July 17, 2011

Sexual Assault By A Teacher Triggers Student Uprising In Bangladesh

The recent events at the Viqarunnisa Noon School and College (VNC), a prestigious girls educational institution in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, has stirred much buzz in the Bangladeshi blogosphere. Porimol Joydhor, a teacher of Bangla department of the school's Bashundhara campus, was accused of raping a female student of class ten at VNC while giving her private tuition in his premises.
According to reports Porimol recorded the incident in his mobile and threatened the victim that he would post it on internet if she divulged the matter. As the investigations began more shocking information were revealed. The incident took place in late May and the school headmaster at Basundhara branch did not take any action against the teacher after the victim reported it in a letter. Guardians alleged that because Porimol was a student leader of the ruling party the authorities ignored these allegations. When the news broke out in the media [bn] in early July the school governing body was put under a lot of pressure. Porimol was sacked and went into hiding. The committee also suspended two other teachers for their alleged misconduct with girl students.
The events and the student protests caused much uproar in the country and more drama unfolded as the students continued their protest which led to the replacement of the school principal. The mainstream media was accused of using sensationalism and politicizing the events. But some students continued to share their sides of the story via blogs and Facebook.
Bloggers like Bengal Masud posted pictures of the protests and provided regular updates. He posted [bn] on the 6th of July:
অবশেষে ব্লগ-ফেসবুক এবং রাজপথ এই ত্রিমুখী আন্দোলনে পরিমলকে গ্রেফতার করতে বাধ্য হয়েছে পুলিশ। বুধবার দুপুর ১২টার দিকে কেরাণীগঞ্জে এক আত্মীয়ের বাসা থেকে পরিমল জয়ধরকে গ্রেপ্তার করা হয়।
At last after the three-fold campaign via Blog, Facebook and street protests the police was forced to arrest Porimol. Wednesday (6th of July) at around noon he was arrested from a relatives house in Keraniganj (near Dhaka).

Students hold placards denouncing sexual abuse at their school, as they gather at the Central Shaheed Minar.Image by Safin Ahmed. Copyright Demotix.
The students were still in doubt whether the victim would get justice and continued with their protests. Their demands included:
  • All the accused should be brought to justice
  • The school principal and the school management should clarify why they did not do anything against the accused
  • Demanding resignation of the school principal for protecting Porimol.
Many people became furious as the school principal was accused of saying that it was mutual sex.Xabir vents his anger [bn] at Amra Bondhu Blog:
আপনার কি জানা আছে মিউচুয়াল সেক্স হওয়ার জন্যে “কনসেন্ট” নামে একটা জিনিস লাগে। কিন্তু মহামান্যা মাথামোটা অধ্যক্ষা সাহেবা, ১৮ এর নিচে (ক্ষেত্র বিশেষে ১৬) একজন নাবালিকা কখনোই সম্মতি দিতে পারে না।
Do you know that “consent” is required for mutual sex? But dear **** principal, a minor girl below 18 (in some cases 16) can never give consent on her own.
Moreover, the blogger reveals that the section 5 of Sexual Offences Act (2003) says “a person commits an offense if he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with his penis and the person is under aged.”
An anonymous ex-student of VNC recalls [bn] in her blog that her Alma mater was not like this. She posted [bn] on the 8th of July about the student protests online and offline:
আমাদেরকে স্বীকার করতেই হবে যে, যে সব ছোট বোনেরা ফেসবুক এ ইভেন্ট খুলেছে তাদের উপর যথেষ্ট চাপ থাকবে কালকে।এতক্ষনে হয়তো আমাদের গায়ে মানে না আপনি মোড়ল; হোস্নে আরা বানু তোমাদেরকে টিসির ভয় দেখিয়েছেন। পুলিশ প্রশাসনও হয়তো কালকে ভাড়াটে গুন্ডার মতই ব্যাবহার করবে। তারা হয়তো আত্মরক্ষার জন্যই চাইলেও অনেক কিছু করতে পারবেনা। আমাদের সেই সব বোনদেরকে বলছি - আপুরা তোমরা একটুও ভয় পেয় না। আপুরা আছি, আপুরা তোমাদের সবার পাশে আছি।
We have to admit, those younger sisters who opened this Facebook event will be under much pressure tomorrow. It might happen that the principal Hosne Ara Banu had already threatened them to expel from the school. The police may act like hired goons tomorrow. Those sisters may not be able to do much to be safe. But I am telling to those sisters, please don't be afraid. We ex-students are with you together on this.

Students hold placards denouncing sexual abuse at their school. Image by Safin Ahmed, Copyright Demotix
On the 9th of July the students of VNC along-with Parents and ex-students formed a human chaindemanding resignation of the Principal. Bengal Masud posted [bn] videos and pictures of the event.
Soon the protests gathered more support from other members of the civil society. Also many teachers from VNC joined [bn] in the protests.
Blogger Alim Al Rajee is posting [bn] regular updates on this. This Facebook page is also providing updates. Some students are providing updates [bn] on how the interim principal is being accused of belonging to a political party and how the girls are being threatened by different quarters.
Shimul Kibria at Choturmatrik Blog writes [bn] about the trend of blaming the victim in a rape incident as some are blaming the student of VNC rather than Porimol:
কিছু মানুষ তাদের পারিপার্শ্বিকতার নারীদের চিনেছে নিছক একটি ভোগ্যপণ্য হিসেবে। তাদের চিন্তামতে/বিবেচনায় নারী মাত্রই ক্ষুদ্র মননের, স্বল্প ক্ষমতার একটি প্রাণী যা আসলে পুরোপুরি পুরুষের অধীন!
Some people have learnt that women are only consumables. In their perspective women cannot think big, they have relatively less power and are completely submissive to men!
He continues:
প্রতিবাদ এখানেই শেষ নয়; পরিমল ও তার মদদ দাতাদের কঠোর বিচারকার্য নিশ্চিতকরণ, নারী ও শিশু নির্যাতন আইনের যথোপযুক্ত প্রয়োগ নিশ্চিতকরণের জন্যে এই মঞ্চ আরো এগিয়ে যাবে; এটা আমার মতো আরো লক্ষাধীক মানুষের প্রাণের চাওয়া।
The protests have not ended; we have to ensure justice for Porimol and his cohorts and ensure proper implementation of the women and children's act. To achieve these goals this platform should march forward, this is the demand of many thousands of people like me.
First Published in Global Voices Online.


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