Rape, acid attacks on women rampant in Bangladesh
There is an alarming spurt in crimes against women in Bangladesh,
particularly rape and acid attacks - even though in both cases
the law is very tough with offenders.
Two schoolgirls, Sonia and Sathi, were savagely attacked with
acid in two separate incidents in the capital recently. In both
cases, the attackers were men from their neighbourhood who were
angry because the girls had spurned their advances.
A perturbed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed has ordered her
home minister to look into the incidents and promised that the
government would speed up the process of justice to deter offenders.
Because of pressure from the government, the Dhaka police which
was treating the acid attack on Sonia like a routine case announced
a reward of $750 for the arrest of the prime suspect Chand Mia.
The young man who had gone into hiding, was turned over to the
police by his father, who insisted he was not influenced by the
offer of the reward.
Chand Mia is alleged to have stolen into Sonia's house in old
Dhaka city at night and thrown acid on the sleeping girl's face.
Though she survived the attack, the young girl who has been admitted
to the Dhaka Medical College hospital has been badly disfigured.
Hospital authorities have been told by Sheikh Hasina to ensure
that the teenager, whose family is poor, receives the best treatment.
A special medical board has been constituted to monitor her treatment,
which will also include extensive surgical re-modelling.
The assaults, regrettably, are not stray incidents. Says Dr Samanta
Lal Sen, plastic surgeon and consultant, "One or two girls
with acid burn injuries are admitted to the Dhaka Medical College
Last week, the teenager who attacked schoolgirl Sathi surrendered
to the police because he realised they were closing in on him,
the police said.
Quddus who used to harass Sathi, a student of class five, daily
as she walked to and back from school, threw acid on her one night
on a dark street and escaped.
This heinous crime has resurfaced in Bangladesh after 15 years.
The problem was nationwide and rampant in the early 1980s till
the government at the time passed harsh laws including the provision
of capital punishment for acid throwers. At least half a dozen
criminals charged with assaulting women were sent to the gallows.
Police records show that women belonging to poor families are
mostly victims of rape, acid assaults, and tricked into prostitution
- even as those responsible walk free.
The perpetrators are so powerful and influential that the victims
cannot fight them either legally or socially. The story of the
daughter of a landless farmer in Chaain village in Saver district
is one example of social injustice.
The girl was raped last month by the son of the village chief
and his two friends. In the 'Salish' or the traditional village
court, the rapists were fined the equivalent of $375. But they
paid the family only $75 and threatened to kill the peasant family
if they did not leave the village in 24 hours.