Solvent, educated female fraudsters!
In most South Asian countries, the common understanding is that while men can be lured into the world of crime, women tend to keep themselves distant from vice. This concept that women cannot be engaged in nefarious acts has been diligently fed to us through most cultural forms - books, films, dramas and theatre. In real life, we have grown up with the notion that women have a higher sense of morality, a distinct idea about right and wrong and, will rarely venture into something unethical.
While we love to portray this idealized image in entertainment mediums plus real life situations, the truth is that for quite some time, women have also become very much active in the shady world of exploitation, manipulation plus a variety of dodgy affairs.
Within the Corona virus emergency period, three women have come under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Surprisingly, none of them has been beguiled into a world of depravity due to privation or financial difficulty.
All three are educated, had socially respectable posts with enough legitimate income to lead honourable lives. Yet, they were found to be engaged in acts that included hoodwinking the masses to make a lot of money in the shortest possible time.
The involvement of educated women in murky dealings provokes the question: why are women willingly discarding the life of virtue for venality?
A sociological research is certainly needed though first, the pseudo veneer of morality that our cultural mediums have been using so long to masquerade the unpalatable truth, needs to come off.
Both genders are victims of a predatory society: In the decades after liberation, women were mainly housewives with their domain limited within the home. Those who worked opted mainly for teaching. The rationale for choosing this profession was that it would not demand the involvement of the woman in question for a long period, thus giving her enough time to concentrate on domestic duties. Over time many teachers gave up their profession to provide more time to growing children.
Things certainly changed after the 90s as droves of women entered the work force with adequate skills, training plus an unbridled desire to excel. While on one hand, women broke down the restrictions to carve an equal place for her in society as an earning member, she also became the victim of countless illicit temptations lurking in the real world.
Come to think of it, the moment someone says: 'a woman of bad repute', ninety nine per cent will immediately think of someone who is either a sex worker, a courtesan or someone who has been physically intimate with more than one person.
The issue of promiscuity has been intertwined with women in such a manner that while discussing immorality among women, vices like embezzling, account fraud, trade of contrabands, racketeering and drug peddling do not come to our minds unless we are given the details.
This is due to decades of systematic indoctrination which always showed women shunning unlawful acts. Countless novels, purporting to be authentic narratives of society, have been written in the last five decades in Bangladesh though one would find it difficult to list ten major literary works where the woman is actually the antagonist.
With all due respect to Humayun Ahmed, who is one of my favourite writers, not a single of his works ever shows a female protagonist who is sly, scheming or amoral.
Will I be wrong to state that relentless proselytization of society that women cannot be vile is one of the reasons which has granted a sense of impunity among those willing to take up fraud as a profession?
The simple fact which was and still is being pushed under the carpet is that both men and women are equally susceptible to corruption.
This is a mercenary society where the pursuit of wealth is sometimes governed by ruthless predatory instincts. In that approach, there is no place for compassion or empathy. Money is the sole motivator here and any measure adopted to obtain it is acceptable.
The unsavoury truth: both genders are equally to blame.
Corona emergency as a way to quick profit: The three women who are now in custody have one thing in common: they wanted to use the Corona Virus induced emergency, uncertainty plus apprehension to make millions within a short time.
One was complicit in providing fake Corona certificates, another supplied sub standard masks while the third one was using the lockdown period to carry out an online swindle with the help of dubious Nigerians residing in the country.
All three of them denied the charges when they were asked initially of their wrongdoing with one person breaking down in tears to plead her innocence.
As we all know, tears are the most effective weapon which hardly fails. Thankfully, with so much evidence stacked up against the three persons, tears or any other wiles didn't work.
The question is why would these women be tempted to make a swift buck when they have perfectly acceptable positions in the community?
The answer lies in a highly tainted social creed which glorifies greed to the point of gospel. While countless people are without work and are staring into an abyss, these women with regularly paid employment had to get involved in vice because they simply could not resist the temptation. The attraction of quick money seemed irresistible.
Regrettably, their education came to nothing as avarice had the last laugh.
But let's look at the case of these women from a different perspective. Hypothetically speaking, what would have happened if they were not caught?
Would their families question them regarding the source of sudden wealth? I doubt it.
Sorry to say, in the face of affluence, questions dissipate. Nobody actually asks where the money has come from.
Like they say in England: when one arrives in a Bentley, people do not ask questions!
Many parents who express gratitude to divine powers for the abrupt material success of their children only see comfort, luxury but are unwilling to inquire about the sources of sudden windfalls.
This is called the halo effect.
In keeping quiet, these parents are also being complicit in legitimizing a decadent zeitgeist.
With 'get rich quick' never losing its allure, both men and women are becoming its victims. Perhaps it time to add more hard core realism in popular culture, shedding puerile romanticized ideas.
In almost all fraudulent operations that are being busted nowadays, women are found to be playing crucial roles, either as the 'honey trap' to entice a victim or as one of the masterminds.
Unfortunately, swindles by educated women who could have led comfortable lives by being transparent are hard to digest.
Voltaire's rather cynical quote comes to mind: when it's the matter of money, everyone is of the same religion!
Towheed Feroze is a journalist and teaches at the University of Dhaka