The incidents of rapes and sexual violence against women and children occur regularly, but exemplary punishment is uncommon. Many get forgotten due to delay in trial. A lack of proper medical tests of the victims, their fear of humiliation and intrusion of influential people make it difficult to get justice. Not only now but also in previous decades, rape and sexual assault occurred in plenty in Bangladesh though the graph is sharply upward now-a-days. Today imams and muajjins, priests, teachers, university professors, doctors, corporate leaders, law enforcers – all are committing crimes like rape.
The complaints or reports, that we receive, are mostly from the lower or lower middle income group. The victims from high or middle income groups mostly do not report such incidents. Even then 4,541 rape cases have been reported in the past 16 years and the accused were punished in only 60 of these incidents. The conviction rate for rape in Bangladesh is below 1 per cent. At least 889 women have been raped in Bangladesh between January and August in 2020, 192 others faced rape attempts and sexual harassment while nine victims took their own lives. The actual numbers of such incidents are much higher. The government is yet to pass long-promised sexual harassment and witness protection laws.
If we cannot hit at the causes of rape in today’s Bangladesh, all our efforts will go in vein. Here we want to mention the example of India also which is very much similar with the culture and practices of Bangladesh. According to the government figures, Indian police registered 33,658 cases of rape in 2017. Experts say that a woman is raped in India every 16 minutes.
Our education system is full of faults as we are finding our youth engaged in crimes like; rape, murder, sexual assault, vandalism etc. If we see few school or college going teenagers moving together on the streets, we get afraid now-a-days. The law enforcers should prohibit movement of children and teenagers in school uniform at public places like malls, parks etc. unless they are under school or guardian supervision as that will reduce the number of teen gangs and minor illegal activities.
We must question what we are teaching at schools today. We are breaking the morality at schools. Moreover, our books today are not intended to make children want to learn, rather to pass. Our curriculum does not have anything to teach about protecting women’s honour. Though we are always talking about modernization and are breaking our cultural norms, we often do not adopt the teaching style of the modern world and also do not teach about the sexual norms in schools or even colleges.
Families are turning singular and as the parents are busy, we are taking support of technology to keep our children busy. We are handing them over smartphones and exposing them to the threats of Youtube, Facebook, Tiktok etc. But we are actually handing over a ‘nuclear bomb’ to our children. Many abusive contents are being enjoyed by our children without our knowledge and that is why a group of 5yrs old boys are raping a 3 years old girl today.We should consider banning few apps like Tiktok as was done by India and Pakistan.
According to our law, no person below the age of 18 should have a mobile phone let alone smartphone. It is good to use technology if constructively but in terms of our people’s education level and knowledge, it is hard to bring out any good. With widespread incidents like taking video of sexual assault and making it viral is one example of misuse of technology.
Social and family bonding is disappearing very soon in this modern era. Violence at home has increased a lot. If a child finds his parents fighting, his childhood is surrounded with virtual friends and erotic materials, we must pay for that at some point in the future.
Bengali culture always held some sort of decency irrespective of the religion. Muslim, Hindu, Christian or Buddhist – all hailing from the Bengali culture upheld the family values, modesty and decency but today we are finding that diminishing. Customs like marriage is turning into a matter of formality. This is generating illicit relationship and crimes like rape. Marriage at the early youth stage should be promoted by the society.
We need to fight the spread of drugs in any cost. Most of the rapist and sexual assaulters are drug addicts. Drugs and alcohol takes away morality from a person and in that state he or she can commit any crime. Selling tobacco products, alcohol, sedative medicines or drugs to anyone below 18 should be strictly banned. Both buyer and seller should be served severe punishment.
It is time to think where our society is actually moving. The protesters in favour of capital punishment for rape must be of clean character. Unfortunately, many of them are not respectful towards women. With this protest, they are merely trying to brighten their social face under.
We need to take some steps immediately. Our education system must be completely reformed where a student will not study to pass rather to learn. Moral and ethical education must be full subject where every student must pass. Many students sign out from education at the level of PSC, JSC, SSC and HSC. These left outs turn into a threat for the society as they roam unemployed and unguided. They are politically used as muscle and are involved in all sorts of vandalism including rape and sexual assault. The nation should take responsibility of their rehabilitation to save the future.
Moreover, only those with the best academic results should be allowed to pursue teaching profession. Their salary and other benefits should be like first class officers with no option for extra coaching. The teachers must pass a rigorous training. We can learn from Finland who has an extraordinary schooling method as it is the question of the survival of our society.
We must not provide any smartphone, tablet or access to social media sites to our children until they turn 18. Computer education should adopt minimal access to internet. Parents, guardians and teachers must monitor the children and teenagers even if they protest against that monitoring. While we are protesting for the punishment of the rapists, maybe we are raising thousands of future rapists at our homes.
Most importantly, we need political commitment to eliminate rape or sexual violence. Firstly, our politicians and their activists should be of clean character. They should be respectful to women and children. The government officials should also have clean characters. If they uphold the safety and security of women and children, it will be very easy to eliminate rape or sexual assault. Our public personalities like; actors, directors, poets, writers, singers, sportsmen etc. must hold good character. Drug abuse and disrespectful use of women has become very common in this circle though they represent the society. We must consider the character while we place, promote or reward someone at these levels.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has played a tremendous role in transforming the condition of women and children in Bangladesh. But crimes like rape are snatching our achievements. We must restore our social and family values. We know, PM Hasina can also realize this challenge and we believe she will take some drastic steps to improve the lives of Bangladeshi women and children.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Research Centre (DRC)