Students of the Dhaka University are protesting for the second consecutive day, demanding the arrest and death penalty of the culprits who raped and tortured one of the university's students in Kurmitola Sunday night.
The protesters also demanded that the authorities make a serious effort to ensure women are safe everywhere. One of them held a placard asking, "Are we safe anywhere?"
A female student from the political science department said it does not matter where she is, she constantly feels unsafe when out on the roads. She said this feeling of terror rises after sunset.
Her fear is very justified in light of the recent incident of rape. On Sunday evening, the student was going to Shewra area, but by mistake she got off from the university bus in front of the Kurmitola General Hospital, which is a bit away from her destination.
While the female student was walking alone towards Shewra, she was dragged into the bushes beside the road. The culprits assaulted and raped her. She was left abandoned in the bushes, unconscious for hours. She regained consciousness at 10pm and reached her destination all by herself.
The victim was then taken to the one stop crisis centre in the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Protests exploded shortly after that. A number of students have gone on a hunger strike until their demands are met.
A female student from the Fine Arts faculty said, "The place where the girl was raped was just beside a busy road, and 7 o'clock in the evening is not a time when streets of Dhaka become empty. How can something like this happen at that hour, in a place near Kurmitola Hospital, and no one realised anything for hours?"
Another protester asked, "For a long time there has been security issues regarding that place. Why have the authorities concerned not taken any step?"
A student of psychology department said that she had joined the protest not only because one of her fellow students was sexually assaulted, but also because she wants a permanent change in the society.
Among the protesters was a student who was wearing a hijab. When asked if she too felt unsafe, she replied that sexual assaults, molestation and rape have nothing to do with clothes.
She said, "If rape was related to clothes, then kids wouldn't have gotten raped".
According to human rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra, 1,413 women were raped in 2019. The worst victims were girls aged 13-18. As many as 118 rape victims were below 6.
Where the female students were being expressing the terror they feel, the male students focused on the factors that work in building the terror and emphasised on the moral deterioration of the society as a whole.
A student from Finance and Banking department said, "The problem is not in the dresses that one wears. The problem is in our mentality. It somehow makes the perpetrators feel empowered."
He thinks that rapists are essentially "perverts."
"I feel guilty when my friends feel unsafe on roads. Sometimes I get surprised watching others' mentality. We must re-mould our way of thinking", said another protestor.
Most of the male students this correspondent encountered said a regular projection of lawlessness has inspired all sorts of crimes. This is because criminals think they can get away after committing any crime.