On the 45th birthday of my Motherland, it pains me to write of such sadness.
My heart aches. It has been for the past few days.
I am a female. I have a mother, a sister, a friend. And then there was Tonu, in Bangladesh, who was only 3 years younger than me. There were many like Tonu who are unheard of. But there has been no justice.
Shohagi Jahan (Tonu) was a bright 19 year old who was studying History at the Comilla Victoria College. She held a part-time job as a private tutor to finance living costs and studies. On March 20th she did not return home after her private tutoring job. Her body was found in a bush inside the Cantonment (an army base) the following day. Three days later, an autopsy confirmed that she was killed post-sexual assault. No suspects.
Living abroad, I did not hear of this case until I saw a post on social media, Thursday, March 24th when mass protests and social media outrage took place across Bangladesh, against rape and for the justice of Tonu.
Rape is a about power; not about sexual desire! This is why the common question related to victim-shaming and blaming outrages me and many: “What was she wearing?” How does this even relate!? It is no secret at this point that Tonu was a practicing Muslim: she wore a hijab, sign of modesty often seen as a “safeguard from violence.” I’m sorry it couldn’t protect you, Tonu.
The irony of location: identification and justification is required of anyone to enter a Cantonment. Palash Ranjan Sanyal from Global Voices cited the daughter of an army officer who has lived in various cantonments throughout her life. She insinuates the question about security: “People are assuming this was done by someone who lives inside of the cantonment. This planned murder has destroyed a family. If it was done by someone from outside then what can be said about the security of the cantonment?” Furthermore, to suggest a crime was committed by those same individuals who citizens count on to keep them safe makes me question the audacity and humaneness (or lack thereof) of those individuals who pledge to do so. I’m sorry they couldn’t protect you, Tonu.
Not only is sexual assault a social issue…it is a mental health issue and public health issue which we, as Bangladeshis, as a conservative society, fail to acknowledge. I’m sorry, Tonu and all the women in Bangladesh who are victims of violence.
I dream of my motherland’s development and success because justice should not be a privilege; justice is a right!
শুভ স্বাধীনতা দিবস (?)
Happy Independence Day, Bangladesh.
Palash Ranjan Sanyal. Global Voices. March 26, 2016. https://globalvoices.org/2016/03/26/justicefortonu-goes-viral-after-bangladeshi-college-students-rape-and-murder/