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Women face social stigma in reporting sexual abuse

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03rd-Dec-2019       
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Gulam Rabbani :
Fear of 'social stigma' is still a major barrier in reporting over the gender-based violence in our country. Raising question about the character and dress up of the victim is a common phenomenon in our society which impacts her future life especially during her marriage. As a result, many incidents of sexual violence are still being suppressed. And the criminals are getting exemption without trial.
Asma Khatun, a Sub Inspector of Sarishabari Police Station of Jamalpur district, working in the women help desk, said, "Many rape victims don't come to the police station for filing any complain fearing social stigmas. Guardians of the victims think if the news of the incident is spread in the society then the life of the victim will face a tougher situation in future. As a result, many families try to suppress the incident."
A victim of Kabariabari village of Sarishabari upazila was raped by one of her neighbors, Md Kamal Uddin (pseudonym) on September 1 this year. But neither the victim nor her family came forward to file any complaint to the police thinking of the future of the victim, said the Sub Inspector.
Finally a caseworker of 'ASTHA : Strengthening access to multi-sectoral public services for gender-based violence survivors in Bangladesh' helped her to go at the police station as per her wish for filing a complaint against the perpetrator and a complaint was recorded on September 19 this year. But the final consequence was not good. The victim married the rapist from the fear of raising question about her character and poor economic condition of her family during the investigation stage of the case, said the SI Asma Khatun.
Sources said, a journalist's daughter who is also a college student was subjected to sexual violence in the Jamalpur town last month. A case was also filed in the Jamalpur Sadar Police Station on charge of 'attempt to rape'. But the guardians of the college girl withdrew the case from the police station within a week due to the pressure of the political influential persons.
To protest the incident, journalist community took an initiative to hold a human chain programme in the town. But the guardians of the girl urged the journalists not to hold the programme for the above mentioned reason.
These are only two examples of gender based violence which had been suppressed in fear of various social adversities. But there are many incidents like these two happening randomly in our society which are being unreported for various obstacles.
Sayeda Sabina Ahmed Molly, an Assistant Attorney General of Bangladesh, said, "It is a bad practice in our society to assassinate the character of a sexually harassed person. We have to get out of this narrowness. There is a need to raise awareness in the society over the issue."
Meanwhile, no law has ever been formulated for trial or to prevent sexual harassment in the country. Following a writ petition, filed by the Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association (BNWLA), the High Court (HC) in 2009 delivered a verdict in which some directives was also issued in order to prevent sexual harassment in the educational institutions and at the workplaces.
In the verdict, the court directed the authorities concerned to form a five-member harassment complaint committee headed by a woman at every workplace and institution to investigate allegations of harassment of women. Majority of the committee members must be women, it ruled.
The directives said the committee will examine complaints from girls or women if they are subjected to any mental, physical or sexual harassment, and recommend to the authorities to take action against the accused persons.
The HC prohibited the authorities concerned from disclosing the names and addresses of the complainants and accused persons until the allegations are proved. It also criminalized teasing women and children through e-mail or telephone, and ordered that any kind of provocation or character assassination will have to be stopped.
The HC directed all concerned to follow the directives until the law was formulated. But there is no application for that policy in the country. In light of the verdict, the Law Commission recommended a law in 2010. But the recommendation was not taken into cognizance by the authorities.

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