The student movement has been going on in different universities of Bangladesh for the last few months. The student movement started with the premature death of a student of the University of Rajshahi in the last month as soon as the movement of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology stopped. Most recently, students at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman University of Science and Technology have been showing demonstration, demanding justice for a female student who was subjected to gang rapped. On that night, while she was walking on the road to her residence, some miscreants forcibly picked her up in an auto-rickshaw and raped her. Centring this unfortunate incident, the students started a movement demanding the immediate arrest of the rapists. The issue took a new height when the honourable Vice-Chancellor declared solidarity with their demands.
The safety of students on the streets within the campus and places adjacent to educational institutions has been a matter of concern for some time now. University is an open place to generate knowledge. It is not the school or college that students will come and go at the specified time. From this perspective, it is expected that students and teachers will be roaming in the university all the time. But if such incidents occur when a student is returning home in the evening or on his way back to the hall, then it is natural to question the security of the university and the area around it.
It goes without saying that the number of people with such a deformed mentality is not very high in our society. However, it is not the case that their number is very low. Whatever the number, they cannot be controlled all the time. Moreover, it is not possible to ensure the movement of law enforcement agencies everywhere at all times. We all know that Gopalganj is the birthplace of Bangabandhu and Hon'ble Prime Minister. It is imperative that those who have shown the audacity to cause such incidents in that place be brought under the purview of the law and given exemplary punishment. Through the media, we have already learned that the Rapid Action Battalion members have identified and arrested six miscreants. RAB can be applauded for its efforts.
We had earlier witnessed such an incident at MC College, Sylhet. The husband was tied up, and his wife was gang-raped while travelling on the college campus. Moreover, a student of Dhaka University was the victim of such an incident a couple of years ago. In both cases, the rapists were identified, arrested and brought to justice quickly by the law enforcement agencies. Their trial is going on. However, the delay in the judicial process in many cases encourages such misdeeds. Although the government has now passed a law providing capital punishment in rape cases, the rape victim or her family loses interest in handling the case due to the lengthy judicial process. As a result, many times, rapists are freed and re-engage in such deeds or get a light punishment even after committing a serious crime. We all need to get out of this situation. The government must take all necessary steps to expedite the judicial process.
Crimes like rape have emerged as cancer in Bangladeshi society. These issues are coming to our notice quickly due to the massive development of digital Bangladesh and media. Apart from this, many incidents are happening in the rural areas that are not coming to our attention. The government has taken various measures to build a social movement against rape. Besides, various non-governmental organisations are working to develop a social movement against rape. Even after all these initiatives, the behaviour of some people with a deformed mentality is not changing, which is very unfortunate.
The main reason for the lack of a strong social movement against rape is that not everyone considers rape a social problem. The issue of rape in a family is regarded as a family issue in society. Many people choose to keep themselves away from such incidents for fear of being harassed and do not want to talk about it. But we need to keep in mind that when a woman or a child is raped, it is extremely difficult for her and her family to go through emotional turmoil, both socially and emotionally. If rape is considered a social problem as a whole without being considered as an individual and family issue, the rapists will be frightened. They will think twice before committing such incidents in the future.
At the individual level and in the social sphere, just as all citizens have a responsibility, the government should bring rapists under the law and provide exemplary punishment as soon as possible. If the execution of exemplary punishment for such crimes is ensured, others will repeatedly think before committing such crimes in the future. Our legal process is extremely time-consuming. Moreover, even if a rape case is disposed of in a speedy tribunal, the accused in the case may submit a review application. It takes a long time for the review to be settled. After that, even if the review application is rejected, an appeal can be made to His Excellency the President to remission sentence. Overall this legal process takes a long time to complete. As a result, the intensity of fear is reduced among those who commit such crimes.
We all know that the Prime Minister is very strict about such unwanted brutal incidents. She has taken all the necessary legal steps to ensure that the rapists are punished. The law enforcement agencies have been instructed to bring the perpetrators of rape under the law. But even then, some incidents are taking place that leaves scars on people's minds. The university administration and the law enforcement agencies in charge of the concerned university area should consider that students are the university's lifeblood. Parents from different regions send their children to universities for higher education. They expect their children to complete higher education to lead the country. But many parents may find such incidents discouraging, and they may be reluctant to send their children to a higher education institution. Therefore, the university administration, the police administration, the government, and the people must work together to prevent such incidents from happening anywhere in the future. Let's all say no to rapists and build a social movement against rape.
The writer is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi