Two shocking incidents of rape recently brought the sorry spectre of sexual violence that plagues our society back to the fore again. One of them, that garnered greater attention among the press and civil circles in general, was the incident at Sylhet’s MC College where a newlywed was gangraped with her husband tied up as they were returning into town from a visit to the famous Hazrat Shah Amanat (Ra) Darbar Sharif, and stopped near the college. In the other incident, a Chakma woman was gang-raped in her own home in Khagrachhari, after miscreants broke in and tied up her mother and stepfather.
In light of these incidents, the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) prepared a report based on media monitoring of 10 daily newspapers between January and August that showed a total of 892 rape incidents had occurred in the first eight months of the year. Then Ain o Salish Kendra, the rights advocacy group, produced a report that sought to identify the incidents of rape during the Coronavirus lockdown, and found a total of 632 rapes that took place between April and August. It means on average, four women were raped every day over the five months during which the lockdown was implemented with full force. As always when discussing the topic, we must remember that these are only the reported incidents.
The BNWLA pointed to the broken judicial process for dealing with rape, that sees less than 3 percent of cases filed result in conviction, within the ambit of a system that sees the odds heavily stacked against the victim. It urged that the culprits must be put on trial after fair investigations and punishment should be ensured for them through speedy trial proceedings. This disappointing situation is despite the provision of the Women and Children’s Repression Prevention Tribunal.
Which brings us to whether it is time we take our minds off solutions sought through the judicial system, that despite the popular imagination have not been shown to work as deterrents elsewhere in the world. It is perhaps time we turn our attention to measures that can achieve more deep-rooted and lasting social transformation, such as coeducation in the state schooling system. We live in an extremely segregated society, when it comes to the two sexes, leading to problems in socialisation. Not just rape, all forms of sexual violence, and even the other type of crime that is increasingly common, where the jilted male sees it fit to go out and take the life of the one who spurns him - these can be better addressed by normalising the relations between male and female, men and women, boys and girls in society, rather than judicial redress. And although not the only one, coeducation can be a good place to start towards achieving that.