We must break silence and step up campaigns to ensure justice and rights of women, horribly oppressed and subjected to violence, in Bangladesh...

police harrass a woman in BangladeshVarious organizations and individuals have been fighting for decades to ensure justice for women and children in Bangladesh. But progress has been nominal; violence continues quite notably.

Innocent souls continue crying for justice. From January to March 2009, 73 women and children were the victims of rape or attempted rape with 29 of them were victims of gang-raped; 13 were between ages 7 and 12. In May alone, 33 women and girls were the victims of rape. Among them, 16 were adult women and 17 children under the age of 16. Out of the 16 women, 5 were victims of gang-rape and three were killed after being raped. Out of the 17 girls, five were victims of gang-rape and two were killed following rape.

Between January and March 2009, six serious acts of violence against women were instigated by fatwas by Islamic clerics. I discussed the issue with the law minister, repeatedly insisting that there is a necessity for specific law to suppress fatwa, illegal in Bangladeshi law, as well as a law to identify the paternity of a child in a case, it is disputed. He rejected the necessity of introducing a specific law for either instance.

Dowry is another social disease in Bangladesh. From January to March 2009, 44 women faced dowry-related violence; among these women, 23 died.

Bangladesh has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world: 440 per 100,000 live births, according to UNICEF, and more than 20,000 women in Bangladesh die annually from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.

In Bangladesh, women do their best to fulfill their duties and take care of all their men's needs; yet, from January to March 2009 alone, 45 women were abused by their husbands or their husbands’ relatives. Very recently, a woman, Parul Akter, who was seven months pregnant, was killed and her body thrown in a river; her two other children are still missing. This is the reality that many women in Bangladesh face.

We can name thousands of ways that women and children are facing oppression and repression in Bangladesh. Confucius said, “We should feel sorrow, but not sink under its oppression. For almost two decades, Prime Ministers in Bangladesh have been women. The number of people, who oppose women’s empowerment and oppress woman and children, are larger than the number oppressed or suppressed.

Women’s empowerment alone will not solve the problem; we need to treat women as human beings first, rather than simply as women. We need to break the silence and stand up against religious and cultural traditions that encourage the repression of, and violence against, women and children. Every civilized nation should dream that woman will be treated as equal human beings; that women will really be empowered; and as the main nurturer of the human race, they will lead the nation toward a more humane society.

The whole system in Bangladesh is male-dominated, inspired by religions that have a historical tradition of suppressing woman. We need to deal with these oppressors first. Many law and wonderful steps had taken to bring an end to the suppression and oppression of woman and children, but, unfortunately, none of them have succeeded.

Many police officers abuse their wives. Sometimes, such police officers are engaged in the investigation of cases of violence against a woman. Would the woman get justice from a police officer, guilty of the same crime? The police officer should be brought to trial before anything else. There are cases where, after being raped, the woman gets raped again in the police station by officers, when she comes to make lodge complaints.

More than anything, the religion of Islam, the majority-religion in Bangladesh, which has a historical and cultural tradition of oppressing women, is obviously a factor that encourages violence against women. While laws can be enacted, but when religion inspires adherents through heaven and hell; in this light, how will jail or capital punishment bring any significant change?

The Prophet Mohammed said, “I was standing at the edge of the fire (hell) and the majority of the people going in were women.” When the Quran and the Prophet Mohammed are the guide to the majority of Bangladeshi people, and the Quran (4:34) sanctions men to beat their wives, if she doesn't obey him, how will man-made law prevent the beating of women? Laws and conventions, which contradict the holy sayings of the Prophet and Allah, will surely fail to ensure rights and justice to women.

When will the likes of Parul, Rahima, Rebeka, Shima—was raped in front of her father—and Mili Rani, a minority Hindu girl, who was raped and later committed suicide, will get justice, when will they be spared of violence. All this happens in our society of the 21st-century civilized world, all before our very eyes.

We need to break silence and step up a campaign for humanity and justice.

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