Beginning from Dhaka's Shahbagh, an anti-rape long march reached Feni on Friday night on its way to Noakhali – where a housewife was tortured stripped naked and filmed.
The movement stopped in Narayanganj and Cumilla holding sit-in demonstrations to press home a nine-point charter of demands to stop rising indents of rape, and repression of women and children across the country.
The protesters – activists of left-leaning parties, students, youths and rights activists – along with local people will hold a procession in Maijdee town of Noakhali on Saturday afternoon.
Nasir Uddin Prince, general secretary of the Socialist Students' Front, said the protesters will march from Feni town on Saturday morning to cover the last leg of the trek to Maijdee via Begumganj and Chaumuhani upazilas.
A Noakhali woman was beaten stripped naked by some culprits in September this year. They filmed the assault and uploaded the footage to the web on October, which prompted wildcat protests and a countrywide upsurge with Shahbagh being the nucleus.
On Friday morning, around 400 demonstrators crowded Shahbagh and flagged off the long march around 10:30am under the banner of "Bangladesh against Rape and Impunity". They also ragged slogans in support of their nine-point charter of demands.
Former General Secretary of Bangladesh Students' Union Liton Nandi said, "This march is a part of our ongoing protests against rape and injustice."
The protesters departed Dhaka's Gulistan on seven buses while another five buses joined the protest from Narayanganj. They held their first rally at Narayanganj's Sonargaon and then at Chandina and Kandirpar in Cumilla.
Sadikul Islam Sadik, vice president of Socialist Students' Front's Dhaka University chapter, said their demands include ensuring exemplary punishment to the perpetrators involved in rape and violence against women, resignation of the home minister, and an end to repression of women.
Apart from the Noakhali assault, protests against rape and violence against women have been continuing across the country since the beginning of October following a gang-rape in Sylhet's MC College.
In the wake of widespread protests, the President M Abdul Hamid recently promulgated an ordinance allowing death penalty as the highest punishment for rape instead of life imprisonment.
The nine demands
1. Exemplary punishment of those involved in rapes and violence against women across Bangladesh. The home minister must resign for his "failure" to stop rape and tortures on women.
2. Sexual and social violence against women of ethnic minorities in the hilly areas and other parts of the country must stop.
3. All public and private offices, and educational institutions must form anti-sexual harassment cells in line with the High Court directives. The government must implement the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) fully. It must also abolish laws and practices that help grow gender-based inequality.
4. Hate speech against women must be declared as a punishable offence. Women cannot be presented as a product in literature, drama, cinema, and advertisements. BTCL must play an effective role in controlling pornography. The government will have to sponsor healthy cultural practices.
5. Mental harassment of rape victims during investigations must stop. Their legal and social security must be ensured.
6. Crime and gender experts must be included in Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals. More tribunals must be set up for quick disposal of cases.
7. DNA evidence related law must be followed in settling rape cases, and the 1872-155(4) provision of the Witness Act must be abolished.
8. Discriminatory or hateful texts, photos, or words to women in the curriculum must be avoided.
9. Any attempt to hush up rape incidents by rural arbitration must be treated as a punishable offense.