‘Only change of mindset can end rape culture’

17 January, 2021 12:00 AM printer

In a patriarchal society where rape is often perceived as an instrument to intimidate the voiceless, a change in mindset is needed to end rapes and other crimes against women in Bangladesh, say experts.

The said stricter laws alone won’t help, reports UNB.

“We often see that children in our male-dominated society observe the female members as weak and voiceless in the families. This observation further accelerates the mindset of domination, which provokes many boys and men to show their masculinity through brutalising women,” Prof Mahfuza Khanam, Chairperson of Dhaka University’s Psychology Department, said at a webinar.

“Family plays a crucial role in building the mindset of the children, and only better moral education can prepare a human being to fight against these crimes,” Dr Khanam said at the latest episode of ‘UNB Light and Lens’.

The webinar, titled ‘Increasing Rape Assaults: Prevention and Solution’, shed the spotlight on recent cases of rapes and speakers shared their viewpoints on how a collaborative working process can stop the crimes from recurring.

Hosted by UNB Senior Executive (Digital) Zahid Islam, the webinar was also joined by Associated Press Dhaka office Bureau Chief Julhash Alam, Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) President Advocate Salma Ali and former Executive Director of Ain O Salish Kendra and human rights activist Sheepa Haafiz.

On blaming women for rapes, Sheepa Haafiz said, “According to our law, we see a century-old definition that says the decency of woman must get evaluated on a rape case. So, when the law itself acknowledges this sort of mindset that if one can anyhow prove a woman indecent, her rape case losses the validity, and unfortunately we see that almost everyone, including the law enforcement authorities, mainstream media and people, often try to dishonour and blame the rape survivor with illogical reasoning.”

On her part, BNWLA President Advocate Salma said, “There is a saying that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, and this is a brutal truth when it comes to bringing the perpetrators of the crime to justice, because of our flawed judicial system.”

“If we look at the recent cases, many, including that of Begumganj, hogged limelight because the same went viral on social media. In our country, we have often seen that the rape survivors are often discouraged by police to come forward. Those who still lodge complaints are often subjected to harassment by the criminals. The government should take serious steps to put an end to this culture,” she said.

Addressing the role of media, AP Dhaka Bureau Chief Julhash Alam said, “Nowadays, we see the flawed value system, in which some of the journalists and media entrepreneurs promote the culture of blaming the rape survivors, as many national media do not have proper editorial guidelines regarding the usage of language and controlling the negative mindset on social media, unlike reputed organisations around the world.”

“Also, the media often has to work on a ‘hit and run’ process as it needs to deliver prompt news to the audience, based on immediate findings from the law enforcement authorities - so sometimes, the journalists unfortunately deliver news with misinterpretations,” he added.

Regarding the solution, Sheepa said that the government must develop a proper law enforcement system to ensure proper implementation of justice.”

“Communication is the best way to raise awareness among people regarding the rape crimes, but it is also the worst way as has often been used to disgrace women in society. We need to choose the right method of communication that can alert us regarding the crime and make us respectful and compassionate to each other. This is very much possible through awareness projects in the district and upazila levels,” she added.

Advocate Salma Ali recommended that the government must ensure survivor-centric comprehensive legal assistance to women and children, including psycho-social services, women and child-friendly legal aid services, and if applicable, safe shelters.

She also suggested the establishment of a separate bench at the High Court for speedy trials and urged the government to use modern forensic technology to ensure proper investigation of such cases. “Free and fair trials are also needed.”