When one rape is too many, the rape of 217 women and children only in September, the highest in any single month since 2010, sounds alarming and points to an epidemic turn of sexual violence. A Bangladesh Mahila Parishad report, based on published news, shows that 198 women were victims of rape and 19 of gang-rape while 15 of the victims were killed after rape. This constitutes an upsetting 58 per cent increase on the figure of 137 rapes that took place in August. While the actual number of rape incidents and sexual violence is effectively higher as many incidents go unreported, all this suggests that there has hardly been any efforts on part of the government to contain this malaise. The report also says that 521 other women fell victims to violence, sexual and of other sorts. The statistics paint a bleak picture for a nation that is signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The increase in rape incidents in recent times, rights activists blame, is because of the culture of impunity that the perpetrators enjoy, along with slow criminal justice system, drug addiction and others. According to police statistics, which by no means give a complete picture as it is based only on the cases filed, on an average about 12 women and children have been raped in the country every day — 3,949 in 2018, 3,995 in 2017, 3,728 in 2016, 3,930 in 2015 and 3,695 in 2014. Rights activists and lawyers claim that less than 5 per cent of the rape incidents go to trial and a lesser portion of the cases run to conviction, which, in turn, consolidates the culture of impunity and adds to the escalation of the crime. When the absence of, or inadequate, justice dispensation is the reason for the culture of impunity that perpetrators enjoy, the tendency to look down on rape victims by society also contributes to the culture. Moreover, rape victims and their families endure further harassment in the patriarchal society, turning them away from seeking justice.
A better legal system, the restoring of social values and morals through continued education and a stringent enforcement of laws are required to stave off rape and sexual violence. It is imperative that the government takes necessary measures, and if need be, by amending relevant laws and by ensuring expeditious trial, harsher and deterrent punishment to deal effectively with the dark side that impedes women’s development. There must be an end to rape of and violence against women.
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