Anti-rape protests continued across the country for the sixth consecutive day yesterday as different socio-cultural and rights organisations took to the streets to condemn the growing incidents of rape, sexual harassment and violence against women.
In Dhaka, protests were held in Shahbagh, Manik Mia Avenue and National Press Club areas.
In front of the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, activists from different organisations, including those working for women’s rights, staged demonstrations.
The protesters were chanting slogans condemning the impunity of rapists and demanding prompt action to bring the rapists to book.
They were holding placards inscribed with slogans such as: “Stop protecting rapists”, “Mukti chai, Rokkha Noi”, “If you justify rape, you are a rapist too.”
Before the programme started, police obstructed the protesters saying they would not allow demonstrations there, after which more protesters joined and began chanting slogans.
At least 500 people had joined the rally in front of the parliament building, where Feminists Across Generations — an inter-generational feminist alliance — declared a national emergency, demanding an end to all gender-based violence.
They said the death penalty is not a solution; they want an end to rape culture.
Rights activists further demanded the urgent and immediate adoption of a 10-point demand issued by the Rape Law Reform Coalition, including redefining rape to ensure that it covers all forms of non-consensual penetration, whether penile or not, and irrespective of gender, reviewing the Evidence Act 1872 to remove all scope for institutional victim blaming, ensuring protection and access to justice without discrimination for all rape victims, and conducting sensitisation trainings for police, lawyers, Judges and social workers so rape survivors are treated with respect and due responsiveness during reporting, investigation and prosecution.
Shireen Huq, founder member of Naripokkho, said that women of different generations have come together to fight this long battle.
“Our mothers have struggled before us and we are standing here so that the younger ones gain strength from this… If we think that rape incidents will come down by passing a law in parliament, then it is wrong. We look forward to a day when there will be no more such incidents, no more sexual violence…,” she said.
Shireen believes that death penalty is not the answer to stop rape.
“How many people will we deal with through the death penalty? The problem is all around us, the rapists did not come from an alien planet — they are our brothers, our relatives. Children need to be taught to respect women from an early age, only then this problem can be solved,” she said, adding, “We’d be wrong if we think that rape is a matter of law and justice. It’d be a mistake to assume that a law passed in parliament will reduce the number of rape incidents.”
Protesters demanded women’s right to occupy all public spaces without the fear of violence, at any time and for any purpose. They wanted families to hold their boys and men accountable for such violence, which they perpetrate. Rapists will no longer be sheltered in homes, schools and workplaces, they said.
Protests against the growing incidents of rape, sexual harassment and other kinds of violence against women have been rampant across the country.
Some protesters also called for the resignation of Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal over the government’s “failure” to stop the alarming rise in sexual violence against women and children.
‘NONE OF US ARE SAFE’
At a rally in front of National Press Club around 11:00am, Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury said, “The entire nation has been in a fury, protesting against the recent spate of rape incidents, violence against women and extrajudicial killings. Now, none of us are safe. The people’s rights have been taken away. Just as sexual abuse is a crime, so is snatching away the people’s rights.”
Zafrullah, also the chairman of the Bhasani Onushari Parishad, said people have woken up and history will not forgive those who have deprived the people of their rights.
The rally demanded a 50-year prison sentence for rapists.
Addressing the rally, which demanded a 50-year prison sentence for rapists, Ganasamhati Andolon Coordinator Zonayed Saki said that political power has been involved in rape incidents becoming increasingly prevalent in the country.
“These heinous incidents were taking place under political patronage. These crimes were never tried. There was power on one hand and lack of justice on the other.”
The government talks big but takes no initiative to implement laws in favour of women. There had been no justice in cases such as those of Tonu’s murder, Taqi’s murder, the killing of Sagar and Runi, or Abrar’s murder. That was why today, incidents like rape and extrajudicial killings have been on the rise, Saki said.
Dhaka University Professor Asif Nazrul said this government is patronising casino traders, murderers and looters.
“Speaking of justice, they occasionally catch a couple of small fish but do not take any initiative to eradicate their root,” he said.
Various organisations held human chains, protest rallies and demonstrations in front of the Jatiya Press Club yesterday. The streets resounded with fiery speeches and slogans, demanding speedy trials of rapists and also free and fair elections to establish a democratic government.
Speaking at a human chain held in front of the National Museum, Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of SUJON (Citizens for Good Governance), said perpetrators of violence against women remain active under political patronage.
He added the coronavirus pandemic has been joined in the pandemic of violence against women. Women are being abused everywhere, from their homes to their workplaces.
SUJON has declared nationwide human chain programmes, demanding justice for violence against women and the punishment of perpetrators.
WHAT POLICE SAY
A press release of the Police Headquarters (PHQ) yesterday said there is a lot of reaction among the youth and on social media against heinous crimes like rape and violence against women and it has finally caught the attention of law enforcers.
Police are working with utmost professionalism, dedication and sincerity in every case of violence against women and children, including rape, to ensure social discipline and peace in the country, the PHQ added.
“The investigation report will be submitted before a court for trial after completing the investigation of all cases as soon as possible. We firmly believe that proper punishment for these criminals will be ensured in the shortest possible time through the court,” the press release added.