An apology to Beauty

Syed Tashfin Chowdhury | Published: April 20, 2018 20:51:28


Beauty Akhter

Beauty Akhter was murdered in presence of her father. As shocking as that may sound, it was confessed by Beauty's father, Sayed Ali, before a judicial magistrate's court in Habiganj on April 06.

Earlier on March 17, the body of Beauty (16) was recovered by police from a haor, days after she went missing from her father's house. The story of Beauty began nearly two months earlier when on January 21, Babul Miah (35) and his accomplices had abducted her from her house in Brahmandora village of Shaistaganj near Habiganj. They had allegedly confined her at an undisclosed location where she was raped for about a month. She was dropped off near her house around the end of February. Her father filed a case at Habiganj court on charges of abduction and rape against Babul Miah and others.

Two weeks later, Beauty went missing only to be found dead. Few days later, a murder case was filed by Sayed Ali against Babul Miah, his mother Kolomchan and others. However, inconsistencies in the information of the case made the police dig deeper, leading to the arrest of Sayed Ali and his neighbour Moyna Miah.

At a press conference in his office in Habiganj on April 7, Bidhan Tripura, superintendent of police (SP), revealed that Sayed Ali was allegedly convinced to take part in the murder of his own daughter by Moyna Miah. Along with a professional murderer, Moyna had stabbed Beauty to death in presence of Sayed Ali.

"Moyna convinced Sayed Ali to support his plan by saying that Beauty should be killed since she was raped and Babul did not agree to marry her. He also said that Sayed should think of the future of Beauty's two younger sisters," said SP Bidhan to the press. Bidhan had also pointed out that Moyna had tried to frame rapist Babul and his mother, after Moyna's wife Asma Akter lost to Babul's mother in the Brahmondora Union Parishad election held in December last year.

The series of events that began with the abduction and rape of the minor girl eventually ended with her murder. The increase in crimes across the country is indicative of the alarming rate at which child rights are under threat in the country, despite the ardent desire of the child rights activists and the government to curb them.

Another harrowing incident was the rape and murder of eight-year-old Nusrat Jahan Nishu in Lakshmipur in March. Nishu's body was recovered from under a bridge at Brahmapara in Kanchanpur on March 26.

In connection with the killing, police arrested Nishu's uncle Shah Alam Rubel and his friend Borhan Uddin on April 2. On the same day, Lakshmipur SP ASM Mahtab Uddin told the press that Rubel had lured his niece from her home after giving her icecream and letting her watch TV. After raping and strangling her to death, he wrapped the body in a jute bag and kept it in his house for two days.

"Later, her body was taken by a CNG-run auto-rickshaw, three kilometres away from Rubel's house and thrown under the bridge, Rubel said in his confessional statement," SP Mahtab said.

Nishu's name will be added to the tally of 25 children killed after rape from January to March of this year. Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF), a child rights promoting non-government organisation, came up with the number after compiling information reported by major national dailies. The situation is quite concerning as the same NGO has revealed that only 22 children were reportedly murdered after rape throughout the entire year of 2017.

A total of 176 children were raped during the first quarter of this year, when the number was at 593 child victims in 2017, 446 child victims in 2016, 521 in 2015, 199 in 2014, 170 in 2013 and 86 in 2012. Besides the heinous act of rape, seven children were murdered out of a total of 54 children kidnapped while around 28 were found dead out of total of 73 children who went missing from January to March of this year. At least, 109 children were murdered during these three months only. BSAF also compiled the numbers of other incidents and forms of abuse faced by child victims in the country during this time.

All the statistics indicate that torture, kidnap, rape, murder and other forms of violation of child rights are becoming rampant in the country.

Child rights experts have time and again pointed out that a prevalent culture of impunity and delay in trial procedures are encouraging the incidents of repression against children.

It has also been seen trial that crimes that received wider media coverage was held speedily as was the situation with Rajon killing in 2015. Kamrul Islam was the main suspect who held vegetable vendor Samiul Alam Rajon (13) on a baseless allegation of stealing a rickshaw van on July 8, 2015. Kamrul and his accomplices tied Rajon to a pole and beat him up with sticks. The boy had cried for water, asked them to save him and eventually breathed his last.

The entire incident that was being recorded on a mobile phone by one of the accomplices was posted to Facebook. After the video went viral, there was public outcry to arrest the perpetrators of the crime. Kamrul, who had fled to Saudi Arabia, was held there by non-resident Bangladeshis and brought back to Dhaka where he was arrested and tried.

The court had awarded death penalty to Kamrul and three accomplices. In April 2017, the High Court had also upheld the death sentences for the four.

It needs to be noted that the actual number of crimes committed against children might be much higher them reported. Most incidents are not made public as the family members of the victims do not want to make the situation worse for themselves. Feelings of dejection and depression grip the victims, when the perpetrators move around scot-free in broad daylight and their victims hide themselves behind closed doors. This also increases the tendency of suicide, another trend that has also been on the rise.

In order to address and curb the crimes, the government has already taken some commendable steps. For example, 'Helpline 10921' was launched in 2016 to report any kind of violence perpetrated against women and children.

Through the Helpline, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWCA) provides emergency response to victims of child abuse by using the countrywide network of administrative, law enforcement and non-government organisations.

In a bid to fight the pervasive rise in crimes against children, the MOWCA has also been working with home and law ministries to implement speedy trial procedures for crimes where the victims are children.

Child rights experts have also recommended setting up a separate directorate and commissions for children, hoping that such departments would put specific focus on issues of child rights violation.

Besides these steps from the concerned authorities, a change in the mindset of people is required. Children, regardless of their crimes, race and gender, need to be identified and treated as children or minors, as after all, they are the future leaders of our country. Also children who fell unwilling victims to crimes need to be assured that they are a part of the society. They should not be shunned or looked upon as a burden as was the fate of Beauty Akhter.

tashfinster@gmail.com

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