The government's recent move to send rapists to the gallows seems to have done little to instil fear in the perpetrators of the horrific crime against women.
In fact, crimes of sexual assaults and violence, particularly rapes, against women and children are rising in the country with each passing day. Experts attribute this trend to the government's failure in rolling up their sleeves to fix the nuts and bolts of the criminal justice system.
According to Ain o Salish Kendra, a rights group, at least 208 cases of gang rape have been reported in the country in the first nine months of this year itself.
Bagerhat is no exception. As many as 11 rape cases have been lodged at differenet police stations across the district just in the past one month.
In its Mollahat upazila, for instance, a nine-year-old girl was allegedly raped by her grandfather, while an eight-year-old girl had been sexually assaulted by her uncle in Sadar upazila.
Besides, a middle-aged woman was raped by her nephew in Fakirhat upazila while a female worker of an NGO was raped by four people who had swooped into her house after cutting a hole in the roof made of iron sheet.
Similarly, on October 26, a garment worker was violated by a ‘UP member’ while she was returning to her home from a temple at Bakpura village in Sadar upazila. Later, she was again sexually assaulted by some young men.
According to police sources, eleven cases have been filed in different police stations in the district, which is higher than the previous month.
Of these 11 rape cases, a Bagerhat fast-track court sentenced a man to life in jail in a seven-year-child rape case within a week of the initiation of the trial. The convict, Abdul Mannan, is now languishing in a jail.
According to the police stations, two cases have been registered at Sadar police Station, five each at the Fakirhat police Station and one each at Mollahat, Rampal and Chitalmari police stations in the last month.
Police registered eight rape cases each in January, February, March and April this year while five rape cases were filed in May, eight in June, six in July, four in August and six in September.
Pankaj Roy, Superintendent of Bagerhat Police, said, “The number of rape-related cases increased in October as many survivors filed complaints in the period, often months after the alleged crimes."
However, 10 cases are under investigation and the accused in nine of them had been produced before the court, he said. "Also DNA samples of the rape survivors and the accused were sent to the CID police lab and forensic department for examination."
Syed Babul Akter, inspector of Fakirhat police station and also the investigation officer in the gang rape case of the NGO worker, said two of the accused among four -- Mamun Sheikh, 30 and Musa alias Ibrahim Nikari, 29 -- were arrested and they had submitted a confessional statement before the court.
Shafiqur Rahman, assistant sub-inspector of Sadar Police Station, said six people, including a UP member Sheikh Mizanur Rahman, was arrested in connection with the rape of a garment worker at Bakpura village in Sadar upazila. Of them, five were taken on a two-day police remand in the case.
When contacted, Sita Rani Debnath, additional public prosecutor of Bagerhat, said “Criminals look for loopholes due to the lengthy process of the trial. Witnesses face difficulty in recounting the horrors because of the lengthy trials. All what's needed are fast-track courts to dispose of rape cases."
Rizia Parveen, vice-chairman of Bagerhat Sadar Upazila Parishad, said, “Family awareness is also important in rapes cases, as family members act as the first-level support to the survivors."
Nur Islam Mohon, a social worker, said “Crimes such as rapes have increased due to social degradation. We have to build a social system to prevent rapes.”
Meanwhile, expressing serious concerns over the increasing violence against women in Bangladesh, the United Nations has recommended urgent reforms in the criminal justice system in the country "to extend support and protect survivors and witnesses".
"The United Nations (UN) expresses serious concerns over the increasing violence against women in Bangladesh. These are heinous crimes and grave violations of human rights," the UN said in a statement on October 7.