A pervasive culture of impunity is mostly responsible for the recent increase in sexual violence and other forms of crimes perpetrated against women. Exposure to online content provoking sexual abuse of women and children, strong social and religious values against gender equality and a lack of strong voice among males against such incidents are also responsible for the rapid increase in incidents of violence against women.
Speakers came up with these observations at a sharing session titled 'Redefining masculinity' organised today on Saturday (9 September 2017) at the BRAC Centre in the capital. The event had among its speakers Syed Ishtiaque Reza, director of news, Ekattor Television, Jafar Sobhan, editor, Dhaka Tribune, Nabonita Chowdhury, editor, DBC TV, Supriti Dhar, editor, online portal Women Chapter, and Towhida Shiropa, staff reporter, Prothom Alo. Asif Saleh, senior director, strategy, communications and empowerment, BRAC, moderated the discussion.
Actors Rafiath Rashid Mithila and Iresh Zaker, blogger-activist Arif Zebtik, BRAC Gender Justice and Development programme's director Anna Minj also spoke at the event. Online news portal bdnews24.com was media partner of the roundtable.
Asif Saleh said that the brutal rape and murder of Jakia Sultana Rupa by a gang of males has shocked the nation. We are once again awakened to the reality of increasing acts of sexual violence against women. The perpetrators are males or mostly males. In this context we are intently thinking how a strong social movement can be forged in which men will be at the forefront and raise their loudest voice against all forms of violence against women.
Syed Ishtiaque Reza said, 'Many mass media reports present the analysis of these most horrible crimes focusing on the dress or demeanour of the woman who are the victim of violence in such a way as if these reports defend the acts of the perpetrators. We must get rid of such terrible journalism.'
Nabonita Chowdhury observed that backward social values are at the root of all issues. While a massive campaign aimed at changing the male psyche is urgent, more investments should be made to promote women empowerment. Iresh Zaker said that to change the situation we need to start work at the ground level. Rise of women causes fear in men. To solve that situation we need to move through forming working groups.
Arif Zebtik pointed out lack of or delay in justice as the root cause of increase in violence against women. 'Lack of justice has led many perpetrators to take gang rape as a fashion and an act of heroism. They simply must stop such thinking.'
BRAC director Anna Minj while analysing data of violence against women in different years, said in 2016 BRAC received on average 10-12 complaints per district per month but in 2017 the number has risen to 16-17.