The rape and murder of a nurse in Bangladesh just weeks after a female student was burned to death has sparked ongoing protests and renewed calls for greater protection for women in the South Asian country.
Shahinoor Akhter Tania, 24, who worked as a nurse in a hospital in Dhaka, according to a medical report, was on Monday raped and pushed off a bus, while heading toward her hometown in Kishoreganj, about 100km away.
The police have since arrested five people, but are still investigating the incident.
Tania’s death comes as the country is still reeling over the killing of Nusrat Jahan, who according to police was burnt to death last month for not withdrawing a sexual harassment complaint, leading to protests calling for women’s safety.
“We should be treating this as something of the highest national priority, not just in terms of arresting people, but in terms of making sure another woman doesn’t go through it,” said Sara Hossain, a Bangladeshi lawyer and a human rights activist.
“Nusrat’s case was very extreme, but why do these cases keep on happening? One of the reasons is the kind of impunity that exists, so people can get away [with these crimes],” she said.
A study conducted by Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, a women’s rights organization in Dhakabout, said that 950 women were victims of rape last year.
“The number is on the increase. In April this year, we found 401 cases of violence against women, out of which many were rape cases,” said Maleka Banu, general secretary of the group.
“We say that women can work, but when they step outside, this is the kind of things they have to face. You can’t solve this problem by addressing individual issues, we need to address this problem in totality,” she said.
Following Tania’s death, protests took place in Kishoreganj and Dhaka this week.
Police have arrested the driver and the conductor of the bus Tania was traveling on, but have refused to comment on the event before their investigation is completed.
The medical team that examined Tania’s body said it believes the 24-year-old was raped.
“There was injury in the vaginal region and it was also bleeding. There were defensive wounds and bruises on her face, hand and neck,” said Habibur Rahman, Kishoreganj’s civil surgeon, quoting the preliminary autopsy report.
“We believe that she died because of the wound behind her head. We feel that that took place because she was pushed out of the bus,” Rahman said. “We will be conducting more tests.”
The youngest of six siblings, Tania was the brightest amongst them, her brother said.
“My mother passed away in December. Tania wanted to come home to spend the first few days of Ramadan with my father because she knew he felt lonely,” Shafiqul Islam Sujon, Tania’s older brother said.
“She had the knack to win over people’s hearts, no matter who she talked to. She took care of us both mentally and financially, and now she is gone. My heart pains whenever I think about her,” Sujon said.
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