Criminologist Madhumita Pandey has said that rapists are not monsters. She said, “After you speak to [the rapists], it shocks you – these men have the power to make you feel sorry for them.” (South China Morning Post)
What will Madhumita Pandey say after taking to the millions of suffering women who have been victims of rape? Will she not be moved by Nusrat’s struggle to protest against sexual harassment? Do the criminologists not hear the voices of the girls and women who are victims of such heinous crimes?
Sociologists, based on various anthropological studies, observe that prehistoric life was dependent on women. It was a society based on matriarchal rights. We have come a long way since then it is now the 19th year of the 21st century. When we see the media rife with reports of how innumerable women are continually facing rape and sexual harassment, we cannot hesitate in insisting that the rapists are inhuman monsters.
I had spoken to rape victims back in 1972. Activists of the women rights organisations were moved to tears at the distress and sufferings of these women who had been abused during the liberation war. We demanded that they should be recognised not as ‘birangana’, but as freedom fighters.
Under the leadership of poet Begum Sufia Kamal, several persons got together to establish the women’s rehabilitation centre in December 1972. Australian pain specialist Geoffrey Davis came to Bangladesh at the time. He returned to London and stated that the 200,000 women raped by the Pakistan troops during the nine months independence struggle, would suffer and some may even become barren.
How far has the plight of women been acknowledged in the history of the liberation war? Other than in the history of women’s rights, nowhere has the struggle been acknowledged as a women’s liberation war. It is not about getting a medal or reward. It is a struggle to establish the truth in history.
In the prevailing corrupted social conditions, women are being abused in the institutions of higher education down to the school level. Women and children are being raped on the streets, in the localities, districts, in ‘secure’ apartments of high rise buildings. The prime minister, taken aback by the situation, has said that the rapists must face speedy trial and punishment.
The urge and inspiration to change society through one’s professionally designated duties, no longer exists. However, here and there news pops up of men and women who take initiative to ensure a peaceful and healthy environment in their respective localities. This gives hope and I too join hands with such initiatives. And then frustration takes its toll again.
Madhumita Pandey has stressed the need for learning within the family. We believe that too. But who will take that responsibility to instil this learning within the families when rape and abuse are taking place within the educational institutions themselves?
Every day news of women being raped appears on television, in the newspapers and on Facebook. There is no account for how many women’s lives are being ruined due to the lack of justice, delays in trials, and the trials suddenly coming to an abrupt end. There are so many unfinished murder cases like that of Tonu, so many more such murders taking place unabated. There are so many we have no even heard about.
It is now imperative to determine ways to halt these monster rapists once and for all.
* Maleka Begum is a women’s activist and academic, teaching at the Central Women’s University and is also visiting faculty at the women and gender studies department of Dhaka University . This piece appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir