Following the vicious attack of a woman and rape of a 5-year-old girl, Bangladesh’s largest women’s rights group is launching a “resistance movement” to stop violence against women and children.
Ayesha Khanam, president of the 150,000-member Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (Bangladesh Women’s Council), told BenarNews it decided that such a movement was necessary to shine a light on a series of recent brutal attacks.
“You see a bad boy in Sylhet who mercilessly hacked Khadiza Begum Nargis for turning down his proposal,” she told BenarNews, referring to a spurned suitor who allegedly attacked Nargis, a student at Sylhet Government Women’s College, with a machete on Oct. 3.
“Local goons in Mirpur this month attacked two sisters in two spells, beat them mercilessly and broke the leg of one of them. Also this month, a 5-year-old girl was kidnapped, beaten and raped in Dinajpur. This means women and children have been the targets across the country,” Khanam said.
Badrul Alam, a leader of the ruling party’s student wing and an economics student at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology in Sylhet, in northeastern Bangladesh, allegedly hacked Nargis after she had turned down his love proposal.
A bystander filmed the attack and posted it on Facebook. The video went viral, prompting people across the country to rally to demand punishment.
On Oct. 4, Rezaus Sattar, a neurosurgeon at the Square hospital in Dhaka, told reporters that Nargis’ survival chance ranged between 5 percent and 10 percent because she had sustained several deep head wounds and serious cuts to her hands as she tried to fend off the machete blows.
Doctors now say that her condition is stable, her father told BenarNews.
“Wednesday night, she has been shifted to the general ward from the dependency ward. My daughter called me father. She is taking liquid foods. But we are worried whether she will get her full memory back,” Mashuk Miah said.
“What was her fault that she should be hacked in this way,” the father asked.
Alam is in jail, but has not been charged.
“He will face punishment no matter which party he belongs to. He may be our activist, but he must get punishment. We do not believe in sheltering any criminals,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews.
Law Minister Anisul Huq told BenarNews that the government planned to fast-track the case against Alam.
“He will be tried in the speedy tribunal for his heinous crimes,” Huq said. “All sensational cases of attacks on women and children will be referred to the speedy tribunal.”
Crisis centers available
The ministry of women and children, meanwhile, has been operating one-stop crisis centers offering treatment, protection and training for victims at government hospitals in Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet and Barisal, Rangpur and Faridpur districts. The victims of torture, rape and other serious human rights abuses are sheltered at the centers.
According to figures from the centers, 22,386 victims have been treated between 2001 and 2015. The centers, with the support of NGOs dedicated to women’s rights, filed more than 5,000 cases against the perpetrators, and 101 criminals have been punished.
Shahidul Islam, an independent researcher in social policy, told BenarNews that attacks and rapes of women and girls occur frequently.
“Why? This is happening due to unrest brewing in society. The sense of impunity has taken root inside our society. When someone is not punished for committing serious crimes, the instances encourage others to violate laws,” Islam said.
“We saw in the past that ruling party men were not punished for violent activities. So this is natural for Alam to think that nothing would happen.
Social media is helping change people’s responses to such attacks, Islam said.
“People in thousands take to the street, demanding punishment of the perpetrators. If the video of the hacking was not on Facebook, I would say nothing would have happened to Alam,” he said.
Khanam said customs in Bangladesh had changed for the worse.
“A culture of impunity, absence of good governance and rule of law, and society’s negative attitudes are the leading causes of such brutal attacks on women. A decade ago, boys used to go to girls with flowers; now they go with pistols and machetes. This is so sad,” she said.