Incumbents need to rid themselves of rapists
IN VIEW of the reign of terror that the Bangladesh Chhatra League, the Juba League and other front organisations of the Awami League has unleashed across the country, through perpetration of crimes of different types, including sexual harassment, and even rape, of women and girls, since the AL-led government’s assumption of office in January 2009, it is perhaps not surprising that a Juba League activist allegedly raped a widow in Feni, with the help of his associates. According to a case filed with the local police station, as quoted in New Age on Thursday, the woman was on her way back home after lodging a complaint with the upazila vice-chairman, who happens to be brother of the Juba League leader, about the disappearance of her eldest daughter, when the group swooped on her. Moreover, some associates of the Juba League later abducted her youngest daughter and demanded Tk 2 lakh in ransom and, when she agreed to pay Tk 10,000, threatened to ‘socially disgrace’ her, indicating perhaps that the young girl could be raped as well.
It is not the first time that a local-level leader of a front organisation of the ruling party has been accused of rape or abduction and it is unlikely to be the last. Over the past four years and a half, many leaders and activists of the ruling party and its front organisations have hogged the headlines for their alleged involvement in sexual assault of women and girls. Moreover, not long ago, it was reported in the media that Chhatra League leaders of a prominent university for women use students there for partisan purposes. Besides, there have been many instances where one leader or the other of the ruling party and its front organisations reportedly sought to protect perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault. It is also worth noting that, during the tenure of the previous AL government, a Chhatra League leader at a leading public university even publicly ‘celebrated’ his 100th rape, most of his victims reportedly students of the institution.
It is ironical in a way that a party, the president of which is a woman and a two-time prime minister, and which deservedly boasts of the first woman foreign minister and also the first woman speaker of parliament, also has in its ranks people who not only have no respect for women but also do not hesitate to employ rape as a means to ‘socially disgrace’ them for not complying with their whims and wishes. It is equally ironical that the Awami League and the government that it leads, the key functionaries of which often froth at the mouth about their self-professed commitment to the rule of law, issue tough warnings against the troublemakers in the Chhatra League and other front organisations of the ruling party but hardly translate such harsh words into stringent actions.
The incumbents routinely, and rightly, attribute the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault of women and girls to a predominantly male chauvinistic attitude of society, and talks of building up social resistance against such monstrosities through heightened public awareness of women’s rights. However, such assessments and assertions count for little when the government routinely fails to enforce laws meant to protect the rights of women and, most importantly, the ruling party keeps under its wings perpetrators of rape. It is time for the incumbents to prove that they mean what they and practise what they preach.
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