the world is
May of this year, a woman in Nilphamari was raped. As is often
done nowadays, there was an "arbitration"; after
which the rapist was set free, and the woman -- the victim
-- was lashed, her head shaven, and on top of that she was
forced to wear a chain of shoes around the village.
May 7, a policeman raped a 16-year-old girl, and on May 16,
an 18-year-old girl, who protested against criminals hiding
out at her father's house, was gangraped and hung from a tree.
On May 29, a woman was raped and killed by men who had an
altercation with her husband over flying kites. On May 30,
a six-year-old girl was raped by her 42-year-old Arabic teacher.
On June 4, a two and a half-year-old girl was raped by a 26-year-old
rickshaw-puller at a wedding ceremony in Narayanganj. On June
5, two 15- and 17-year-old boys raped a seven-year-old girl
in Mymensingh. On June 15, a nine-year-old girl was raped
in Kushtia but no action was taken as the rapist belonged
to an "influential quarter". On July 1, a teenage
girl in Demra killed herself due to the relentless harassment
of a local hoodlum.
aren't even one-fourth of the crimes against women and girls
that took place in the country in the last two months. Not
a week goes by during which a woman is not raped, the body
of a girl not found somewhere -- anywhere, from inside a water
container to a fertiliser bag. Stories of a woman cut up in
pieces, falling prey to acid violence for having rejected
a suitor or a housewife being strangled, beaten or burnt to
death for dowry have become a staple for the dailies. Woman
has been at the receiving end of so much violence and degradation
in our society that she almost seems synonymous with the word
do we hear of judgments in these cases, because they rarely
get that far. Even the most high-profile ones, after much
media and even government pressure, take years to get a verdict.
Others are often forgotten over time. Even after cases are
lodged and, sometimes, after they reach the court, the victims
and their families are threatened. In May, as soon as they
were released on bail, the accused in the Simi (the art student
in Narayanganj who killed herself after persistent harassment
by local mastans) murder case threatened her family. Last
month, the family of a three-year-old rape victim was being
pressurised by the family of the accused to withdraw their
action being taken in some of the cases -- leading even to
death penalties in some; despite numerous human rights and
women's organisations dealing with them and the media reports
being published on a daily basis, such horrendous crimes continue
unabated. Why do they occur at all in the first place, we
did the Arabic teacher rape his student? How could the rickshaw-puller
rape a two-and-a-half year old girl? Was the 40-day-old girl,
whose body was found in a water container, really killed because
her mother refused to give her grandfather a gold chain he
wanted? How can groups of people arbitrate over a rape case
and later free the rapist for a fine, and punish the victim?
How can people demand justice in the face of the threat and
influence of the perpetrators?
while we feel sick simply reading the newspaper reports, we
wonder how the victims and their families manage to move on.
People who are conscious of what is happening around them
think twice these days about bringing another child into the
world. With a girl child, the dread multiplies even more.
How will they protect them? And if anything bad happens, will
they get justice? How can we guarantee their safety?
crimes spiral out of control, we simply cannot blame it on
lack of education or on social divides along lines of class
and race or even on sociopaths roaming around in society.
Crimes are being committed everywhere and anyone can fall
prey; though, for women, it is their sex and reasons linked
with it, which often land them in the noose of the criminals.
cannot ensure a safe and secure world for our loved ones anymore.
What does a parent say to a child who says, "Baba/Ma,
it's a horrible world. I'm scared."
hardest part is that there is really no consolation. Because
there are no guarantees -- not of protection and not of justice,
we can each only try and do our bit to make things better.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004