26th May 2003. It has been over a decade, but I still remember this day. It was the day which gave me the tag of being ‘indecent.’ It was the day I realized that I am a girl who failed to protect herself from the evil eyes.
In case you are wondering if I was sexually abused, well, I was not. But I paid the price for trying to save myself. To many, it may sound like a very ridiculous story, but this is what really happened to me. I was only 12 years old and was studying in grade 6. We had just shifted to a new neighborhood, into a building that was still under construction. Just opposite to the building, there was an Orphanage-cum-Madrassa.
The teenage boys living in the orphanage had a notorious reputation of passing comments at girls in the neighborhood. One of these guys, let me call him Shahidul, took particular interest in me. He was at least 4-5 years senior to me. He started displaying his interests by sending love letters to me through the maid in our house; whenever she would go downstairs to throw the garbage, he would block her way and hand over his letters to me. I was terrified of him and didn’t have the courage to tell about him to my mother. He took advantage of my vulnerability and started standing in front of my school gate after school hours to catch a glimpse of me.
One particular day, my mother was late and I was only left with my best friend, her sister and sister’s friends who knew about my plight. My mother was not turning up and neither was he leaving. I just could not take it anymore. We went up to our security guards and told them he had been stalking me for the past few weeks. Shahidul got a hint of what is going on and tried to escape but as luck would have it, he was tied up by the guards. I thought my trauma is over. Hell no! It was just the beginning.
At school, many of my classmates’ mothers defined me as a bad girl. It was as if I was the one who seduced the poor fella! At neighborhood also people taunted me. I sank into depression for a while and to this date, somewhere deep down my heart, I feel the pain. I still feel betrayed, offended and hurt.
I was just a 12-year-old girl and it does not make any sense to me the accusations I have had to tolerate only because someone was obsessed and decided to stalk me. I shiver at the thought of what I might have been subjected to if I had not spoken up on that day and let things turn worse for me. Nevertheless, speaking up might have saved me from him, but it didn’t save me from conservative mindsets of people around me.
When I hear incidents of girls committing suicide after being raped, I am not surprised. Because at the end of the day, our society’s accusing finger always gravitates towards a girl. Always.
How will we stop the violence against women in our society? What makes girls commit suicide? Because a girl’s respect is equated to her chastity and when a girl is raped or ditched by her boyfriend, it is us who question her character, it is us who never let her get over her past.
We want such girls to die; we don’t want them to emerge again in life. We want them to die and then sympathize with them or curse them for their lack of morality. In our society, girls rarely commit suicide; these are cases of collective murder. We are killing them. They never kill themselves; they just escape far from our accusing fingers and dirty looks.
- By “Morality”, the writer talks about the notion of morality in Bangladeshi society.
- “Because a girl’s respect is equated to her chastity and when a girl is raped or ditched by her boyfriend, it is us who question her character, it is us who never let her get over her past.” Here the writer talks about the patriarchal burden on women in Bangladesh.