A culture of impunity, moral degradation and culprits’ getting political backing in many cases are the major reasons why incidents of rape and sexual violence continue unabated in the country, according to experts and rights activists.
Stressing on imparting moral education and ensuring exemplary punishment to the culprits, they said the government must act immediately to stop the crime.
Rights body Manusher Jonno Foundation says at least 47 children were either raped or subjected to attempted rape and sexual harassment in 15 days since April 2. Of them, 39 were raped during this period.
According to statistics of another rights group Ain o Salish Kendra, at least 189 females, including 123 children, were raped across the country in the first three months of this year. The number was 187 during the same period last year.
Talking to The Daily Star, noted rights activist Sultana Kamal said, “Culture of impunity is a big reason. People are committing crimes but they rarely get punished. This is one of the main causes behind the surge in sexual harassment.”
She said lawlessness was prevailing in the society.
In the name of religion, she added, a section of people were spreading hatred through their speeches, but they were not being held accountable to anyone.
The incidents of rape have increased and so did the the reporting on them. People are now more brave and courageous to raise their voices, she added.
According to police and court sources, less than 2 percent of all rape cases filed in between 2012 and 2016 ended in conviction. This is mainly because many perpetrators force the victims to settle the matter outside courts and the legal process is so humiliating that the victims back out.
The database of a monitoring cell of the police headquarters says 18,668 rape cases were filed across the country between 2012 and 2016.
Data from Dhaka metropolitan areas paint an even grimmer picture.
In the Dhaka metro areas, five women and children repression prevention tribunals disposed of 2,057 cases out of 4,436 filed with different police stations from 2001 to 2016. Only 22 cases saw convictions, court and prosecution sources said.
Rights activist Nur Khan Liton also blamed the culture of impunity for rising trend in rape and sexual harassment incidents.
“A culture of impunity and fear prevailing in the society which fails to ensure justice to the victims. As a result, criminals get impunity,” he said.
Besides, criminals often get political backing after committing such offences which is one of the main reasons behind this situation, he added.
Ensuring justice for victims and positive changes in country’s politics could change the situation, he added.
Mekhala Sarkar, associate professor of the department of psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health, said if a person wants to rape anyone, he considers the reality, whether he will be punished, he will be stigmatised or socially humiliated. If he finds that reality is in his favour, he goes on to commit the crime.
She said one of the reasons behind degradation of moral values was weak family bonding.
Hafez Maulana Muhammad Mizanur Rahman of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque said people of the country were getting education and the literacy rate was increasing, but the people were not receiving adequate moral education.
“If we can ensure moral education for all, I think incidents of rape will gradually come down,” he added.