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Impunity blamed for Bangladesh child rape surge

After 41 children are raped in a week, rights groups urge government to tackle 'moral degradation'

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Impunity blamed for Bangladesh child rape surge

A file image of two children somewhere in Bangladesh. The South Asian nation has seen an increase in child rape and abuse cases in recent years, say rights groups. (Photo by Tauseef Mustafa/AFP)

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Bangladesh has seen an alarming recent rise in child rape and abuse cases, with rights activists blaming a weak justice system for creating a culture of impunity and negligence.

At least 41 children were raped — 37 girls and four boys — from May 1-8, according to the Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), a Dhaka-based rights advocacy group. There were also three rape attempts.

Three rape victims died from serious physical injuries, MJF said in a press release on May 9.

Sexual violence against women and children has become so rampant in Bangladesh due to a culture of impunity, it said.

The group urged the government to take steps to prevent sexual violence against children, pointing out that such violence has short-term and long-term negative impacts on physical and mental health as well as social lives.

Bangladesh has seen an increasing trend of child rape and abuse in recent years, according to Ain-O-Salish Kendra (ASK), a Dhaka-based rights watchdog.

Child rapes increased by 18 percent from 377 in 2017 to 444 in 2018, according to ASK’s annual report in 2018.

A total of 1,011 children suffered various forms of torture in 2018 leading to the deaths of 283, while 108 children committed suicide and 28 died under mysterious circumstances, the report found.

The surge in child rape shows “moral degradation” and a “decline in humanism” of society, said Rita Roselin Costa, convener of the women’s desk at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh.

“The real figure of child rape and abuses must be much higher because we only notice those reported in media, but many cases are unreported. This is a massive social menace resulting from our collective failure — the weakness of a complex and lengthy legal justice system and negligence from everyone in society,” Costa told ucanews.com.

“By failing to curb child abuse, we are showing that we are becoming less human day by day. To stop it, ending impunity and negligence are vital.”

Advocate Fauzia Karim, president of the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association, expressed similar sentiments.

“From the top level to the grassroots, we are whimsical and careless about child rights and protection. There is a state policy of forming committees to combat sexual violence and child abuse in every institution, but it is just on paper,” Karim told ucanews.com.

“When we fail to punish culprits, it has further adverse consequences. A rapist who walks free from jail often commits the same crime again.”

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