Nusrat Jahan Rafi was doused with kerosene and set on fireplace at her college in Bangladesh. Lower than two weeks earlier, she had filed a sexual harassment grievance towards her headmaster.
Her braveness in talking out towards sexual assault, her dying 5 days after being set alight and all the things 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 finding out at a madrassa, or Islamic college. On 27 March, she mentioned the headmaster referred to as her into his workplace and repeatedly touched her in an inappropriate method. Earlier than issues might go any additional she ran out.
Many ladies and younger ladies in Bangladesh select to maintain their experiences of sexual harassment or abuse secret for concern of being shamed by society or their households. What made Nusrat Jahan totally different is that she did not simply communicate 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 a press release. She ought to have been supplied with a protected surroundings 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 together with her palms. The policeman is heard calling the grievance “no huge 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 individual 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 received worse for Nusrat. A bunch of individuals gathered within the streets demanding his launch. The protest had been organized by two male college students and native politicians have been allegedly in attendance. Folks started accountable 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.
In accordance with a press release given by Nusrat, a fellow feminine scholar took her to the roof of the varsity, saying one in every of her buddies was being overwhelmed up. When Nusrat reached the rooftop 4 or 5 folks, sporting burqas, surrounded her and allegedly pressured her to withdraw the case towards the headmaster. When she refused, they set her on fireplace.
Police Bureau of Investigation chief Banaj Kumar Majumder mentioned the killers needed “to make it appear to be a suicide”. Their plan failed when Nusrat was rescued after they fled the scene. She was capable of give a press release earlier than she died.
“One of many killers was holding her head down together with his palms, so kerosene wasn’t poured there and that is why her head wasn’t burned,” Mr Majumder instructed BBC Bengali.
However when Nusrat was taken to a neighborhood hospital, medical doctors discovered burns protecting 80% of her physique. Unable to deal with the burns, they despatched her to Dhaka Medical School Hospital.
Within the ambulance, fearing she may not survive, she recorded a press release on her brother’s cell phone.
“The trainer touched me, I’ll struggle this crime until my final breath,” you possibly can 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. Hundreds of individuals turned out for her funeral in Feni.
Police have since arrested 15 folks, seven of them allegedly concerned within the homicide. Amongst these arrested are the 2 male college students who organised the protest in help of the headmaster. The headmaster himself stays in custody. The policeman who filmed Nusrat’s sexual harassment grievance has been faraway from his submit and transferred to a different division.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met Nusrat’s household in Dhaka and promised that each individual concerned within the killing can be purchased to justice. “Not one of the culprits shall be spared from authorized motion,” she mentioned.
Nusrat’s dying has sparked protests and 1000’s have used social media to specific their anger about each her case and the therapy of sexual assault victims in Bangladesh.
“Many ladies do not protest out of concern after such incidents. Burqas, even clothes fabricated from iron can’t cease rapists,” mentioned Anowar Sheikh on BBC Bengali’s Fb web page.
“I needed a daughter my entire life, however now I’m afraid. Giving delivery to a daughter on this nation means a lifetime of concern and fear,” wrote Lopa Hossain in her Fb submit.
In accordance with 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 greater.
“When a lady tries to get justice for sexual harassment, she has to face a variety of harassment once more. The case lingers for years, there’s shaming in society, a scarcity of willingness from police to correctly examine the allegations,” mentioned Salma Ali, a human rights lawyer and former director of the Girls Attorneys’ Affiliation.
“It leads the sufferer to surrender on searching for justice. In the end the criminals do not get punished and so they do the identical crime once more. Others do not concern to do the identical due to such examples.”
Now individuals are asking: Why did Nusrat’s case solely get consideration after she was attacked? And can her case change the best way folks view sexual harassment in Bangladesh?
In 2009, the nation’s Supreme Courtroom handed an order to determine sexual harassment cells in all instructional establishments the place college students can take their complaints, however only a few colleges 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 now we have seen up to now, such incidents get forgotten in time. I do not assume there shall be an enormous change after this. We have now to see if justice will get completed,” 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 must be raised from childhood in colleges,” she mentioned.
“They should study what is true and mistaken relating to sexual harassment.”