Bangladesh's rights leaders have joined in the call of the neighbouring India for an end to crimes against women.
The December 16 gang rape of a medical student in New Delhi triggered violent public protests over attitude towards women in the country and raised a unanimous demand that actions be taken to strengthen laws against sexual violence.
"Incidents like rape and gang rape are frequent in our country too," Salma Ali, executive director of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association (BNWLA), said. Except for some individuals and women rights activists, no one protests such crimes and discrimination against women in Bangladesh, she added.
Talking to The Daily Star, a number of women rights activists yesterday said a significant change was necessary in the perspective of the man-dominating society to ensure women's safety. Tougher legal measures should also be taken.
They voiced their concern over women's protection after the 23-year-old rape victim died at a hospital in Singapore.
The gang rape had triggered huge revulsion and anger across India. Protesters had marched in central Delhi and other major cities, demanding that no one else was made victim of such barbarism.
After the incident, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee expressed "deep distress" while Congress President Sonia Gandhi asked for swift and immediate action.
Condemning police action on the protesters, other political parties demanded a statement from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In response, Manmohan vowed to take action against this "monstrous crime".
The incident was regrettable, BNWLA Executive Director Salma said, but the way all Indians, especially politicians of both the ruling party and the opposition, responded to that could be a lesson for Bangladesh.
Such protests could force the authorities to be accountable to their actions against assaults on women, she said.
As per reports of Odhikar, a rights body, as many as 760 women and children were raped between January and November while the number was 711 in 2011, 559 in 2010, 456 in 2009 and 454 in 2008.
Of the 760 victims this year, 188 were gang raped while 69 were killed after rape.
In many cases, Salma said, victims did not file any case in fear of further harassment by the rapists or were forced to withdraw cases in the face of threats by influential people of society.
Rape cases should be tried under the speedy trial act and the government should formulate separate laws for protection of victims and witnesses to ensure justice to the victims.
"Moreover, a political commitment is mandatory to stop such heinous crimes," Salma noted.
Ayesha Khanam, president of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, said the incident in Delhi was nothing but an outcome of conservative society existing in entire South Asia, which regarded women as inferior to men.
Rape incidents happen in Bangladesh as well but Indian politicians, as opposed to those here, expressed solidarity with common people in condemning the crime, she said.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad and Samajik Protirod Committee, a platform of 67 women, human rights and development organisations; in separate statements expressed deep shock at the death of the 23-year-old rape victim.