RIGHTS organisations observe that violence against women has taken an epidemic turn. The proposition appears to be true given the five incidents of violence, including the rape of a University of Dhaka student, that New Age reported on Tuesday. The Dhaka University student was raped by an unnamed man in Dhaka when she was walking from the Kurmitola bus stop to a place at Sheora on Sunday. She was raped and tortured until she managed to flee. She is reported to be cared for in Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The rape near a busy street in Dhaka early in the evening indicates how unsafe the city has become for young women. It has sparked fierce protests in the capital. Students of the university gave the government 48 hours to arrest the perpetrator. In a desperate attempt to get justice, a student of the same university went on a hunger strike because in similar incidents in the past, the law enforcement agencies failed the victims. The most notable case in this regard is the rape and murder of Sohagi Jahan Tanu, a student of Comilla Victoria College, in 2016.
As students took to the streets demanding justice, sexual violence of various forms was reported. A school girl on Monday committed suicide at Patgram in Lalmonirhat after being sexually harassed by a boy. In Pabna, a man was killed by someone who stalked his daughter. A leader of the Chhatra League, the ruling Awami League’s student wing, was arrested after a woman had levelled the allegation of rape by deception. The High Court, meanwhile on Sunday, asked the foreign secretary to explain why he had failed to take action against three diplomats for sexually harassing a junior colleague in foreign missions in Tokyo and Mumbai. Even a cursory look at the reported incidents of sexual crimes on a day is indicative of the pervasive nature of the crime. What makes it even more evident is an implicit indifference of the government to such violence behind its rhetoric of zero tolerance. The constant media portrayal of women as mere sexual objects, as many feminist scholars suggest, also helped an indirect social approval to gain ground and to normalise male aggression in society. The Justice Audit 2018 says that a statistically significant number of male children are charged with sexual crimes. It means that boys grow up in a social environment in which rape is not considered an offence. Any superficial approach to prevent this crime will fall flat without the resolution of the gender inequality that women face.
It is time for the government to prove its mettle and ensure women’s freedom of movement. In so doing, it must make certain that the rape of the student at hand is properly investigated and the perpetrator is brought to justice. In the long run, it must adopt a multi-pronged approach to prevent all forms of sexual violence that will end gender discrimination. Students and conscientious section of society must build a systematic and inclusive movement against rape and gender discrimination.
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