In My View
Rapists still having a field day in Bangladesh
Despite the recent reforms in Bangladesh laws on sexual violence against women and children, there has been no letup in sex offences -meaning rape and gang rape -- in the country. In a clear defiance of even the newly added provision of death penalty for rape cases, the rapists are rather ganging up and still having a field day in Bangladesh.
The recent gang rape of a woman who was visiting Cox's Bazar along with her husband and eight-month-old son served as a stark reminder that even the new harsher measures against sex offences failed to make any impact on the rapists. Not giving a damn about the new legislation on rape, a group of sex offenders allegedly kidnapped the woman and sexually assaulted her repeatedly in the country's most popular tourist destination.
As reported in various national newspapers of Bangladesh, the woman was forcibly separated from her husband and son and taken to a house in the town where she was raped by a group of four/five men. But that was not the end of the story. Later, she was taken to a Cox's Bazar motel where she was again raped by the members of the same group. The rapists took Yaba pills before they sexually assaulted the woman, at least one media outlet of Bangladesh quoted her as saying.
According to media reports, the family went to the seaside resort to solicit fund from local and foreign tourists for the treatment of the baby boy who has been suffering from heart complications. Receiving this information, the members of the group demanded Tk 50,000 ($581.00) from the family. When they refused to give them money, the extortionists then held the father and the son hostage and abducted the woman and raped her repeatedly at two places in turns.
The group has reportedly been engaged in various criminal activities including mugging and raping for years in the country's most popular tourism destination visited by thousands of Bangladeshis as well as foreign tourists from around the world each month raising many troubling questions about the role of the local law enforcement agencies. As reported by the news media, even the managers of many hotels and motels in the area are aware of the activities of the group.
So, the question is how could the group manage to continue their criminal activities in such an important place of the country? What role did the local law enforcement agencies play to keep Cox's Bazar safe? In every tourism destination of the world from the Taj Mahal to the Eiffel Tower to the Niagara Falls, local law enforcement agencies are on alert 24 hours a day to provide safety and security to all tourists - local and foreign. But why do the law enforcers of the seaside town of Cox's Bazar fail to do so?
Why was the woman who somehow collected some money for the treatment of her ailing baby boy compelled to either give away portion of her money to the extortionists or submit herself to a group of rapists for their sexual pleasure? How will Bangladesh develop its tourism industry with no guarantee of safety to the tourists? Bangladesh law enforcers should visit the Niagara Falls on both sides in the U.S. and Canada and see for themselves how safely and without any worry tourists from around the world stroll even in the wee hours of the night.
So, what's going on in our Cox's Bazar? As reported by the media, after the kidnapping of the woman, her husband called the local police several times but received no help from them. Help finally arrived when he called the local unit of the elite anti-crime paramilitary force of Bangladesh the Rapid Action Battalion. A tourist who was a married woman with a sick kid was not being found in Cox's Bazar during the night time; but yet this incident was not treated as a priority by the local police. What were their priorities then at that particular time that day?
In spite of the eye-rolling sex crimes in Bangladesh, the otherwise vocal women groups of the country are mysteriously very quiet. There is no greater assault on a woman than the brutal gang rape in turns. If now is not the time for the so-called courageous women of Bangladesh to speak out against sex offenders, when will they do it and for what greater cause of the women of the country? And what happened to the #Me Too Movement in Bangladesh that emerged a few years ago with a big bang? Their silence too is deafening.
A Canadian citizen of Bangladeshi origin told me the other day that he was surprised by the "complete silence" of the women organizations of the country over the horrific sexual violence against fellow women. Another friend and social activist called me from the U.S. a couple of days ago expressing similar sentiment. "These so-called women organizations of Bangladesh raise their voice only over those incidents that suit their own interests and political ideologies," he commented.
According to Ain O Salish Kendra, the premier human rights organization of the nation recorded a total of 1,247 rape cases in the country during the January-November period of the current year. The organization also registered another 286 cases of attempted rape during the same time in the country making it abundantly clear that sex offenders are still having a field day in Bangladesh despite recent reforms in the laws on sexual violence against women. Forty-six women were murdered after rape.
Some sexual perverts didn't even spare the baby girls of only six years and even under. As per the data of Ain O Salish Kendra compiled on its website, as many as 76 baby girls under six were sexually assaulted during the first 11 months of 2021 while sex offenders attempted to rape another 31 little babies. Out of the total incidents of rape and attempted rape, roughly 50 percent were reported to the police and the remaining 50 percent not for unknown reasons. The rights group collected the information from Bangladesh's national dailies and its own sources.
Bangladesh should have been extremely sensitive to the ugly crime of sexual assaults on women for historical reasons. During the nine-month-long war prior to the birth of the country, nearly half a million Bangladeshi women were raped by Pakistani soldiers and that unimaginable sexual violence against women has left a permanent scar on the nation. Forgetting that tragic incident will amount to forgetting the true history of the birth of Bangladesh. As a mark of respect for those patriotic and brave women of the country, Bangladesh should have pursued a zero tolerance policy toward sexual assaults on women right from the beginning.
But unfortunately it hasn't happened. Every government since independence has treated the crime of sexual violence against women too leniently. There is no good rapist. All rapists are bad -- be it a Pakistani soldier or Bangladeshi thug. However, only few sex offenders were taken to the court and fewer put in jail over the last 50 years in the country. So, as expected sexual violence against women has become a recurring phenomenon in Bangladesh.
The writer is a Toronto-based
journalist who also writes for the Toronto Sun as a guest columnist