The attack on an anti-rape rally in Feni last week is a disturbing development to different parts of the country to vent anger over growing heinous crime, rape to be precise. Though the government has amended the existing life-term rigorous imprisonment to death penalty for rape, it doesn't mean that the need for such protests is over. The allegation is that a faction of pro-government student wing and the police attacked the rally, causing injury to at least 30 protestors. The police rejected the allegation saying that there was a scuffle between the protestors and followers of the local lawmaker. Some of his supporters brought out a procession protesting derogatory comments against him and some of the anti-rape protestors chased them, according to the police.
Media reports and videos of the incident, however, suggested otherwise and it is difficult to comprehend why a peaceful rally comes under an attack. The anti-rape platform styled 'Bangladesh Against Rape and Torture' launched the rally as a long march to raise mass cultural awareness about rape and sexual violence against women. There is no way to differ with the spirit of the movement, which is a part of public protest demanding legitimate justice for the rape victims. Though one may have different opinions about the mode of the penalty for a rapist, no sensible and conscientious human can disagree with the demand for curbing the growing violence against women.
It is also not possible to ignore the attack on the anti-rape rally as a separate or isolated incident. Such an attack will give a wrong message to the criminals who think they can avoid the ultimate punishment somehow. It is quite alarming that direct and indirect supports to different crimes, including rape, by some people is increasing. Instead of acknowledging the crime, there is a tendency to blame the victims for the incident. Denial by offenders is always there. Social stigma is another big problem as rape victims are generally humiliated in society.
Though a fast and fair justice delivery system is desirable for meting out punishment to rapists, the country has severe shortcomings in this regard. Inadequate infrastructure and a small number of judges only enhance the rate of pendency of litigations. That's why there is doubt whether the provision of death penalty will play a critical role in curbing the heinous crime.
So, it is essential to raise social awareness against violence against women and children. Families, schools and social institutions need to be re-oriented in this regard. There is also a ray of hope, no doubt. For instance, some guardians and family members of some of the rapists of MC College demanded due punishments.
All these indicate that public protest coupled with cultural awareness is a necessity in an atmosphere where lousy behavioural aberration of assaulting, heckling, ogling, groping, stalking and raping women becomes rampant with no end in sight even after the government's approval of death penalty for the offence. The policymakers also need to consider the messages of the protest without any prejudice. It is also necessary to establish the rule of law and good governance.