500-700 women killed or driven to suicide every year

Violence Against WomanProthom Alo illustration

The number of women dying of unnatural causes is 500 a year on average, which rises to 700 in some years. Some of them died due to physical torture while some committed suicide after not being able to endure the torture anymore. Some of them were killed. These figures came up in a statistics of Ain o Shalish Kendra (ASK).

According to the ASK, some 3,376 women were killed or were driven to suicide from 2017 to July this year. According to the year-wise figures, some 597 women were killed in 2017, 528 in 2018, 587 in 2019, 661 in 2020, 684 in 2021 and 319 were killed in the first seven months of the year 2022. It means that more than 50 women are being killed every month on average, where the number of killing is greater than the number of suicide.

The ASK prepared these statistics based on their own information, reports published in nine national dailies, including Prothom Alo and several online news portals.

The ASK is keeping an account of how many women have been killed or how many of them have committed suicide after sexual harassment and violence, rape, dowry related and domestic violence. Statistics show that the cases of women being killed by husband and husband's family members are more frequent. However, the cases of being killed by the members of their own family are hardly less.

Not just a number

Aditi Sarker, 38, was admitted to the Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute in Dhaka on 29 June 2022. She sustained 50 per cent burn injuries and could not be saved. She was the registrar of the neonatal department of Sir Salimullah Medical College and Mitford Hospital. One of Aditi’s two children is a just over five years old and the other is only seven months.

Deputy commissioner (DC) of Wari zone of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), Shah Iftekhar Ahmed told Prothom Alo that according to Aditi's statement, angered and saddened by her husband, she had set fire to herself.

This correspondent talked to Sabita Rani Roy, mother of Aditi Sarker, over the mobile phone on 21 August. She is the assistant general manager of the Rajshahi Agricultural Development Bank. She said, “I have a son and a daughter. Now, my daughter is no more.”

Suppressing the sorrow of losing her daughter, she further said, “A highly educated working woman would not set fire to herself without any reason. She must have no other alternative. She was slowly killed over time.”

Aditi Sarker is not just a number to her mother, she is her beloved daughter. The number of deceased women may only be a stats for many, but it’s a lot more than that to the families of the victims.

Life expectancy and casualties grow simultaneously

According to the preliminary reports of the first Digital Population and Housing Census of Bangladesh conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the number of females is greater than the number of male in the country. According to another survey of BBS conducted in 2020, the life expectancy of women has increased more as compared to the males.

Human rights activists say as the number and average life expectancy of women has increased, so is the killing of women. The rate of women’s suicide has also increased. The government should focus on this immediately.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Maleka Banu, general secretary of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, said, “At one point of physical and mental torture the women are being killed or they are being forced to commit suicide. The women are not only being killed by the husband or his family, but also by the members of their own family in the name of protecting their honour. Even in any family dispute, women are the main target. This cannot happen in a healthy society.

Father killing daughter, son killing mother, husband killing wife

According to a Prothom Alo report published on 2 August, a certain Rafiqul identified a half-decomposed body as his daughter. He even filed a case accusing unknown persons. Within seven days after the case was filed, police said that woman named Lipi Begum, 22, was killed by her father Rafiqul Islam himself. Annoyed by his daughter’s “anti-social activities”, he killed and buried her. Lipi’s father has given a confessional statement under section 164 before the court.

According to an ASK report, women have been killed more by their husbands and and in-laws in dowry and domestic violence related cases.

According to another report of Prothom Alo published on 12 August, Rezaul Karim, senior executive of a private company, married physician Jannatul Nayeem without the consent of his family. There were frequent altercations between the couple over Rezaul’s extramarital affairs with several women. At one point, Rezaul killed Jannatul by slitting her throat.

She was killed after being taken to a hotel in the capital in the pretext of a birthday celebration. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) disclosed this information after arresting Rezaul from Chattogram.

In another incident published on Prothom Alo on 14 August, a man named Sajeeb Molla killed his wife Monira Khatun for dowry. Monira called his father and asked to save her life. Snatching the mobile phone from her wife, Sajeeb demanded Tk 20,000 from his father-in-law. Monira was found dead the following day. Monira had two daughters aged three years and eight months respectively.

There are also incidents where mothers are killed by their sons over a family dispute. According to a report by Prothom Alo on 16 August Jesmine Akter, 50, was shot dead by her eldest son Mainuddin in her bedroom over a land-related dispute in Chattogram.

Culture of impunity

Speaking to Prothom Alo, ASK director Nina Goswami said, “ASK is keeping a record based on the reports published in different news media. There are many incidents apart from these. The main reason behind these killings and suicides is the culture of impunity. The cases of violence against women are not being taken as special cases. These cases are caught up between the lower courts and the High Court. Due to the lack of exemplary punishment in such cases, the offenders are getting encouraged in committing crimes.

Let’s return to our conversation with Sabita Roy, mother of Aditi Sarker. She was saying that she didn’t believe that her daughter had committed suicide as her daughter was lively and mentally strong. Despite that, she didn’t file any case considering the mental state of her grandchildren. She also condemned the judiciary system of the country saying that, “What is the benefit of filing a case? The accused will be released from the prison after six to seven months at most”.

*This reports appeared on the online version of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu