Nusrat Jahan Rafi: Burned to loss of life for reporting sexual harassment

A picture of Nusrat Jahan RafiPicture copyright
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Nusrat Jahan Rafi was doused with kerosene and set on hearth at her college in Bangladesh. Lower than two weeks earlier, she had filed a sexual harassment grievance in opposition to her headmaster.

Her braveness in talking out in opposition to sexual assault, her loss of life 5 days after being set alight and every little thing that occurred in-between has gripped Bangladesh and introduced consideration to the vulnerability of sexual harassment victims on this conservative South Asian nation.

Nusrat, who was 19, was from Feni, a small city 100 miles (160km) south of Dhaka. She was learning at a madrassa, or Islamic college. On 27 March, she mentioned the headmaster known as her into his workplace and repeatedly touched her in an inappropriate method. Earlier than issues might go any additional she ran out.

Many women and younger ladies in Bangladesh select to maintain their experiences of sexual harassment or abuse secret for worry of being shamed by society or their households. What made Nusrat Jahan totally different is that she did not simply converse out – she went to the police with the assistance of her household on the day the alleged abuse occurred.

On the native police station she gave an announcement. She ought to have been supplied with a secure setting to recall her traumatic experiences. As an alternative she was filmed by the officer in cost on his telephone as she described the ordeal.

Within the video Nusrat is visibly distressed and tries to cover her face along with her palms. The policeman is heard calling the grievance “no massive deal” and telling her to maneuver her palms from her face. The video was later leaked to native media.

‘I attempted to take her to high school’

Nusrat Jahan Rafi was from a small city, got here from a conservative household, and went to a non secular college. For a woman in her place, reporting sexual harassment can include penalties. Victims typically face judgement from their communities, harassment, in particular person and on-line, and in some instances violent assaults. Nusrat went on to expertise all of those.

On 27 March, after she went to the police, they arrested the headmaster. Issues then obtained worse for Nusrat. A gaggle of individuals gathered within the streets demanding his launch. The protest had been organized by two male college students and native politicians had been allegedly in attendance. Folks started responsible Nusrat. Her household say they began to fret about her security.

However, on 6 April, 11 days after the alleged sexual assault, Nusrat went to her college to take a seat her remaining exams.

“I attempted to take my sister to high school and tried to enter the premises, however I used to be stopped and wasn’t allowed to enter,” mentioned Nusrat’s brother, Mahmudul Hasan Noman.

“If I hadn’t been stopped, one thing like this would not have occurred to my sister,” he mentioned.

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Shahadat Hossain

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Nusrat Jahan’s brother grieves at her funeral

In response to an announcement given by Nusrat, a fellow feminine pupil took her to the roof of the college, saying considered one of her buddies was being crushed up. When Nusrat reached the rooftop 4 or 5 individuals, carrying burqas, surrounded her and allegedly pressured her to withdraw the case in opposition to the headmaster. When she refused, they set her on hearth.

Police Bureau of Investigation chief Banaj Kumar Majumder mentioned the killers wished “to make it seem like a suicide”. Their plan failed when Nusrat was rescued after they fled the scene. She was capable of give an announcement earlier than she died.

“One of many killers was holding her head down along with his palms, so kerosene wasn’t poured there and that is why her head wasn’t burned,” Mr Majumder advised BBC Bengali.

However when Nusrat was taken to a neighborhood hospital, docs discovered burns masking 80% of her physique. Unable to deal with the burns, they despatched her to Dhaka Medical Faculty Hospital.

Within the ambulance, fearing she may not survive, she recorded an announcement on her brother’s cell phone.

“The instructor touched me, I’ll battle this crime until my final breath,” you’ll be able to hear her say.

She additionally recognized a few of her attackers as college students on the madrassa.

Information of Nusrat’s well being dominated Bangladeshi media. On 10 April, she died. 1000’s of individuals turned out for her funeral in Feni.

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Shahadat Hossain

Picture caption

Big crowds gathered in Nusrat’s hometown for her funeral

Police have since arrested 15 individuals, seven of them allegedly concerned within the homicide. Amongst these arrested are the 2 male college students who organised the protest in assist of the headmaster. The headmaster himself stays in custody. The policeman who filmed Nusrat’s sexual harassment grievance has been faraway from his put up and transferred to a different division.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met Nusrat’s household in Dhaka and promised that each particular person concerned within the killing can be purchased to justice. “Not one of the culprits shall be spared from authorized motion,” she mentioned.

Nusrat’s loss of life has sparked protests and 1000’s have used social media to precise their anger about each her case and the remedy of sexual assault victims in Bangladesh.

“Many women do not protest out of worry after such incidents. Burqas, even attire fabricated from iron can not cease rapists,” mentioned Anowar Sheikh on BBC Bengali’s Fb web page.

“I wished a daughter my complete life, however now I’m afraid. Giving beginning to a daughter on this nation means a lifetime of worry and fear,” wrote Lopa Hossain in her Fb put up.

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Shahadat Hossain

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Many individuals have protested in Nusrat’s residence city

In response to ladies’s rights group Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, there have been 940 incidents of rape in Bangladesh in 2018. However researchers say the true quantity is more likely to be a lot larger.

“When a lady tries to get justice for sexual harassment, she has to face a number of harassment once more. The case lingers for years, there’s shaming in society, an absence of willingness from police to correctly examine the allegations,” mentioned Salma Ali, a human rights lawyer and former director of the Ladies Attorneys’ Affiliation.

“It leads the sufferer to surrender on looking for justice. In the end the criminals do not get punished and so they do the identical crime once more. Others do not worry to do the identical due to such examples.”

Now persons are asking: Why did Nusrat’s case solely get consideration after she was attacked? And can her case change the way in which individuals view sexual harassment in Bangladesh?

In 2009, the nation’s Supreme Courtroom handed an order to ascertain sexual harassment cells in all academic establishments the place college students can take their complaints, however only a few faculties have taken up the initiative. Activists at the moment are demanding the order be carried out and enshrined in regulation to guard college students.

“This incident has shaken us, however as we have now seen up to now, such incidents get forgotten in time. I do not suppose there shall be an enormous change after this. We’ve got to see if justice will get accomplished,” mentioned Professor Kaberi Gayen of the College of Dhaka.

“Change has to come back in, each psychologically and in implementing the rule of regulation. Consciousness about sexual harassment ought to be raised from childhood in faculties,” she mentioned.

“They should be taught what is correct and unsuitable in terms of sexual harassment.”

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