Raising social awareness and teaching children about consent are ways which imposed with the death penalty, would be more effective to prevent rape in society
In the first part of this article titled "The myths regarding rape and the shortcomings in our laws", among other things, we discussed that the imposition of the death penalty alone is not enough to prevent rape in any society.
On this occasion, we are proposing some additional ways that could be imposed along with the death penalty, which we believe, will be more effective in our quest of ensuring a society in which no one will ever be a victim of rape.
The Rape Law Reform Coalition has put forward a 10-point demand, which if properly implemented, can play a significant role in ensuring justice for rape survivors or preventing rape.
This includes redefining rape to ensure protection for all rape victims regardless of gender and marital status, ensuring access to justice for rape survivors with disabilities, defining penetration to include the use of objects or any other part of the perpetrator's body, enacting witness protection law, amending section 155 (4) of Evidence Act 1972 to prohibit the use of character evidence against the complainant in the rape case, training the justice sector on matters of sexual violence, establishing a state compensation fund for rape survivors, and introducing consent classes in schools to demolish the existing misogynistic mindset.
Fast track courts should be established to specifically hear all sexual violence cases in a time-bound manner, and conviction rates in sexual violence cases should also be increased. Furthermore, sexual violence-related trauma centres should be set up in all districts to provide support to rape survivors.
Health-care professionals must also be given adequate training to provide emergency care to rape survivors in sexual violence cases. The government must also support organisations (such as the Human Rights and Legal Aid Services at Brac, ActionAid Bangladesh, Awareness 360) who have been working relentlessly for years to raise awareness regarding sexual violence across the country as it will be a crucial step towards, inter-alia, dismantling the prevailing idea in our society that rape destroys the honour of the victim and that it is a fate worse than death.
This sick mindset does more harm than good and discourages sufferers from taking legal action against rapists. Awareness can be raised by organising community meetings and campaigns at each district. As for the time being, while the civil defence struggles to cope with the needs of the people, we need to incorporate self-defence training as a part of the school curriculum for all children.
We also need urgent initiative from our people who can take personal initiative to train the less privileged people with the help of professional trainers. With the sharp increase in rape cases in our country during the pandemic, some institutions/NGOs, such as the Bangladesh Self Defense Association, the KO Fight Studio, Volunteer for Bangladesh (Youth Wing of JAAGO Foundation) have already begun to work towards raising greater awareness regarding self-defence education at different levels.
This temporary measure will ease the load on the state's civil defence resources and would help the masses become independent. Although this step can be considered by many to be less important, it should be remembered that even if something has the potential to save one life, we cannot afford to avoid it. Paediatrician and Professor John Santelli observed that sex education might have preventive consequences that continue far beyond graduation.
This can act as a potent tool for us to change the mindset of domination and victim-blaming. Thus, all necessary steps must be taken to promote sex education in our country, starting from the introduction of a compulsory subject in the national curriculum to offering short online courses.
Family members need to pay close attention when someone starts behaving abnormally and seek immediate help from a professional. A series of research indicates that as soon as a few days or weeks after the incident, the victim may start showing the following most commonly present behavioural signs: diminished alertness, numbness, dulled sensory, affective and memory functions, disorganised thought content, vomiting, nausea, paralysing anxiety, pronounced internal tremor, an obsession to wash or clean themselves, hysteria, confusion, crying, bewilderment, and acute sensitivity to the reaction of other people because of going through the acute stage of Rape Trauma Syndrome.
More often, it is the fear of rejection/resentment by their family and friends rather than fear of public humiliation, which compels rape survivors to suffer in silence. This pushes them to engage in self-harm and the worst-case scenario, commit suicide.
Thus, family members and friends must not only identify the aforementioned abnormal behaviour patterns but they should also provide the rape survivor with emotional support and persuade them to seek mental health help.
Additionally, while it is necessary to take legal action against the rapist, it can be detrimental to the health of rape survivors since they have to relive their sexual violence trauma when being cross-examined in the trial. However, receiving support and validation from friends and family can greatly help rape survivors to successfully overcome these hurdles and seek justice.
Child sexual abuse in Bangladesh has also risen over the years. According to Ain o Salish Kendra, 133 children aged 7-12 were raped between January and September 2020.
Children are vulnerable and become easy targets since most of them fail to understand what is being done to them. A key reason behind this is the reluctance of parents to teach their children about sex education.
Parents can play a significant role in preventing child sexual abuse by teaching their children how to identify and resist inappropriate advances made towards them. Parents should educate their children about consent and reproductive organs from a young age.
Furthermore, they should teach children regarding "good touch" (holding hands, hugging etc) and a "bad touch" (touching chest, between legs, buttocks etc). Similarly, parents should closely pay attention to their child's behaviour around relatives, friends, neighbours etc and should make sure that the relatives/friends with whom their children do not feel comfortable are not getting too close to them.
Besides, parents should teach their children to scream or inform an adult right away if they are "touched badly".
Maisha Zaman is a final year student of the University of London.
Nabil Hazzaz is an accredited international civil commercial mediator.
Rawnak Tahnia is a marketing enthusiast who is doing a double major in Marketing and Supply Chain from Brac Business School.
Arafat Reza is employed as a Teaching Assistant at LCLS (South).