Activists of different organisations, including those working on women’s rights, staged demonstrations on the road in front of the Jatiya Sangsad on Saturday, protesting the growing incidents of rape and demanding the toughest punishment for rapists.
The protesters were chanting various slogans condemning the ‘impunity of rapists’ and demanding prompt action to bring the rapists to book.
They were holding placards inscribed with: “Stop protecting rapists”, “Mukti chai, Rokkha Noi”.
Protests against the growing incidents of rape, sexual harassment and violence against women are continuing in different parts of the country.
The protesters included general people and leaders and activists from different organisations.
The recent incident of gang rape at Sylhet MC College and a housewife’s molestation in Begumganj of Noakhali fueled the protests.
Some protesters also called for the resignation of Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal over the government’s ‘failure’ to rein in the alarming rise in sexual violence against women and girls in the country.
The Law Minister on Thursday said they are putting forward a proposal for bringing an amendment to the relevant law with a provision for awarding death penalty to a rapist as the highest punishment instead of life imprisonment.
A group of feminists under the banner 'Feminists across Generations' however, rejected the law minister's proposal, asserting that the death penalty for rape cannot be a solution when the problem is that 97% of cases filed over violence against women, including rape, don't even result in a conviction.
Rather they support reforming the law in line with the recommendations of the Rape Law Reform Coalition, an umbrella group of 17 organisations under the auspices of the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust advocating for meaningful legal reforms, including redefining rape to ensure that it covers all forms of non-consensual penetration, irrespective of gender; reviewing the Evidence Act 1872 to remove all scope for institutional victim blaming; and enabling judges to exercise discretion in sentencing and formulating necessary sentencing guidelines.
Dhaka University’s Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said the growing rape and violence against women are not isolated incidents as those have a strong link with corruption, abuse of power and the culture of impunity.
“Although rape incidents occur separately, these are a reflection of a disease of criminalisation of society and politics. Corruption and rape are also the opposite side of the same coin,” he said.
Social Sciences Faculty Dean Prof Sadeka Halim and Jahangirnagar University’s International Relations department's Professor Tarek Shamsur Rahman suggested the government to take a zero-tolerance policy towards rapists as it is doing towards the militants.
Awami League Presidium Member Advocate Abdul Matin Khasru said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already instructed their party central leaders to take corrective measures so that the party’s image is not tarnished for some wrongdoers.
In Sylhet, two youths wearing national flags and holding anti-rape placards marched from Dhaka to Sylhet. They reached Sylhet Shaheed Minar in the morning. The duo are Arif Sohel, student of Jahangirnagar University and Kazi Mehedi Hasan, student of University of Asia Pacific.
In Sherpur, Sherpur Sommilito Shanskritik Jote held sit-in protesting the violence against women and children.
In Nilphamari, Women and Children Right Forum formed a human-chain in front of the Super Market in the district town.
In Kishoreganj, Sushashoner jonno Nagorik, (Sujon) held a human chain at Shaheed Syed Nazrul Islam chattar in the district town.
In Jhalakathi, Youth Society and Sujon formed a human chain at Press Club in the district town.
In Rajshahi, different organisations also formed human chain and mass sit-in programme in Sahebbazar area of city.
Also read: Protests against rape continue