Roundtable on ‘Violence against women’
An online roundtable meeting titled 'What to do to prevent and remedy women's oppression' was organized by the Shujan-Citizens for Good Governance on October 15.
This online roundtable meeting was chaired by M. Hafizuddin Khan, President of Shujan and Advisor of the former caretaker Government.
Badiul Alam Majumder, secretary of Shujan, conducted the roundtable meeting.
Shahnaz Huda, executive member of Shujan, presented the key note of the programme.
Shahnaz Huda, executive member of Shujan, describe on Violence against Women: Prevention, Protection and Remedies.
Dr. Shahnaz Huda Professor, Department of Law, Dhaka University, said,
"Even in normal times, gender based violence in Bangladesh is an everyday occurrence for an alarming number of women and children. The year 2020 is certainly not a normal year by any standards. The global cataclysmic COVID pandemic has exacerbated women's already precarious position due to lockdowns, decreased mobility and dire financial and economic constraints brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic."
She presented according to statistics compiled by Ain O Shalish Kendra (ASK), during the eight months period of January to September 2020, there were 975 cases of rape and 204 cases of attempted rape. 43 women were murdered after rape whilst 12 committed suicide.1 According to another survey conducted by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), in 27 out of 64 districts in Bangladesh, 4,249 women, and 456 children were found to have been subjected to domestic violence in April of 2020. Of these victims, 1,672 women and 424 children faced violence for the first time in their lives during the lockdown. The recent and blatant rapes and gang-rapes resulted in a wave of criticism against the system and shocked the country. Based on the data presented, on average, four women have been raped every day in the last five months of the coronavirus pandemic. On September 25th 2020, a woman while on a visit accompanied by her husband to the Murari Chand (MC) College, Sylhet was forcefully taken and raped at the dormitory of the college while her husband was restrained. Reports of various types of violence against women and girl children, including domestic violence and rape, fill the pages. Within April to July of this year, Hiramoni (16), a ninth grader from Laxmipur, was brutally raped and killed in her home; Noora (16) was raped and killed in her home at Gazipur, along with her two siblings and mother by a 17 year old boy. Takmin (16) also faced similar violence and was murdered by her boyfriend Ashikul (18) on the night of their supposed elopement in Mymensingh.
What jarred public consciousness was the fact that many of the alleged perpetrators were in one way or other aligned to the party in power as well as the culture of impunity which continues to prevail in the country. Shockingly many of those who committed these heinous crimes are juveniles aged between 12 to 19 years and the survivors', children as young as 1-2 years.
Waves of anti-rape demonstrations erupted across Bangladesh after a video footage of five men stripping a housewife and gang-raping her in Noakhali's Begumganj upazila, went viral on social media.
On the tenth of October a female NGO worker was reported to have been gang-raped at her rented house in Bagerhat district. In a country, where any mass protest is considered to be a challenge against the State and a subversive activity, reactions against the incidents of rapes and other violence have been exceptionally loud, strong and persistent.
According to the South Asia director, Human Rights Watch, Meenakshi Ganguly:
"Bangladeshi women have had enough of the government's abject failure to address repeated rapes and sexual assaults,"
She added that: "The Bangladesh government needs to finally make good on its empty promises and heed activists' calls to take meaningful action to combat sexual violence and to support survivors."
The COVID-19 has been a great leveler, in the sense that it has physically not spared anyone --- rich or poor; Presidents and Prime Ministers. However it has also emphasized gender based discriminations and inequalities in the form of acute increase of incidents of violence against women and children.
There is no dearth of laws dealing with violence against women and children, including the Penal Code of 1860 and the Domestic Violence Act of 2010. The Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain of 2000 incorporates the harshest of punishments against a variety of crimes committed against women and children. This Act is not the first of such strict laws, preceded as it was by the
Cruelty to Women Deterrent Punishment Ordinance of 1983 and the Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Daman (Bishesh Bidhan) Ain of 1995. It has become customary for the Government to display knee jerk reactions against reports of increase of violent incidents against women. As a reaction to the present protests dubbed Rage Against Rape, the Cabinet today (the 12th of October) approved an amendment to the Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain of 2000 incorporating the provision of capital punishment for rape.
It is widely agreed by academics, activists and experts that the gap lies, not in all cases within the laws, of which there are sufficient numbers, but in their implementation. A vast majority of the population lack access to the law due to the lack of empowerment in their socio-economic political status. On the other hand political patronage of criminals and the culture of impunity and corruption hinders the proper enforcement of the law. The law enforcement agencies are largely viewed as protagonists rather than protectors. To ensure women's protection from widespread violence, it is widely agreed that real change in the system is necessary.
Badiul Alam Majumder said, "The rape epidemic has now been linked to the Coronavirus pandemic. This epidemic now exists in all spheres of society. The government has imposed the maximum punishment. The biggest thing is justice. Proper trials are not taking place due to delays in justice, culture of impunity, political influence etc. This culture of impunity must be eradicated and the perpetrators must be brought to justice."
Salma Ali said, "It is not necessary to just make a law. We need to create the mentality of treating women equally in all spheres of society and family. In our country, victims are not given psychosocial counseling support. There is a need to train lawyers in this field, including those who work with gender violence, trial courts and judge courts."
"We need to have a comprehensive family policy," said Tania Haque. Responsible Parenting Makes Responsible Citizens. We also need to change the education system, give moral and sexual education. At the same time, we need to think about promoting women as consumer goods in the media.
"Deterioration in the family, in the society - these are tricks before," said CR Abrar. But at the present time, why did it jump? People think that I can do whatever I want. The government hastily changed the law. As citizens, we want to say that we have to take the views of the citizens on any issue that is in the interest of the citizens, we have to increase the participation of the citizens.
Rezwana Hasan said, "We have to try to solve the issue from all sides, not from one side, family, society, state." We need to build a culture of boycotting rapists without socially oppressing them.
Tofail Ahmed said, "We are not discussing the place of class relations in the case of rape." Again, I'm not talking about sex crimes as a whole. Rape sex is a heinous sexual crime. You have to look at the whole thing without looking at it with a single lens.
Robayet Ferdous says sociologists say sexual hunger has little to do with rape. To show their masculinity towards women, men rape men to show how strong they are. In the case of justice, we are not talking about restorative justice. Not only must the perpetrator be punished, the victim of the crime must also look at his or her trauma.
"We need to change our mindset," said Nasima Akter Jolly. I don't think this will change unless we look at women from a place of dignity.
Sanjeev Drong said, " 5 years ago, a Garo woman was raped in Dhaka in a Mayo bus but the trial has not taken place yet. If the delay in the ongoing trial does not change, the situation will not change."
Syed Abu Naser Bakhtiyar Ahmed also discussed the length of the trial.
Ekram Hossain said the law needs to be changed in all areas including police and prosecution. Human rights must be given priority and textbooks must be included. By campaigning against rape, the government needs to stop this heinous crime at the community level.
M Hafiz Uddin Ahmed said rape is a social disease. To solve it we have to solve many issues.
But the most important thing right now is to get out of the culture of injustice. We need to ensure that abused women get justice. The end of this online meeting was announced through the speech of the President.