in Pabna is morally reprehensible and must not be tolerated. The criminally negligent behaviour of the police officer in Pabna or Feni is symptomatic of a system that does not take sexual offences seriously by design. The gang-rape victim’s marriage to protect the Awami League leader and his accomplices illustrates how the police and political leaders operate in a syndicated manner to cover up crimes. A judicious investigation of the allegation and subsequent action against the accused, therefore, bear significance in changing the police culture that directly or indirectly approves of sexual violence. The culture of impunity that local Awami League leaders enjoy must also end for the police to win back public trust.
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