Student burned to death for reporting sexual harassment in Bangladesh

Published: April 19, 2019
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Nusrat Jahan Rafi. PHOTO: BBC

Nusrat Jahan Rafi. PHOTO: BBC

Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 19, was drenched with kerosene and set on fire at her school in Bangladesh just two weeks after she had filed a sexual harassment complaint against her headmaster.

According to BBC, her death had gripped Dhaka and brought attention to the vulnerability of sexual harassment victims in the country.

Nusrat was from Feni, a small town south of Dhaka. She was studying at a madrassa.

On 27 March, she was called by her headmaster into his office, who repeatedly touched her in an inappropriate manner. Before things got worst, she ran out.

The victim with the help of her family went to the police station and gave a statement against the headmaster. The police officer in charge filmed her statement on his phone as she described her ordeal.

Nusrat, who was visibly distressed in the video and tries to hide her face with her hands. The policeman is heard calling the complaint “no big deal” and told the victim to move her hands from her face. The video was later leaked to local media.

10-year-old girl subjected to sexual assault

Victims in Bangladesh often face discrimination from their families, communities and in some cases violent attacks.

After she went to the police, they arrested the headmaster. Things then got even worst for Nusrat as protest calling for the release of the headmaster was arranged by two male students and local politicians. People started to blame Nusrat and her family began to worry about her safety.

Despite the challenges, on 6 April, Nusrat was sent to her school to sit her final exams.

According to a statement given by Nusrat, a fellow female student took her to the roof of her school, where four or five people wearing burqas surrounded her and pressured her to withdraw the case. When she declined, they set her on fire.

2018 witnesses no respite in violence against women

According to police, the killers wanted “to make it look like a suicide” but Nursat was rescued from the scene of the crime.

She was taken to a local hospital, where doctors found burns covering 80% of her body. Unable to treat her burns, she was sent to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

In the ambulance, Nusrat recorded a statement on her brother’s mobile phone, where she identified some of her attackers as students at the madrassa.

News of Nusrat’s health dominated Bangladeshi media. On 10 April, thousands of people turned out for her funeral in Feni.

Nusrat’s death has sparked protests, as thousands of protesters came on to social media to express their anger.

The headmaster remains in custody and the policeman who filmed Nusrat’s sexual harassment complaint was transferred to another department.

The story originally appeared on BBC

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