Lasting effect

By Md Sadid Uddin

Despite of so much progress in women empowerment in our country, the number of harassment incidents, is persistently increasing. There seems to be a hullaballoo in the society immediately after an incident occurs. After the news media covers the issue, the reactions begin to sprout up in the social media. Over the past few years, many such incidents including that of Shazneen Tasnim Rahman, Sohagi Jahan Tonu and others have triggered our emotions. But these emotions tend to fade away in a few days till the next incident occurs. In the process, are we not degrading our morals?

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Recently, the incident of Apan Jewellers got media attention but the suicide of Hazrat Ali and his eight-year-old daughter did not get as much coverage. Ali had taken the step after his daughter was violated and his land was encroached by a group of local influential people. Heartbreaking, but how many of us still have it on our mind that these poor souls deserve to have justice.

Usually, after any such incident, we simply look at the immediate victim. But the family of the victim also faces a debilitating struggle. According to human rights promoting organisation Odhikar, the total number of raped women is 757 in 2016 while it was 789 in 2015. In 2014, the number was around 666. However, these are just the reported incidents. The real numbers are likely to be many times higher.

In most of the cases, the victim does not receive the desirable justice due to the loopholes and barriers of related laws. Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) reports that only 401 victims filed a case against their accused, out of 707 rape cases. The social and legal factors are not helping either. Section 155(4) of the Evidence Act 1872, states, ‘…when a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix (the girl or the woman who has been raped) was of generally immoral character.’ This law has been annulled in the UK already, but it is still a remaining force in Bangladesh!

Eventually, in each and every case, debates boil around the victim. Questions are thrown during the trials or even on social media or during public discussions: How was she? Was she pious? What type of clothing did she wear? What were her friends like? Why did she stay up late at friend’s house? Didn’t she know that all the people around her were not angels? While asking these questions, we point our fingers at the victim more than the culprit.

Debates should rather include these questions: What kind of pleasure did the culprit enjoy while sexually harassing the victim? What was his rationale?  The main focus of the whole questionnaire should be on the psychological factors working behind the offender’s act and trying to follow the link back to the root of it.

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Rather than harassing the victim with such questions, the criminal should face this music. Also, these culprits must be brought to legal punishment no matter how wealthy or politically connected they are.

One does not need to be a psychologist to understand the sickness of these people. But are fruits safe in the tree when its roots are rotten? The prosperity and well-being are just like the fruits of the tree whereas morals are like the roots of the trees. To that end, these morally corrupt people have to channel their psychosis to girls & children.

Surprisingly, the criminals have become shamelessly remorseless in the process. Human civilisation is just like a balance where the good is checked on one side of the scale and the bad on the other. The best people are always a majority, but the problem is that the bad ones are powerful enough to scare the honest and sincere human beings. Hence, as is the case of any balance, when one side is heavier, it overpowers the other. We must ensure that no matter who the culprit is, justice be served anyway.

But, we are living in a society where we practice ethics in moderation. We simply lack the boldness to seek justice. Consequently, we become neither saints nor morally bankrupt. In the process, we are allowing the criminals to become more powerful. We must accept that the change can start within ourselves and our beloved family. Let’s start by ensuring that we do not have a rapist in our family, neighbourhood, office and all the places within our spheres.

The author is a senior in the BBA programme of the Faculty of Business Studies at the University of Dhaka. You can send him your feedback at sadiduddin@gmail.com