08/10/2018, 15.07
BANGLADESH
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When sexual harassment turns into blackmail a young Catholic woman commits suicide

by Sumon Corraya

The attackers had forced her to undress and videoed her with a mobile phone. Shipra had filed a case with the police and asked help from the authorities to no avail. The family and the parish priest want justice for her.

Natore (AsiaNews) – Shipra Costa was 30 when she committed suicide at her home last Tuesday night. The Catholic woman from Borni, Natore (Diocese of Rajshahi) had been attacked and blackmailed with a video that showed her naked. She leaves a husband and two daughters aged nine and six.

On the evening of 17 July, Saha Alam, a Muslim food store owner, went to see Shipra at her home. When she opened the door, three young Muslim men arrived – identified as Alam Fakir, Sabuj Sarker and Abu Hana – who forced their way in.

The three accused Shipra and Saha of having an illicit affair and started beating them. They tried to rape Shipra, verbally attacked her and threatened to kill both if she did not take off her clothes.

The attackers filmed her, undressed, and stole 10,000 takas (about US$ 120), a mobile phone and a gold chain.

The attackers threaten Shipra with blackmail, telling her that "If you tell anyone of what happened today, we will post the video of you naked on Facebook."

The next day, the young woman and her family went to the local police to file a complaint (picture 3), but the police refused to register it. The family then sought justice from a local official, Tujamal Haq. Again, they did not get a positive answer.

The police decided to follow up the case only after Shipra’s death. "We listened to the complaint, but it had some shortcomings,” said Dilif Kumar Das, head of the Barigram police station, speaking to AsiaNews. “The attackers fled but we are looking for them. No one involved with Shipra's death will be allowed to get away."

"The culprits are powerful and influential," said Kuti Costa, the victim’s father. "We were afraid that they might do worse with us and our daughter, had they uploaded the video on social media. We were under pressure. If our daughter had been treated with justice, maybe she would not have killed herself. She could not bear the pressure. I want exemplary punishment."

Shipra's husband, Dominic Rozario, works in Dhaka. He himself want those involved in his beloved wife’s death punished. On 7 August, he was with his daughters at the doctor's office.

That evening, Shipra was home, alone, and hanged herself. Yesterday, the young woman was laid to rest. In his address during the funeral, the local parish priest echoed the family's call for justice.

The Catholic Church in Borni has 4,861 members.

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