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Such monstrosities must end

Bangladesh on 27 June 2013
Location : Bangladesh | Source : New Age. Image Source: Flickr User Sandip Bhattacharya

THE killing of Aklima Khatun, a class VIII student of a madrassah who had been set on fire by some young men of her village in Feni on June 16 and succumbed to her injuries in Mitford Hospital in the capital on June 22, provides yet another pointer to the failure of the state and society to guarantee safety and security of women in Bangladesh. According to a report published in New Age on June 24, Suman, a young man of her village, would stalk Aklima on her way to and from the madrassah, apparently to make her agree to his proposal of marriage. As Aklima persisted with her refusal, Suman, with the help of two of his friends, picked her up early June 16, poured kerosene on her and then set her ablaze.

It is not the first time that a young man was killed by her stalker and is unlikely to be the last. Over the past few years, sexual harassment of women in general and stalking of young women in particular have assumed alarming proportions. There have been many incidents where the stalkers not only attacked, and either grievously injured or even killed their victims, but also went after anyone who dared stand up against their misdeeds. Not long ago, there were at least two incidents whereby the stalkers killed a college teacher and a woman for protesting against harassment of his students and her daughters respectively in a similar fashion — they simply ran the victims over with their motorcycles. The two killings, it is worth noting, did touch off widespread protests in what then appeared to be a reawakening of society insofar as safety and security of women was concerned. The government also talked tough then against sexual harassment of women, particularly stalking, with many of its key functionaries talking tough against such offences.

Regrettably, however, neither the actions of the state nor the activism of society proved enduring or effective enough. Very soon, it was business as usual, with safety and security of women outside their homes having gone back to realms of mere rhetoric. Not surprisingly, the subsequent spate of stalking incidents came with increased frequency and ferocity. To make matters worse, there were a number of cases where the perpetrators turned out to be members of one associate organisation of the ruling Awami League or the other. Here, it is pertinent to recall that in the instances where the college teacher and the women were killed for raising their voices against stalking, the killer also either had links to or were associated with the ruling party.

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