If we as society and government fail to ensure social equality, freedom and security of life for women, the sacrifices made by women in the 1971 Liberation War would be deemed to have failed, writes Minhazur Rahman Rezvi for South Asia Monitor.
By Minhazur Rahman Rezvi
'Security of life' is an elusive phrase for girls in Bangladesh. People and society continue to consider girls as physically weaker and always in need of protection. While liberation of the country was acquired in 1971 by shedding blood for becoming free and enjoying equality, women continue to be deprived of this in an independent sovereign Bangladesh.
The more Bangladesh moves towards development, the more insecurity, physical abuse and social inequality are increasing for girls in the society. During the Liberation War of 1971, around three lakh women gave up their life to the cause of freedom, but their sacrifice has not ensured security of life, freedom and equality for women even now.
Dowry, social inequality, and social and religious restriction for education are the curses of their everyday lives. Side by side, a new malediction has got added to their life -- rape. The act is recognised as a curse for girls and the incidence of sexual harassment and rape is increasing at an alarming rate in Bangladesh.
In 2011, the number of rapes reported was 603. According to Bangladesh Mohila Parishad statistics, 1,050 women and girls were victims of rape, including 166 gang rape victims, and 44 killed after being raped in 2016. The number of gang rapes was 199 in 2015.
There has also been a sharp rise in child rape victims -- in 2012, the number of child rapes was 86, while the total number of child victims rose to 280 in 2015. Statistics provided by Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF) in 2016 showed that 325 children were raped during January-September that year. More than one-third of the victims were under 12 years of age.
The reasons for increasing number of rapes in the country include the lack of religious values, social norms and customs and the destruction of social bonds.
Sociologist Emile Durkheim had talked about 'anomie of society' -- which means indiscipline and dysfunction in the society. Social inequality, physical abuse, rape and suicide are the problems of dysfunction in society. Moreover, abuse of internet and increased watching of pornography not only destroy morality among youth but also encourage them to perform unsocial activities.
If proper punishment or judgement will not be established against any crime, the crime will increase. Last year around 1,500 cases were reported in courts against rapists or assaulters, but there was no noticeable enforcement of proper law to resolve the cases.
Most of the victims are from poor families and that is the reason why the victims fail to get justice. As the criminals or the assaulters are above the status of the victims, economically and socially, they either settle the issue in exchange for money or frighten them away with their muscle power.
The society and government have to take steps to reduce the incidence of rapes in the country. Most importantly, social awareness is needed for decreasing the incidence of this crime. Moreover, society should restrain the youth from abuse of modern technology and also raise awareness among them about the bad effects of abusing internet.
The government should extend a helping hand for solving this problem. It should ensure security of girls in society and also ensure that rapists or assaulters are given the strictest punishment for this crime -- otherwise, security of life for girls in the country will remain vulnerable.
If we as society and government fail to ensure social equality, freedom and security of life for women, the sacrifices made by women in the 1971 Liberation War would be deemed to have failed.
(The author is studying for Bachelor in Social Sciences (BSS) degree in Development Studies at Dhaka University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)