Endangered women and priapic men
Syed Badrul Ahsan writes for DOT
One tends to feel these days that Bangladesh’s women are an endangered species. It is only natural and the reason ought to be obvious. They are in danger from men whose predatory nature and leering looks and grasping hands make it hard for women to maintain their self-esteem. Yes, women ride motorbikes these days. Women use bicycles in their social welfare-related work in the rural areas. They are in politics, in the civil administration, in the armed forces, indeed in a wide range of professional spaces. That is hardly any reason to conclude that they are safe and happy. Danger stalks them. Women’s empowerment as we see it has not quite led to women’s security.
As a newspaper reported a few days ago, a young woman appearing for a job interview in Dhanmondi was subjected to gang-rape in that very office. Of course police have taken two men into custody over the incident. That may be good news, but it does little to inform us that women are yet free of the dangers of being trapped by men looking for sexual perversion. As the news report notes, a similar incident of a young woman raped in an office in Shyamoli took place a couple of months ago. The question today is therefore one that we would like to have an answer to. What do the law enforcers and indeed the system of justice do about dealing with the men guilty of such crimes? How many of the innumerable men guilty of pouncing on women to satisfy their bestial desires have been brought to trial and convicted? We come across reports every now and then of rapists getting arrested and sentenced to prison and then making their way out of prison through successful bail petitions, thereby becoming a menace to women, indeed to society, yet once again.
If it were left to citizens across the spectrum, the answer to the questions above would be simple, short and unequivocal: rapists all across the country must be dealt with harshly, to a point where other men of rapacious intent would think twice, even more, before setting their leering eyes on women. Ours is not a society of barbarians, which is why we cannot recommend such extreme measures as the death penalty. But there comes a time when the patience of citizens, both at the commission of rape and the slow working of the law, wears thin. It is then that one begins to feel that such extreme punishment might, in fact will be, a deterrent to rape. As the rights organization Ain-o-Salish Kendra reports, altogether 948 instances of rape were registered between January and August this year. The figure is a clean jump from the 732 noted for the whole of the year 2018. That is a broad hint that none of the measures that have been proposed or applied to deal with rapists is working. When instances of rape do not decline but go up in number, there is something seriously wrong with the social and administrative structure of the country. Indeed, it is the politics of the country which is stood on its head.
The figures cited by Ain-o-Salish Kendra are a sign of the dangers our women are constantly confronted with in these times. We will add, though, that there could well be more incidents of rape across the country — in the villages and small towns — than what ASK has given us. Being the conservative society our society yet is, family honour and fears of social boycott consequent upon rape hold many women back from reporting to organizations like ASK about the ordeals they have gone through. The situation therefore calls for drastic action. And by that we mean exemplary action on the part of the State that will inject fear of the consequences of rape among men who continue to regard women as a commodity and who can therefore be easily taken advantage of. We would not want to draw attention to how women are protected from men in such countries as Iran, but in the interest of the safety of our women it now becomes necessary to take lessons from such nations. Governance in Iran is a deterrent to immorality. The ayatollahs have done a splendid job of putting in place a powerful moral base for citizens to conduct their lives on.
A society which fails to protect its women, which looks the other way when criminally-oriented men prey upon women, which cannot apply the law and make horrible examples of elements who see nothing wrong in outraging the modesty of women is a society which is to be pitied. Such a society does not deserve respect anywhere. It invites opprobrium. In the end, it provokes the wrath of God.
For this country to make a positive mark on civilization, it is imperative that it promote women’s education through a liberal approach to the requirements of a modern society. Nothing can be a greater weapon of defence for women than education, for it is always the educated woman who is feared by men on the street, in offices, on public transport and on deserted streets.
And, yes, even as we educate women, on a compulsory basis one might add, we will need to think of exemplary measures to be applied to curbing the fantasies and desires of men governed by thoughts of the obsessively priapic and the nauseatingly perverted.