It is startling to note that Bangladesh has the second highest prevalence of sexual intimate partner violence against women in the world after Ethiopia. As each day goes by, the number of such incident is increasing. While we welcome the fact that these crimes are widely condemned, we also recognize that they are hardly framed as a systemic form of women and children’s rights violations. We rarely reflect on the reasons why one out of three women still suffer violence in the world and why the situation seems to be getting worse in some parts of the world. We do not talk enough about how rape is pervasive and being normalized by a sexist and unequal society that values women less and does not put enough attention to women and girls’ rights and safety; how patriarchy systematically drives rape and other forms of violence against women.
Rape culture manifests itself in ways invisible to us. Only when we look for it can we recognize its presence in the films we see, the streets we walk and the way we speak. In ways we are oblivious to, everyone can be an accomplice to rape culture. For example, too often, adults teach girls what not to do instead of teaching boys than girls are sovereign humans, not property. Boys should be taught how to respect women and need to realize the importance of women. The society needs to stand up for the woman who is violated rather than making excuses for the violator.
An insane myth in our society is that men’s aggressive and violent behavior is natural, and therefore, sexual assault is up to the victim to avoid. Men are not naturally predatory. Such behavior is a product of rape culture. If we keep our eyes open, it isn’t hard to find all the ways that rape culture subtly poisons society.
Rape culture reveals itself in our conversations, when women are judged for their clothing and their personal lives rather than their character. It’s hidden in compliments: the way that girls are told they are pretty before they are told they are smart. And despite common belief, we all perpetuate these norms. No matter your gender or sexual orientation, everyone judges women for their expression of sexuality and appearance. Recognizing your own stance in a culture of objectification can help us begin to break it down.
Recently, a video has been posted online which showed a group of men stripping, beating and raping a woman with an object in southern Noakhali district. It was filmed by one of perpetrators where the women can be seen being kicked and stomped on as she crawls naked on the floor while begging to be left alone. The local authorities in Noakhali had no clue about the incident for 32 days because the victim didn’t have the courage to file a complaint with the police. This portrays the horrific condition of our society and shows how badly the community needs the change. The cries for help cannot dwindle, suffering needs to end.
It is time to end violence against women and let them live a normal life which they deserve. The end starts with education. Studies suggest that a series of small, preventative steps made over generations will lead to a world without sexual assault.
The use of appropriate language to describe sexual assault and harassment is vital. That means putting the blame on the assailant, not on the victim.
It means that when you talk to a victim, your first questions are never about their level of intoxication, the type of clothes they were wearing or their decision to walk home alone. It won’t be easy, but enacting changes to end rape culture is overdue.
We must stop objectifying women and prevent sexual assault in its veiled beginnings. We need to teach boys not to rape instead of teaching girls not to get raped.
Samiur Rahman is a grade 12 student of DPS STS Dhaka.