Growing number of rape cases
Rapes used to be a shameful legacy of Bangladesh’s liberation war. But very shockingly, in independent Bangladesh today, the number of rape incidents are rising to worrying levels. According to a report in a leading vernacular daily that quoted human rights organizations, 771 females were raped in Bangladesh in 2012. Of course the number excludes the ones who did not lodge cases in police stations or report the same to the media fearing reprisal from the often powerful perpetrators of these rapes.
On being asked in Parliament recently , the Home Minister said from January 2014 to December 2017, a total of 17,289 cases of women and child rapes were recorded throughout the country. The total number of victims in those cases was 17,389, of which 13,861 were women and 3,528 children. The latest figure on rapes is a clear indication of the rising number of rape cases. For the number of reported rape cases were only 405 in 2006 .
Rape victims in most cases do not get justice. Most of them are at the bottom of the pile in society and the ones who rape them are locally powerful or influential persons or gangster who have the police in their pockets. In some cases, policemen themselves are seen taking the lead in raping women. The rape victims who do get their complaints registered in police stations are hazarded by lack of good follow-ups at hospitals to establish that they were really raped. Hospitals lack proper or decent facilities in carrying out examinations of raped women.
The fast growing number of rape incidents point to the need for actions on priority basis to punish the offenders. The ways of law enforcement in rape cases are poor. Therefore, steps need to be taken so that policemen feel obligated to record rape incidents and take sincere and swift actions against them. A monitoring system should be there for senior police officers to know whether the investigating officers in rape cases are doing their work at the field levels. Any leniency must be dealt with promptly and sternly.
Specially, the police must be instructed to protected rape victims and their families so that they can come forward to unhesitatingly report the incidents or intimidating activities against them by the rapists and their supporters. The process of medical examinations of rape victims should be much improved.
We see media carrying many reports of women being abducted, raped, and even killed. Only few of them approach police or court seeking justice. Others keep quiet fearing humiliation and of being ostracized in the society and also to have been spared from further repression by police and those posing as protectors. Some victims also face astounding penalty from religious bigots and selfish society leaders on being indecently or erotically dressed. Such dictums come from those who want to confine women into their homes and use them as machines to produce children.
The United Nations Multi-country Study on Men and Violence recently asked men in rural and urban Bangladesh if they had forced a woman to have sex at any point in their lives. 61.2 per cent of urban Bangladeshi men who had raped did not feel guilty or worried afterwards, and 95.1 per cent experienced no legal consequences. . 89.2 per cent of urban Bangladeshi men answered ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ to the statement ‘if a woman doesn’t physically fight back, it’s not rape.’ These statistics are a clear indicator of the mindset of many men in this country. Unfortunately, most rapes go unreported in our country due to social stigma and the prevailing lack of support available for victims. The women and girls who do report being raped can sometimes face antipathy or outright hostility from police. Human rights organisations have been protesting the insensitivity and sometimes discrimination shown by law enforcers when dealing with cases of sexual assault and rape.
It is relevant here to mention that in Bangladesh the notorious “two-finger test” is still employed in rape investigations. This test consists in a physical examination of women who report rape during which a doctor inserts two fingers in the woman’s private parts to determine whether the woman is “habituated to sex”. This examination has its origin in the country’s British colonial-era laws dating back to 1872. This deters many women from reporting rape.
More than 100 experts, including doctors, lawyers, police, and women’s rights activists had signed a joint statement in 2013 asking for the test, which they called “demeaning”, to be abolished, as it “does not provide any evidence that is relevant to proving the offence.” Even nuts-and-bolts measures, like enhanced funding for forensic investigations, upgrading training of police to deal with sexual crimes, and making expert post-trauma support available to victims, are conspicuous by their absence.