Bangladeshi Girl Burned To Death For Reporting Sexual Harassment
Nusrat Jahan Rafi, an 18-year-old Bangladeshi girl studying at a Madrasa, or Islamic school, in Feni, was doused with kerosene and set on fire at her school in Bangladesh. Reason? She had filed a sexual harassment complaint against her headmaster two weeks ago.
It all started on March 27, when Maulana Siraj Ud Doula, the headmaster summoned her into his office and repeatedly touched her in an inappropriate way. She rushed out immediately, gathered courage and headed to the police station with the help of her family on the day the alleged abuse happened.
The officer at the police station was, however, insensitive to what had transpired and started filming her as she narrated her ordeal. She even informed them that she had been repeatedly sexually harassed by Ud Doula, but had been told to keep it quiet when she tried to bring it up with her teachers.
The video shows how Nusrat is in a state of shock and is attempting hard to hide her face with her hands. The officer is heard calling the complaint “no big deal” and asking her to move her hands from her face. The video was later leaked to local media.
Post-filing the report, Ud Doula was arrested. Rafi and her family’s life, however, became hellish as they started receiving death threats from the principal’s supporters.
Setting her ablaze
According to the BBC, a lot of male students demonstrated to demand the principal’s release. Local politicians also lent their support by attending the same. On April 6, four unidentified people doused her in kerosene and set her ablaze. The incident occurred on the roof of a school building where she was tricked into going.
According to the police, the attackers were dressed in burqas and had tried to pressure Rafi to withdraw her complaint against Ud Doula. Since she refused to do what they wanted they lit her on fire.
The attackers fled the spot because they wanted to save themselves. Rafi, however, ran down the stairs screaming for help while her entire body was in flames. She was rushed to a local hospital but was transferred to Dhaka Medical College Hospital after doctors discovered she had suffered 80% burns on her body. She succumbed to her injuries on April 10, 2019.
Her family members couldn’t digest the news of her demise and broke down seeing her body. The incident sparked outrage across the country, and thousands of people showed up for her funeral. Citizens across the country held protests demanding justice for her murder. #JusticeForNusrat is doing rounds on social media.
Sheikh Hasina Wazed, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister has promised to deliver justice to every person involved. “None of the culprits will be spared from legal action,” she said. The police have managed to detain 14 people in connection with the murder. Police say that the four attackers were students of the madrasa and included one female student.
“When a woman tries to get justice for sexual harassment, she has to face a lot of harassment again. The case lingers for years, there is shaming in society, a lack of willingness from police to properly investigate the allegations,” said Salma Ali, a human rights lawyer and former director of the Women Lawyers’ Association, according to BBC.
“It leads the victim to give up on seeking justice. Ultimately the criminals don’t get punished and they do the same crime again. Others don’t fear to do the same because of such examples.” She added.
Nuruddin and Shahadat alias Shamim were the two main suspects. They were graduates of the madrasa. They also confessed that they planned the murder with five other students, after visiting Ud Doula in prison. They were also in charge of organising the protests demanding Ud Doula’s release. A third student has confessed that he was involved. He also said that Ud Doula had directed them to murder the girl.
Besides that, the officer who filmed Rafi’s video has reportedly been transferred for his negligence in preventing her murder and is also being sued for violating the Digital Security Act by sharing the video on social media. The incident has exposed the vulnerability of sexual harassment survivors in Bangladesh and the extent to which girls are vulnerable in the country.