Cheers and Jeers

Violence May Be Rising Against Bangladesh Women

Saturday, March 23, 2002

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(WOMENSENEWS)--Complaints of violence against women in Bangladesh have escalated over the last several years, including a rise in rapes and acid attacks, Gulf News reported Monday.

Police records show 13,339 crimes against women last year, compared to the 2,048 logged by nongovernmental organizations in 1995, the leading English-language newspaper of the United Arab Emirates reported.

Authorities said acid was thrown onto 340 women in 2001, up from 213 in 2000. Such attacks, which often leave victims--mostly women--disfigured and scarred for life, also have been reported in Myanmar, Cambodia, India and Pakistan.

Women reported 3,189 incidents of rape in 2002, up from 3,140 the previous year. At least 171 children were raped and 150 women were tortured to death last year, according to nongovernmental organization statistics cited in the report.

Recent governments have tried to crack down on gender-based violence in Bangladesh--especially on acid attacks--but the new, tougher legislation has not been effectively enforced. While 2,343 people were arrested last year for crimes against women, none were punished, according to the Gulf News report.

With the percentage of acid attacks increased by more than 50 percent in the last two years, the new coalition government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia last week proposed two additional laws designed to curb such attacks. One law would create special courts to try acid attackers and allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for convicts. The other calls for a national council to restrict the production and sale of acid.

Bangladesh women's advocate Elena Khan told the newspaper that political will is imperative if the new laws are to have the desired impact.

"We are losing witnesses because of the sluggish pace of trials," she said, alleging that police act on behalf of the accused, rather than the victims.

 
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