Around three children are being raped in Bangladesh each day, according to statistics of Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum. Let that number sink in.
The forum further stated that rape incidents increased by an alarming 76.01 percent in just the last year. The number of cases of sexual harassment, abduction and murder all increased in 2019 by 56 percent, 24 percent and 7 percent respectively. If you are shocked by those numbers, here are some more for you. Of the 3,136 cases of child rape filed over the last four years, there were convictions in only 156 cases. This means that rapists, with whom even two-month-old children are not safe, are roaming the streets of the country freely.
An investigation last year by The Daily Star revealed just how child-unfriendly our law enforcement and legal systems are, especially for survivors who are really young and who come from low-income groups. The report cited the tragic case of three-year-old Tuni (not her real name) who was raped by her family’s landlord when she was even younger. The family had to flee from their home because the landlord was threatening to kill them. Still, the family persisted—they were determined to bring Tuni’s perpetrator to justice. However, despite the severity of the crime, the perpetrator got out on bail because, for reasons unknown, the investigating officer of the case did not include the forensic doctor’s certificate which had particulars of the incident. It also didn’t help Tuni’s case that her family did not bring her to court to identify the perpetrator; understandably, they wanted to spare her the trauma of facing him in a courtroom. We followed up with Tuni’s family last week and learnt that the family had decided to stop pursuing the case. They simply didn’t have the means, or the mental strength, to appear in court every month for yet another postponed hearing when the perpetrator was out on bail.
This is just one example of why cases wither away. It is high time that we evaluate why the conviction rates for child rapes are so low in this country and take urgent steps to make the legal system accessible, affordable and child sensitive. Unfortunately, we are yet to see any interventions from the government to address this societal menace and protect its future citizens from harm and a lifetime of trauma.