Bangladesh Anti Rape Protests

Tahreen Dewan
3 min readNov 10, 2020

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Image: Dhaka Tribune

A new wave of anti rape protests hit Bangladesh in October after a horrific gang rape was uploaded and shared on social media. This of course, was not the only incident of its kind in Bangladesh. Public outrage had already been brewing since several people (members of the ruling party) were arrested and charged with gang raping a woman in Sylhet. The nationwide protests have been calling for the government to take meaningful action in combating sexual violence and harassment. This includes demands to introduce the death penalty for rape. (Read this thread on the Bangladesh protests)

Bangladesh is the 7th most dangerous country for women in the world where women face rape, harassment, acid attacks, sex trafficking. Ain-o-Salish Kendra (ASK) which is a women’s human rights organisation in Bangladesh, stated that between January and September 2020 nearly 1,000 rape cases were reported, including 208 gang rapes.

As someone of Bangladeshi origin my social media has been flooded with family and friends sharing posts and articles on the protests. It’s reminded me of the time I spent with BRAC Bangladesh’s human rights and legal aid section in 2007 and all the women and girls I met.

I remember the woman whose 5 year old girl was raped, killed and left to be found in a ditch. Whose husband left her afterwards, so she spent her days seeking justice for her child.

I remember the young woman whose father in law kept trying to force himself on her. Who had no one to protect her while her husband was away working in Dubai.

I remember the 14 year old girl who was raped by a family friend on her way home. Who hadn’t been back to school because all the kids knew and would make her feel ashamed.

I remember the married woman who had acid thrown on her because she refused to sleep with a local goon. Who was fighting a long legal battle and refused the money offered to buy her silence.

I remember the 17 year old girl who was kidnapped and gang raped by 3 men. Who a month later, was still suffering from a high fever and could barely speak.

Rape, sexual abuse and harassment won’t end with tougher laws and sentences. It requires society to change from within. It means every single person has a part to play in changing their thoughts and actions.

This is not just Bangladesh’s problem but a global problem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSHUS2lehOY&feature=youtu.be

We have to decide whether we believe men to be violent animals or whether they are or have the potential to be decent human beings. You can’t tell us men have little control over their urges and emotions; that the mere sight of a little skin will ignite their animal instincts. And then expect us to respect them, love them, and marry them.

If you’re teaching young girls/people that men can’t help themselves and so it is up to potential victims to stop it, what are you really saying? Follow this list and you won’t get raped. Of course, we know no matter what you do there is always a chance. The girls and women I met were proof of that.

These monsters don’t just lurk at night in bushes and fields. They’re not all ugly and terrifying. They exist in our workplaces, our schools, our homes, and in our hearts. They can be charming, intelligent, and attractive. There isn’t one formula because anyone can be a rapist or sexual abuser.

We perpetuate rape culture with our words and behaviour.

If you’ve ever questioned what someone was wearing, you are the problem. If you’ve thought someone deserved it because of the way they are/live their life, you are the problem. If you’ve turned a blind eye to harassment, you are the problem. If you’ve excused the predatory behaviour of a young man, you are the problem. If you’ve ever covered up sexual abuse because the abuser was a family member or friend, you are the problem.

The reason rape is so widespread? Because we allow it.

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Tahreen Dewan

Trade union organiser. Interests in travel, culture, self development, politics. Twitter @TahreenDewan https://tahreendewan.wixsite.com/tdewan