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     Volume 9 Issue 39| October 08, 2010 |


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Reporting the Violence

Elita Karim

The year started out bleakly with report after report of young girls taking their own lives after being stalked and sexually harassed. Girls as young as 12-14 were harassed on the streets by men as old as 30 or above – a common act seen for generations in our subcontinent. But 'eve teasing' was recognised as an actual crime by the authorities only after a handful of young girls or more, were driven to kill themselves to escape the mental and the physical torture. Clearly, society still operates on certain age-old concepts -- it awaits chaos and destruction before actually implementing a law to protect those vulnerable to frequent attacks.

As we reach the last quarter of the year, violence against women seem to be increasing by the moment. Domestic violence related to dowry, acid attacks and stalking have become regular stories in the list of headlines. 17-year-old Aneza Akhter finally succumbed to her injuries at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital last week. She was burnt alive by 24-year-old Tairan Sarker and his friends Russel Sheikh and Rana, after she rejected his proposal of love for her. For months she was stalked and harassed by the young men until they finally decided to take matters into their own hands.

Around the same time last week, three young girls of the same family were burnt in their sleep as their attackers poured acid on them in Chittagong last week. Undergoing treatment in the Burn Unit of the Chittagong Medical College Hospital at the now, the police are still trying to figure out why this crime was committed.

Photo: Zahedul I Khan

Despite the fact that awareness regarding this issue is made stronger by the media, one wonders if violence against women has increased over the last couple of years. Faustina Perera Advocate, Bangladesh Supreme Court and Director, Brac’s Human Rights and Legal Services, says that it cannot be exactly determined if violence against women have increased or decreased a great fold over the years, but the media has been playing a big role in making the cases prominent and noticeable for the general people. "If you remember, a few years ago, the country was in hue and cry when Tania, a 4-year-old child was raped," she says. "It came as a shock to many. It took a while for people to comprehend the fact that a child could also be raped. Such cases need to be reported and brought in front of people so that the existence of such issues can be acknowledged by all and not ignored."

Advocate Nina Goswami Senior Deputy Director, Ain O Salish Kendra also speaks about the increase in media reports regarding violence against women. "More people are talking about it now as compared to years back," she says. "The media is much more conscious now and thus making the people a lot more aware of the issues. However, the problems have always existed.”

"There are several dimensions to the types of violence face today," says Faustina Perera. "More and more cases are being reported today and official complaints are also pouring in as per the Nari o Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain (Women and Children Repression Act) as compared to before."

Photo: Zahedul I Khan

Goswami says that people are listening now and are acknowledging these issues. "The environment is better now as compared to before, thanks to the government as well," she says. "The Domestic Violence Law might be passed by this year, which will solve a lot of dilemmas. For instance, this law will bring into perspective plenty of domestic crimes that usually otherwise are ignored. The police will also be compelled to register complaints, which they refused to earlier."

In spite of the fact that the Domestic Violence Law will probably come into existence this year, Goswami believes that only after the proper implementation of the law can we see and experience actual results. "There has always been a constant effort to control women in various ways over the past years and this won't stop in future," Goswami reasons. She speaks of the acid attack on women, which had become kind of a trend amongst vengeful young men in the past. "In the past two years, acid attack on women have definitely decreased," she says. "However, that does not mean that in general, violence against women has decreased in any way. Rather, new dimensions have added to the list. As I said earlier, new ways to control women and influence their thoughts will always come about in our society."

Perera speaks further about the two kinds of domestic violence and criminal acts that are usually not spoken about. One is marital rape; an act of crime, which is still difficult for people in our country to comprehend and the other is, incestuous rape. "These acts have been happening in our country for a long time," says Perera. "But they are hardly ever reported. If the media gets a hold of these next and begins to report cases falling under these categories, it would just mean that people are being more aware of these issues, not that they are increasing by the moment."

One hopes that the Domestic Violence Law comes into being soon enough for the sake of the victims and to prevent violent attacks on women. However, until and unless the society decides to take a standstill and protest against the inhumane torture and violence that take place against women every day, it will be a Herculean task to actually implement the law and put it into practice.


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