According to Ain o Salish Kendra, a Bangladeshi human rights group, 732 rape cases were reported in 2018, 1413 in 2019 and in 2020 over 1.000 cases have been reported so far. According to organisations working on the field in Bangladesh, these numbers are just a small fraction of the actual rape cases. Most rape survivors in Bangladesh are too afraid to report and don’t believe in the justice system to protect them.
Human Rights Watch’s research shows that fewer than one percent of rape reports finalise with the perpetrators being convicted.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sizeable increase in domestic violence against women and girls in Bangladesh. This is a crucial moment for the Bangladeshi government to take action and implement policies that will lead to real change.
Following the outrage, the Bangladeshi government announced that they are increasing the punishment for rape from life imprisonment to death. Anisul Huq, Bangladesh's Minister of Law, said that the government believes that the law will act as a strong deterrent.
Bangladeshi activists and civil society disagree. Even after the death penalty was introduced, the cases of gang rape in Bangladesh kept on being reported in the media. Feminists Across Generations, a recently formed women’s alliance against rape and sexual violence stated in a piece written for the Guardian: “ We are opposed to the death penalty. It is not a solution. Talking about the death penalty has not brought justice for Nusrat Jahan Rafi, Kalpana Chakma, Yasmin Akhter, Sohagi Tonu or any of Bangladesh’s other lost women and girls. There are many more who live in fear. We want an end to the culture of rape.”
The end of rape culture is a long journey that needs to be tackled from many fronts. The structural, behavioural and social misogyny in Bangladesh in every other country in the world is killing and seriously harming women physically and mentally.
SaferWorld is a nonprofit organisation working to prevent violent conflict and provide safer lives. They have several projects in countries across the world, from Somalia to Bangladesh. Their gender, peace and security programme in Bangladesh focuses on domestic violence against women. They work with local people to address issues of security and come up with tangible solutions. You can donate to SaferWorld below.
Header image by Faisal Akram