Are we living in a civilized society?

Are we living in a civilized society? The society that fails to ensure security to its citizens and preserve the most required value for living cannot be considered to be as civilized one. What exactly is the reality now? We have certainly made enormous socio-economic progress, our standard of living is far better than before. Those days are gone when many of us were barefooted, we had no clothing on our physique and many had to die in hunger. Beggars were found to extend their arms for begging. Most people had no shelter to live in. There was no minimum guarantee for health and education. Our per capita income was only 200 US dollars. 

Despite all the developments, there are so many factors causing adverse impacts on our social behavior. We live in such a society where morality has gone so down that even mosques and madrasas are not safe for prayer. Does anybody could think that teachers and principals of madrasas and mosques are involved in sexual abuse with their students? How could we reconcile with the incident when a girl student is brutally burnt for not cooperating with her principal to have physical relation with him? How a principal could instruct his students to tie her up with rope and pour kerosene on her body and burn by fire? What kind of brutality is it? The other day a 7-year-old girl was taken to a bush for rape and murder? Very often it did happen in the past that lady passengers were raped in the buses and thrown them out from the speeding buses. We have heard about occurrences in the launch at the dead of night when lady passengers were confined in cabin and raped mostly by those who are the operators and helpers.

It has been a common phenomenon when the married woman is raped by near and dear ones as her husband has been abroad to earn bread for the family. What has this society come to when over hundred people witnessed the killing of Rifat at Barguna by the hoodlums and nobody tried to save Rifat. Such a society cannot thrive in the long run if effective measures are not taken immediately.

The saddest part of the story is that immediately after such incident the victim family and some sympathizers of the area protests demanding trial and exemplary punishment of the culprits. Cases are also lodged. There is investigation. But the victim family has to wait for year after year as trial process is so long. What is the benefit of trial that takes year after year to get judgment? By then more identical incidents take place and the old one goes under hibernation. The people also forget the incident. 

It has been a common phenomenon when

 the married woman is raped by near and 

dear ones as her husband has been abroad to 

earn bread for the family. What has this 

society come to when over hundred people

 witnessed the killing of Rifat at Barguna by 

the hoodlums and nobody tried to save Rifat

There are allegations about the investigation conducted by the Investigation officers (IO) that the main culprits are kept out of charge sheet for unknown reason. Rather the investigators help the criminals to keep them away with the charge. Many cases are rejected by the lower court for lack of proper investigation. Even notorious criminals were acquitted from the charge because of not submitting necessary evidences. These happen due to unholy alliance between criminals and corrupt police officials.

However, of late a praiseworthy directive has come from the High Court on 18 July relating trial of rape cases. The High Court bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Mohammad Mostafizur Rahman came up with the total directives to accelerate the trials of the cases filed under Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000 while passing orders on three rape cases. In the directives, the HC ordered the lower court to take effective measures to complete trials of the cases filed over rape and murder within 180 days. It also directed the judges in Women and Children Repression Prevention tribunals to hold continuous hearing of a case on every working day until the end of the trial. The court in its directives said a monitoring committee must be formed in every district to ensure presence of the witnesses and their security at the court during the hearings. The committee will be comprised of an additional district magistrate, an additional superintendent of police (administration), a representative of the civil surgeon and the public prosecutor of the tribunal, it added. A radical change will come in the process of trial of rape cases if these directives are followed. But the High Court decision to allow six months to deal with rape and murder case seems to be longer time than required.  

Not that nothing has been done to curb criminalization. The government alone could not resolve such crisis. Social thinkers, members of the civil society, political leaders and activists, psychologists, academicians, experts and security personnel have to come forward. It is the responsibility of the government to take initiative to involve all of them. Steps have to be taken for threadbare analysis of the problems properly prior to go for action. If there is any loopholes in the existing law that has to be amended. Also launching a countrywide social movement involving political leaders, civil society members and law enforcers against rape and repression on women and children has become inevitable. Last but not the least, a motivational programme is also required to make people aware about sex crime and violence against women and its danger consequences.  

Dr S A Malek is former political adviser to the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament, general secretary of Bangabandhu Parishad and columnist.