Bangladesh: Authorities must deliver justice after brutal attack of woman posted online

The Bangladeshi authorities must ensure justice after an online video emerged showing a group of men stripping and severely beating a woman in the southern district of Noakhali, Amnesty International said today.

The video, posted on social media on 4 October, shows a woman being stripped of her clothes, slapped, kicked and punched by a group of five men for almost half an hour. The beating, which was recorded from start to finish and is believed to have taken place on 2 September, is the latest incident in an escalating wave of violence against women in the country.

“This truly disturbing footage demonstrates the shocking violence that Bangladeshi women are routinely being subjected to. In the vast majority of these cases, the justice system fails to hold the perpetrators responsible,” said Sultan Mohammed Zakaria, South Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

“There can be no excuses here – the Bangladeshi authorities must immediately launch a thorough and impartial investigation and bring those responsible for this vicious attack to justice through fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.”

According to data from the government’s One Stop Crisis Centre, between 2001 and July 2020, only 3.56 percent of cases filed under the Prevention of Oppression Against Women and Children Act 2000 Act have resulted in a court judgment and only 0.37 percent of cases have ended with convictions. Local women’s rights organization Naripokkho examined the incidents of reported rape cases in six districts between 2011 and 2018 and found that out of 4,372 cases, only five people were convicted. According to the local human rights organization Ain-o-Salish Kendra (ASK), between January and September 2020, at least 975 rape cases were reported in Bangladesh, including 208 gang-rapes.

Human rights organizations and local civil society blame the flawed criminal justice system, undermined by weak investigation processes and poor evidence management, for the appallingly low number of convictions. The persistent failure to protect victims and witnesses is also a major source of concern, with women fearing stigmatization and not feeling safe reporting the crimes committed against them.

According to local media, on 25 September, another woman was allegedly gang-raped by a group of seven men affiliated with the ruling Awami League party’s student wing at north-eastern district Sylhet’s MC College. The woman was visiting the area with her husband when the perpetrators allegedly attacked them and dragged the woman into a dormitory before tying up and beating her husband and gang-raping her. The accused have all been arrested by local police officers and are under investigation.

Following a mass public outcry after the video of the attack in Noakhali was posted online, civil society, political and human rights activists organised a protest in the capital Dhaka yesterday.

“Women in Bangladesh are being failed by a criminal justice system that puts them at greater risk. Urgent reform is needed to strengthen how these cases are investigated, to support and protect victims and witnesses, and to speed up the painfully slow trial process,” said Sultan Mohammed Zakaria.