Risha is dead.
Another voice silenced and this time through no fault of her own.
Risha, a student of 8th grade in Willes Little Flower School went to the tailor with her mother to order a dress to be custom made. Her beauty attracted one of the workers in the tailor shop. Her mother left her phone number in the store for future reference and that enabled the sick admirer to call that number regularly, desperately trying to reach Risha.
At one point of time, Risha’s mother was compelled to change the number. However, the stalker didn’t give up. He would still be waiting for Risha in front of her school every day. Finally, a complaint was lodged in the tailor shop regarding the disturbance. This angered the mischievous stalker. Unable to control his perversion, he stabbed the ill-fated schoolgirl while she was returning home in broad daylight.
The left side of her abdomen and arms were badly bruised. She was rushed to DMCH where she gave in to her stab injuries two days later in the ICU. She has had a massive loss of blood and could not be saved despite of giving 25 bags of blood.
She was a minor girl aged about 14. She was with her mother when she went to the tailor. She was supposed to be wearing the dress that she went to make in the tailor shop, perhaps in the coming Eid. But instead we are reading about yet another life that has been ended. Too soon, untimely.
This murder reminded me of Sohagi Jahan Tonu, a college student killed in Moinamati Cantonment. Tonu was raped and strangled to death while she was returning home from work. 9pm was too late at night to be out alone. Her hijab didn’t save her. She was spotted by predators and they successfully erased her identity from the surface of this earth. Not one arrest was made till date.
Many people protested Tonu’s murder. Yet, some commented negatively on the hijabi theatre member. If you wear hijab, you cannot be a theatre activist. Apparently, it was Tonu’s fault that she was raped. Her futile effort of “parda” with hijab could not get her home on that dreadful night.
But what did Risha do? Sure, we will have some explanation for her too.Perhaps, it was something she was wearing when she went to the tailor. Or she must have been given her body measurements to the tailor that MAY have aroused the distorted killer. After all, nearly every judgmental people on earth are based here, in this glorious country.
Victim shaming is common in Bangladesh. Whenever a girl is raped or stalked and murdered, we quickly judge the girl by her appearance. We tend to blame the victim by judging her outlooks and the kind of dress she wears. We do not refrain from making a quick judgment and expressing a few taunts and teases. We like to snap at them with comments such as “Did you see the way she dresses up?” or “Why isn’t she wearing a scarf?” or “She is too fat to be wearing that trouser.”
We give credit to the indecent gaze of the spectator and blame the girl for her freedom of attire. We seem to understand the lack of self control on the predator’s part which is enhanced by the revelation of the girl’s curves but we fail to see the girl’s choice of beautifying herself.
We all wake up every morning and dress up to reach our destination. Some go to work; others go to school, college and universities. And we all have our choice of uniforms. Some of us like the traditional kamiz and wear it in a traditional way and others choose to wrap themselves in sarees whilst some like to keep it formal (and by formal I mean actual collar-buttons and blazers). We then head out to our relevant workplaces. Also, we have our own choices of transport which is the biggest irony. Few of the girls in the working sector get their own transport but the majority needs to travel by public transports such as rikshaws and CNGs or the bus. The harassment that the women face, while riding the public bus, needs another chapter to be discussed.
However, this entire struggle adds up to the return journey and the incessant traffic often delays the homecoming. It is the marauders as such that take the advantages of the lack of security for the women. They abuse and rape and kill as they will.
How much more can we take? And for how long? And why?
Why can’t be let the women be free? Why can’t we let them raise their voice? Why can’t we accept that the women have the right o look beautiful and by beautiful I mean beauty in her own eyes. Why can’t we walk around and travel to places without the fear of getting raped and murdered? Why can’t we rely on the men of our very own country to act as our rescuers and not hunters?
Can we bring back the lives of Tonu, Afsana and Risha by protesting?
No. They are not coming back. But they sure have left an example for us to learn from and be a survivor in the future. And we should all be watching with our eyes wide open. It’s high time we come out on the streets and demand our freedom.
Women should be heard not dominated.
Writer is a poet, essayist and a freelance journalist.