In Bangladesh, gang rape has become a major tool of political terror, forcing minorities to flee and has proven more effective than murder. The victims have all been women belonging to either of the ethnic/religious minorities. Neither little girls nor pregnant women and the elderly are spared. The perpetrators are men belonging to various branches of Muslim extremist political parties, including direct branches to the ruling party BNP (e.g various student wing’s of BNP like JCD, Jubo Dal). In many cases the rapists are closely related to BNP leaders. The main raison d’être for such attacks are often simplified and explained to be primarily political; to forcefully impede Awami League’s support. Awami League is considered the only opposition political party and has taken the role of representing the minorities’ interests. According to Amity for Peace, the human rights violations following the elections were far more widespread in the regions where Awami League obtained strong support. Such findings would clearly confirm the notion that the violence is politically motivated. Nevertheless, it could be noted that there always is a thin line between political, “ethnic” and religious origins of violence.
The rapes in Bangladesh are often associated with brutal violence (e.g. beatings, cuttings and the forceful insertion of objects into the vagina) and a great majority are gang rapes that often takes place in front of the victim’s husbands, children or parents. The investigative material from human rights organizations like GHRD provides countless examples of how the victims have
suffered physically and mentally as a result of rape. A victim as young as four years old was gang raped in Jhenidah and the rape was initiated by a local leader of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, (JCD) a student wing of BNP. In order for the perpetrators to enable the act they had to first cut her vagina open with a knife. In some cases bamboo sticks have been forcefully entered into the victim’s vagina after the rape. Young girls are brutally gang raped and dumped at various fields or in the bush left bleeding and/or unconscious. GHRD Dhaka writes: “The girl still suffered from the injuries she sustained during the gang rape during her imprisonment. In addition, she probably suffered from trauma as a result of both the rapes and her incarceration.”
Although the right to protection by the law is proclaimed in the Constitution169 and despite the harsh punishments for the crime of rape that was introduced in 2000, the police are often unable or unwilling to investigate the alleged rapes. The Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist & Christian Unity Council in the USA asserts: “The police rarely allow rape victims to press charges against their rapists. Typically, if a rape victim goes to the police and insists on action, they are given the “run around” for a few days allowing the rape evidence to disappear. The police officers themselves will then persecute the victims. This, of course, is followed by death threats or kidnapping.” GHRD reports that “After the rape took place, several members of the community of the girl interviewed and recorded the statement of one of the perpetrators. Although he named all the
other perpetrators in the gang rape and this tape was released to the police, they were not included in the police report.” If the victim manages to bring her case to the court, only 95% of the accused in rape cases are acquitted due to faulty investigations or lack of conclusive evidence. The CEDAW Committee has stated that: “The content as well as application of laws put women [in Bangladesh] in a disadvantaged position as compared to men.” For example, the Bangladeshi inheritance laws concede male dominance in terms of rights and resources, simultaneously perpetuate and legitimize the male dominance and “right” to control property, including women.
Human Rights Watch declares that they are “concerned about the role of two junior partners in the BNP-led coalition[…], both the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Islami Oikya Jote have supported harassment and violence against both the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect and the Hindu minority in
Bangladesh.” Despite this, the government has done little to deal with this issue, according to the AHRC. For example, they have refused to establish an independent anti-corruption agency and there is no independent body to receive or investigate complaints against the police and other state officers. The public prosecutors are still under political control and state officers are
protected from prosecution. The rape of Hindu women in Bangladesh is encouraged by the institutionalised discrimination against the religious minorities. For example, discriminatory laws like the “Vested Property Act” make it profitable for the majority to attack Hindus.
Amnesty International writes that during the weeks following the elections “more than one hundred women are believed to have been raped.” Salam Azad claims that: “Within 45 days after the election […] more than 1000 Hindu women had to suffer inhumane tortures.” The
Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities also claims that approximately 1000 women belonging to the minorities (mainly Hindus) were raped within three months surrounding the elections. Afroza Begum has estimated that approximately ten women are raped every day.
"With Intent to Destroy?" Rape as Genocide under International Criminal Law
The Case of Bangladesh