said that children are the saving grace of our society --
that their innocence and vulnerability make up for all the
virtues that we either lack or grow accustomed to ignoring
in our daily lives and interactions with each other. What
then, can we say about a society that exploits these same
children, robbing them of their innocence? From time to time,
newspaper headlines scream "injustice" against various
issues, such as child prostitution, trafficking and general
violence, abuse and exploitation of children. However, in
the last year over twenty odd cases of an even scarier phenomenon
have been reported -- the raping and/or killing of young girls,
aged twelve and under.
Usha went to a neighbour's house after dinner around 8:30
p.m. to see a friend on February 2nd. When she didn't return,
her father, Nazrul Islam, Awami League Organising Secretary
of the Mohadevpur ward, got worried. A Santal woman told him
about a dead body in a tomato field 400 yards away from his
house. Upon rushing to the field he found his daughter lying
naked in a pool of blood. Police arrested Moslem Uddin, 15
and Zamiul Hossain, 14 on suspicion.
twelve-year-old school girl took poison and was rushed to
a local health complex for recovery on March 25th after she
was raped by her schoolteacher, Naimuddin, who taught at Laupara
Primary School in the Bagmara upazila. The culprit called
her into the classroom during break and violated her. On hearing
her cries for help her classmates came in and rescued her.
They boycotted the school and, together, with the victim's
brother, demanded that action be taken against Naimuddin,
who is apparently reaching a compromise with the family.
Abdur Rahman, president of the Mogaltuli ward unit Olama Dal,
which is a religious wing of BNP, gave Arabic lessons to a
young girl aged six. On May 30th, he lured her into his house
and raped her, threatening her dire consequences if she told
anyone. The girl, however, told her grandmother, who then
informed the police. Rahman was taken into custody later that
a wedding held on June 3rd in Naraynganj, a two-and-a-half-year-old
baby's family members were busy preparing for the arrival
of the groom. Left unattended, the baby was lured into the
bushes by rickshaw-wallah Mosharraf Hossain, where he raped
her. He was caught in the act and handed over the police.
The young girl was taken to a local clinic first, then later
shifted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital for treatment.
Ankhi was watching T.V. on October 8th with her elder brother
when their neighbour, a rickshaw-wallah by the name of Sharif
came to their house and took her away. Sharif allegedly took
her to his room, raped her and then proceeded to "slaughter"
her with a boti. She was found dead the next day by Jarina,
Sharif's wife. Although she was out the evening of the crime
and came back in the morning, Jarina was held in custody,
while Sharif had absconded.
Juthi, a student of class four at the BRAC school in the Gorakul
village, was on her way to the Hejuli Bazaar on November 22nd
when she was kidnapped by a group of criminals. After they
raped her, the poured acid all over her body and then strangled
her to death. She was found dead near the Heluji village.
are just a handful of the cases reported in the last year.
The actual number of minor girls under twelve being raped
is most likely far higher, especially considering that most
of these cases are ignored and hardly ever brought to the
table for justice. The culprits are usually reprimanded and
taken into custody for some time, but somehow, one way or
another, we barely ever read about the follow up actions being
taken against them. Once in a while, there are cases where
justice is served to one or two of these poor little girls.
Instead of taking this for granted, however, the population
of Bangladesh seems to be pleasantly surprised. As if it is
a real shocker when men are punished for raping young girls
who, in most cases, probably cannot understand the difference
between men and women.
to wonder what Ankhi or Juthi or Usha were thinking when they
took their last breaths -- violated, bleeding, and in pain.
Were they heaving a sigh of relief, thinking that at least
they would not have to live in such a world anymore? Will
the two-and-a-half year old baby from Naraynganj when she
grows up ever be able to go to a wedding again without being
talked about for being a victim of rape? Will the twelve-year-old
girl from Bagmara upazilla ever want to go back to school
after what her teacher did to her? Will the six-year-old from
Mogaltuli ever respect another religious teacher again, or
want to learn Arabic? What weight will these girls have to
carry after living through such an ordeal? Is their fight
not as relevant to us because they are not one of us?
is supposedly a light of hope in every dark moment. For quite
some time now, Bangladesh has been spiraling downwards in
almost every way -- our economy, our security, our government,
our morality. Every aspect of our society has been corrupted
or exploited in some way. However, when the victimisation
of children is so salient and immune to justice, it is safe
to say that single light of hope, whatever it may be, has
just gone out.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004