Stalking takes another life
YET again, one more life has been lost to the seemingly unstoppable malaise of stalking. On Thursday, according to a report published in New Age on Friday, Aleya Akhtar Smriti, an honours final year student of Rajbari District Women's College and a resident of Manikganj, was hacked to death by one Ismail Hossain. Apparently, Ismail had been harassing the young woman for a long time and on being refused on a marriage proposal by her family went to her house and hacked her to death.
In recent times, several persons have been killed by stalkers. The death of a Natore college teacher in October 2010 after a young man had rammed his motorcycle into him for protesting against heckling of his students remains a horrific example in this regard, as does that of a woman who was run over by her daughters’ stalker at around the same time. These two killings, encouragingly, touched off countrywide protests, apparently indicating heightened awareness of, and even resistance against, the menace across society. Regrettably, however, such heightened social awareness and resistance have not been adequately and effectively supplemented with law enforcement and legal actions by the state.
Worse still, a number of incidents have taken place whereby the perpetrators are either loyal to or affiliated with the ruling Awami League and its front organisations. In April, a local leader of the Bangladesh Chhatra League, the students’ front of the ruling party, and his associates allegedly abducted a schoolteacher at gunpoint from Matbaria Government Primary School at Chougachha in Jessore; the BCL leader who had been stalking the woman for long was, according to a report published in New Age on April 17, angry after she had got married on April 13. Also, recently, two leaders of the Satkhira Chhatra League reportedly raped a student who had been invited to perform in a cultural programme organised to mark the organisation’s founding anniversary. Suffice it to say, there have been many more such incidents and the perpetrators in most cases have got away scot-free.
All that the government and the ruling party seem to have done so far is stating and restating their commitment to ensuring women’s rights, safety and security. In reality, the incumbents have not been able to come up with effective actions — legal or legislative (they are yet to effectively implement the directives of the High Court, including enactment of a well-defined law, to prevent harassment of women) — to substantiate their self-professed commitment to women’s welfare. As we have argued in these columns over and over, while social awareness is essential to prevent stalking and other forms of sexual harassments of women, it need to be adequately supplemented with stringent law and its enforcement. It is time that the incumbents walked walk, instead of only talking the talk.
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