In 2016, news on TV informed me about Tonu’s ‘murder,’ a young woman in Comilla Cantonment, Bangladesh. Little did I know about the whole other nightmare she had to endure while breathing her last. Is there anything else that can make you feel more without life than death? Rape. That can. Tonu was gang-raped before she was killed in cold blood.
That’s the first time I became familiar with the concepts ‘rape’ and ‘consent,’ how awful given that I had already been violated once by then, yet that was the first time I learned about its existence. But it most certainly was not the last.
Over the last four years, the rape cases in Bangladesh kept rising. Not only rape incidents, but the amount of disrespect shown to women also continued to increase, be it online, offline, or in their homes. So did the opposite; many women started coming out.
Last year, the #MeToo movement changed the world. Millions of women came out with stories that make your stomach churn and make you question your existence. This movement also took place in my country and many women, especially ones of the age range 15-30, came out. Numerous people got exposed and shunned publicly. Suddenly it stopped, and life went on. But around early 2020, girls started calling out their abusers publicly on social media with actual proof. Society once again began to condemn such people. However, when it was mid-2020, people started to look down on the expose trend (thanks to a few fake expose posts), as if it were some form of entertainment. That’s when people started to dismiss posts with evidence exposing the predators around us. It just broke my heart.
September was another eye-opener: the gang rape of a woman who went to visit a college in Sylhet with her husband. One of the rapists was from the student wing of the leading party of the country. In this subcontinent, the husband is the equivalent of a knight, a passport. This knight will protect you from all the evil of the world. This concept is ironic, given that their husbands have abused innumerable subcontinental women for many years. When men dared to rape a woman despite having her knight by her side, our country was left stunned. Everyone finally realized- nothing, no one can save us now, not even the sanctification of marriage. This incident revealed what Bangladesh entails for a female. Security was never a matter of having a husband; the problem was somewhere else.
Countless rape cases across the country started getting reported. Statistics showed four females getting raped every single day in this quarantine. Victims of every age, even 100. Abusers of any age, even 11.
But what sparked the movement was the video of a woman in Noakhali being gang-raped. She was a divorcee who was coming to terms with her husband about getting back together. This video was uploaded by one of the abusers himself, which went viral. Everyone started posting about their brutality, the animalistic instincts they saw, the atrocities committed, and how they did not stop even when the victim repeatedly begged for her life. As if she were culpable for not saying that she was officially back with her husband. As if being a divorcee translated for permission to violate her body.
The country was submerged in a social media protest, which was then taken to the streets.
A plethora of anti-rape protests are currently happening all over Bangladesh, and this movement is getting bigger every moment as I’ve typed yet another syllable.
Flustered from sitting at home, Adhara Ayndrila decided to launch a protest mostly comprising students from Viqarunnisa Noon School & College. I, along with a few others, thought that it was high time we supported it. Although there’s an ongoing pandemic, many people have started going out for different reasons, including ourselves, and this seemed like a reason more important than any other. So this Thursday, on 8 October 2020, we organized the ‘Movement against Rape’ event. While we got a huge social media backing (given the time of launching and event taking place were just 1.5 days apart), we did not expect so many people to turn up amid the current health crisis. More than enough people showed up to our surprise, and many were asking for a second day. This made us realize that even though we weren’t able to do something immediately, we contributed. That’s where it counts. One day, if a change does arrive, we’ll be able to say we at least had a small part in it.
But does it always have to be that way? Does it still have to end with small parts? Like it did with the Road Safety movement? The power to make it more significant lies within us. The only thing we require is unity.
We’re all here, alive at this moment because of our mothers. A world without women means a world without humans. The time for action is now.
And we need a holistic solution to this. Though the majority of the victims are females, other genders are also not spared. We need proper policy reforms and strict implementation of laws. We need a mindset shift. Awareness 360 is currently working on something big, to address the critical issue as a whole. I am going to contribute. Would you join us? Keep an eye on our socials for announcements!
Rumman Binte Rafiq
The author is a Core Member of Awareness 360