Multiple incidents of sexual abuse in recent months have raised serious concerns over the safety of women and children in Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh Child Rights Forum said there had been 496 cases of alleged child rape, including 53 involving gang rape, recorded so far this year.
On July 7, police apprehended an imam 120 kilometres north of Dhaka after an 11-year-old girl told her parents that he raped her. The imam allegedly confessed to also raping an 8-year-old girl and sexually molesting six others.
Even schools appear to be not entirely safe for children. Three days earlier, police arrested the principal of a madrasa near Dhaka and charged him with child rape and sexual assaults involving 12 students.
And on July 1, police arrested a headmaster in Dhaka over the rape of a ninth-grade student who was allegedly threatened with having her academic marks cut if she did not stay silent.
On June 28, locals in the city of Narayanganj in central Bangladesh beat up and handed over to police a teacher accused of raping about 20 students.
“No girl or woman is safe in a country where a 7-year-old child can be raped and murdered,” said Rita Roselin Costa, convener of the Women’s Desk at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh.
The rights groups called for the introduction of the death penalty for child rapists and identified factors behind the increase in such crimes as protracted trials, inadequate punishments and a wider decline in social values.
A leading women’s rights organisation, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, told a media conference this week that there were 2,083 reported cases of sexual violence against women and girls between January and June this year.
Professor Zia Rahman, head of the criminology department at the University of Dhaka, believes that there has been a lack of awareness among parents. He said: “Many parents, both fathers and mothers, have been entering the workforce without ensuring a safe place for their kids”.
Sociologist Shah Ehsan Habib added that, for several decades, families, schools, the legal system and religions had not adequately fulfilled their purpose of nurturing good human beings.
“Love and affection for children are supposed to be inbuilt among men, but instead a sexual aggression has developed. This is a dangerous trend,” he said.
> Juthy Saha
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