Lately thousands of people have been taking to the streets against sexualized violence in Bangladesh. The movement was triggered by numerous gang rapes that had taken place throughout the country in recent weeks. The protests are not only directed against these blatant incidents, but they aim at changing society as a whole putting sexism in its many forms on the table.
Also comrades of the GWTUC (Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre), BSU (Bangladesh Students’ Union) as well as the anarchist network Auraj are substantially involved in the protests. A few weeks ago our friend Sadaat Mahmood was detained and mistreated by police during a graffiti action. Since then there have been more and more demonstrations.
On October 16th activists kicked off a “Long March” from the capital Dhaka to Chowmuhani nearby Noakhali, a town about 150 km south of Dhaka. In Noakhali a woman was recently tortured, stripped and filmed. Such humiliating videos of women circulate more frequently on the internet and are a target of the protests. Several people from Bangladesh, including activists and journalists, independently report that gang rape is often used as an instrument of political power. Especially men from the ruling party have recently been involved in such attacks. Women from ethnic minorities are often affected.
Last week the President of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid, signed a law allowing the death penalty for rapists. It is not only human rights activists from international organizations who criticize this move: despite the new law was passed the demonstrations do not stop. Many protesters reject the death penalty and do not believe that this measure will end violence against women. Instead their demands are directed at society. Among other things, they call for the criminalization of rape within marriage – but rape itself is not the only aim of their criticism. The movement focusses on rape culture in general: It rejects slut shaming and victim blaming, demands comprehensive sexual education, a hotline for victims of sexualized violence and full equality between men and women, based on the corresponding human rights convention.
On October 17th the Long March was attacked: In Feni, between Dhaka and Chowmuhani, police and thugs of the ruling party attacked the demonstrators with batons and bricks, according to comrades on the ground and media reports. The activists tried to flee in buses, but the attackers broke numerous windows and injured at least 50 people, some of them seriously. Many were taken to hospital with cuts and lacerations.
We express our solidarity with the comrades on site and wish them a speedy recovery! For an end to rape culture – no matter where in the world. We continue to face social problems with male dominance and power presentation. We must oppose this with consistent feminist actions – everywhere.
To continue the struggle the movement announced blockades of highways on October 21st. Furthermore BSU publsihed a call for solidarity (see below).
Nine demands of the movement:
- Exemplary punishment of those involved in rapes and violence against women across Bangladesh. The home minister must resign for his “failure” to stop rape and tortures on women.
- Sexual and social violence against women of ethnic minorities in the hilly areas and other parts of the country must stop.
- All public and private offices, and educational institutions must form anti-sexual harassment cells in line with the High Court directives. The government must implement the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) fully. It must also abolish laws and practices that help grow gender-based inequality.
- Hate speech against women must be declared as a punishable offence. Women cannot be presented as a product in literature, drama, cinema, and advertisements. BTCL must play an effective role in controlling pornography. The government will have to sponsor healthy cultural practices.
- Mental harassment of rape victims during investigations must stop. Their legal and social security must be ensured.
- Crime and gender experts must be included in Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals. More tribunals must be set up for quick disposal of cases.
- DNA evidence related law must be followed in settling rape cases, and the 1872-155(4) provision of the Witness Act must be abolished.
- Discriminatory or hateful texts, photos, or words to women in the curriculum must be avoided.
- Any attempt to hush up rape incidents by rural arbitration must be treated as a punishable offense.