Garo Catholics of Mymensingh district in Bangladesh have demanded the arrest and trial of suspects in the gang rape of two minor girls on December 28.
Group sexual violence against the Garo tribal girls, aged 14 and 15, has caused profound shock and indignation within the Catholic community of Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority South-Asian country.
Despite the complaints presented, the crime still appears to be unpunished because the police do not seem willing to intervene.
A dozen Muslims reportedly gang-raped the two teenage girls in the Gazirvita-Katabari area in Mymensingh, a town in the Dhaka division.
The girls belong to the parish of Biroidakuni and are secondary school students.
The violence occurred around two in the morning in the Katabari area, as both girls were returning from a wedding anniversary party of a relative.
As soon as they arrived near Mahtab Uddin's Ekasia Garden, the assailants began to harass the duo verbally first, followed by physical attacks. Finally, taking them to an isolated area, assaulters allegedly raped them. Then, they threatened the victims with death if the duo report it to anyone.
“Now, our family is helpless. The administration is just giving promises but even after a week, nobody has been arrested. My daughter wanted to commit suicide out of shame. But we want maximum punishment for the perpetrators so that such incidents do not happen again in the future,” said one of the victim's father.
Bangladesh activists Garo Adivasi League and members of St. Peter's Primary School launched a protest to denounce such attacks.
About a hundred Christians took part in the demonstration, invoking exemplary penalties for the perpetrators on January 3.
Leon Rema, secretary of the Bangladesh Garo Adivasi League, said the entire community is in a state of shock affected by gang rape.
“We learned that the relatives of the rapists are not afraid of possible indictments and this deeply angers us,” Rema added.
He also said severe punishment should be awarded to the people involved in the crime. Otherwise, a climate of impunity may be normalized when such cases are not repeated.
“If we do not get justice, we the whole Garo community will launch a massive protest,” Rema said.
It is believed that Garo as an indigenous community hailed from China and Tibet. They are found in India’s Meghalaya, a northeastern state. They moved to the hilly region of the Mymensingh district of Bangladesh when India was colonized by the British.
The officer in charge of Haluaghat Police Station said the father of one victim had filed a case against 10 suspects aged between 20 and 22. The accused fled immediately after the incident.
Police investigations are underway to arrest the suspects.
According to data from the Law and Arbitration Center, Bangladesh reported 1,627 rape crimes in 2020. It documented that 53 victims were murdered while 14 died by suicide afterward. The center also reported 1,718 cases of child abuse during 2020.
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