An article by Nafiz Chowdhury published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

BANGLADESH: It is your daughter, so what?

Nafiz Chowdhury

A man from Bangladesh who was talking to his member of parliament, asking her not to stop the local police from investigating into the rape of his nine year old daughter had the shock of his life. The member of the parliament was trying to protect the suspect. The man pleaded with the lady Member of Parliament telling her, that the girl who had been raped was his own daughter.

The MP’s reply was, “It’s your daughter, so what?”

Such is the scale of things in Bangladesh. For the lady MP, the protection of her party member was the first priority; more important than prosecuting the rapist of a nine-year-old girl.

The father’s concern for his daughter was of no concern to her as it is her party supporters who will guarantee her success in the next elections. They elect her and she in turn must do what the electors want. If one of them wants protection against criminal prosecution for rape, it is her duty to provide that. That is what elections have come to mean in Bangladesh.

As against this, the primary concern of a MP to “look after” her electors, another citizen was claiming his rights as a father on behalf of her daughter, a minor who had been raped. The MP weighed the two considerations–her duty to protect those who voted for her and a fathers concern for a daughter. It did not take her lot of time to decide which was more important. Hence her response to the father, “it’s your daughter, so what?”

What did not enter even enter into the mind of the MP is that the complaint was about rape; a heinous crime at the best of times but in this case the rape of a nine year old handicapped child. Matters such as crime and morality should be the concern of any MP. So, what do these things mean in electoral politics? No one is elected because he or she fights against crime but their concerns about morality. In the electoral world of Bangladesh tears about rape and protecting little children do not catch votes. Bangladeshi electors do not expect their members of parliament to have hearts and minds. A little bit of hypocrisy to cry behalf of children and even victims of rape during election meetings makes it good theatre and voters enjoy such specters. But, who attaches any real importance to such matters; no one.

What is important is to be a good patron. Stand by those who elect you in good, bad, and ugly occasions. Do not allow them to be harassed by such things as criminal prosecutions.

Above all things the local politician who knows the rules of survival must keep a tight grip of the local police. The officer in charge of a police station is a vital pawn for an MP. He should do what the MP wants and nothing more. The MP should know what crimes should be investigated and what crimes should not be investigated.

Such is the morality and law in Bangladesh. As long as the MP’s control the local police stations, the ruling party will have a stable government. If things like rape are taken seriously the political stability will suffer a great set back. A father outraged by the rape of his minor child should not be allowed to damage the political survival of a member of the parliament. Such fathers should learn to control their emotions and not disturb the political well being of the MP. Morality and law, so what.

The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Document ID :AHRC-ETC-009-2010
Countries : Bangladesh
Date : 19-08-2010