07/08/2019, 15.38
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Rape cases in madrasas are up as one principal is arrested

The headmaster, who is also the imam of the nearby mosque, is the second rapist detained in a week. Last year at least 433 children were sexually abused. A "culture of impunity" protects the culprits.


Dhaka (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The headmaster of a Bangladeshi madrasa has been arrested on charges of sexual violence.

Abul Khair Belali, 33, runs the Qurʼānic school of Kendua, near Mymensingh, and is the imam of the nearby mosque. Police took him away in handcuffs following a complaint by a student.

He is the second principal arrested in a week, the tip of an iceberg, that of violence in Islamic schools, which is coming to light thanks to victims speaking out.

Police chief Mohammad Rasheduzzaman said that the Muslim cleric confessed to raping two girls, an eight-year-old and an 11-year-old, as well as harassing six other students.

The madrasa also runs a dormitory with 15 girls from nearby villages.

This case follows the arrest last week of Maulana Al Amin, who was accused of abusing 12 student in Fatullah, a town near the city of Narayanganj.

The problem of sexual abuse inside Islamic religious schools is raising concern and causing outrage.

The country has thousands of madrasas, which cater especially to students from poor families, who would otherwise not have the means to send their children to school.

The problem of sexual abuse came to prominence with the case of Nusrat Jahan Rafi, a 19-year-old student raped by the headmaster of her school in Feni (south-east Bangladesh).

He demanded she drop the complaint. Faced with her refusal, he tricked her into coming to the roof of the school, where he set her on fire. She died after four days of agony.

For Shahid, president of the Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum, an NGO that defends the rights of children, sexual violence is done to both girls and boys.

A "culture of impunity" that hides things allows attackers to act undisturbed, reassured by the knowledge that only in a very few cases was the culprit indicted.

This time however, the arrest of the imam in Kendua pushed hundreds of people to protest in the streets, demanding an exemplary punishment for the rapist.

According to the Manusher Jonno Foundation, at least 433 children were victims of sexual violence last year. Most of them were aged 7 to 12.

"[I]t is evident that we are not doing enough to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our society are safe from the destructive clutches of the sexually deviant,” reads an editorial published today in the Dhaka Tribune, one of the country's main newspapers.

Indeed, “It is evident that a big part of the problem lies in the fact that social perceptions of sex and sexual violence remain regressive, with many in society blaming or shunning the victims”.

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