Rape incidents against women as well as cases of violence against women and children rose by about 32% in only six months amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Bangladesh.
Between April and September this year, 718 women were raped and 872 incidents of violence against women and children took place in the country, according to Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), a local human rights organisation.
Factors such as joblessness, a long homestay, loan, economic uncertainties and a lack of recreation led to the rise in such incidents, experts say.
During the previous six months from October 2019 to March this year, 555 women were raped and 651 incidents of violence against women and children took place countrywide, as revealed by the ASK data.
Overall, it is a sign of moral degradation against the background of the pandemic, said Nur Khan, general secretary of ASK.
According to Manusher Jonno Foundation, another local rights body, over 33,000 women were tortured sexually, physically, mentally and economically across the country in the four months beginning April this year.
At the same time, more than 8,000 children fell victim to violence at home and in workplaces.
In recent times, rape of a woman at Murari Chand College and of a schoolgirl in Sylhet as well as of a 70-year-old woman in Munshiganj made it to the headlines, leading to public outrage.
People took to the streets to protest the incidents after a video clip of a rape incident in Noakhali began to make the rounds on social media.
ASK found abuse against women and children taking many forms, including physical, psychological, sexual, economic and emotional.
According to ASK statistics, during the six months of the pandemic, 156 women fell victim to rape attempts, 31 were killed after rape, 141 were murdered by their husbands and 115 others were sexually harassed.
Meanwhile, 304 children were killed and cases of violence affected against 744 others.
Sultan Mohmmed Zakaria, a researcher at Amnesty International for the South Asian region, said the major reasons behind the violence against women and children are a culture of impunity, a patriarchal mindset and political imbalance.
The accused, if coming from the ruling party, escape punishment in most of the cases, he stated, adding that the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic have added to the scene.
Meanwhile, a telephonic survey by Manusher Jonno Foundation in 53 districts found that incidents of violence went up during the last four months in the country.
During this time, over 6,300 women were abused physically, around 15,600 were tortured mentally, over 900 were harassed or assaulted sexually and nearly 10,700 others were tortured over dowry.
Besides, over 8,400 children fell victim to violence in different places, including domestic settings and workplaces. Meanwhile, 63 children were murdered, 38 were raped, and 839 others fell victim to child marriage during the pandemic.
Arpita Das, a human rights activist working with Manusher Jonno Foundation, said a large number of women and children faced violence for the first time during the pandemic.
Besides, two-thirds of women were estimated to have been victims of violence, but many of them never disclosed their experience to others, she added. ***