Rape, in reality, has turned into an unpreventable crime in Bangladesh. Despite a very stringent law, movements of women rights organisations, human rights organisations and different civic bodies and reports in media, it seems nothing can end the tyranny of the rapists. Women of all ages are victims of rape across the country every day. Sometimes it seems the rapists are competing with each other in the extent of their brutality. Currently, anti-rape demonstrations are going on across the country as the crime has increased like an infectious disease.
After the gang-rape of a newly married woman by the Bangladesh Chhatra League men at MC College in Sylhet, another woman was stripped and tortured in Begumganj of Noakhali. The heinous incident was filmed and circulated on social media. Bangladesh erupted in protests. The people of at least 35 districts including the capital have been protesting against rape and violence against women.
Asking the protesters to be patient, general secretary of ruling Awami League Obaidul Quader said there is no need to protest, the government is taking action. Terming the two incidents as ‘examples of complete brutality,’ home minister Asaduzzaman Khan assured of handing highest punishment to those involved with the incidents.
We expect the assurance of the home minister will be fulfilled. But at the same time, it is tough to be assured in this regard as so many assurances like this were not fulfilled in the past. Rape and violence against women could not have reached at this point if the perpetrators of crimes like those and others were brought to book, if criminals were handed punishment and if they were made to serve those punishments.
According to government sources, the court disposed of only 3.56 per cent of cases filed under women and child repression act between 2001 and 2020, while the criminals were handed punishment only in 0.37 per cent cases.
The home minister’s assurances cannot ring any bell in a country where accused in over 99 per cent suits remain outside of any punishment. Actually, trial and punishment of criminals is normal in a country that has the rule of law. The home minister does not need to make any pledge to this end. The question should not even arise.
Political patronage is responsible for today’s deep-rooted culture of impunity in different crimes including rape and violence against women. The Sylhet and Noakhali incidents, with perpetrators involved in the ruling party’s politics, are not stray incidents. The government tries to give a message to the people about bringing criminals to book saying ‘whoever the criminal is…’ In actuality, the criminals are seldom punished, which does not help curb rape and violence against women. Delwar Hossain from Begumganj, Noakhali is the latest example of a person who commits crime, taking shelter in political identity.
It is an important responsibility of the government to prevent all types of crimes including rape and repression of women and children. But the government has been showing failure continuously in this regard. As a result, the situation is deteriorating. To get resolve the situation, the government and the ruling party must take a political decision: no criminal will be given shelter.