Feb 16, 2018

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Law Enforcement Officers Continue Harassment Following Rape of Marma Sisters by Local Security Forces

 Following the rape of the two Marma sisters by law enforcement officers, the conflict seems to be far from over. Hospital attendants who were caring for the two victims were seen beaten by recognized law enforcement officers in plain clothes. The two victims are now staying at a relative’s house in town under police protection, as they fear stigmatisation if they return to their village. Frequent police sexual violence and discrimination are a horrible reality for indigenous women in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region of Bangladesh.

The following article was published by NEWAGE:

Two Marma sisters, who were undergoing treatment at Rangamati General Hospital reportedly being raped and molested by security forces on January 22, were picked up from the hospital allegedly by law enforcers on Thursday. ‘We have handed the victims over to the law enforcement agency members following court order at about 7:30pm,’ Rangamti deputy civil surgeon Nihar Ranjan Nandi told New Age.

Nihar said that the court had ordered them to hand over the victims to their parents, but the victims were unwilling to go back to the custody of their parents. He said that the victims were under law enforcers’ surveillance since their admission at the hospital and the law enforcers were with the parents when they had come to take their daughters.

Chakma circle chief Devasish Roy said that he knew of two volunteers who were with the victims when the law enforcers came to take them away. One of the volunteers was a woman who was assaulted by the law enforcers while the other one was an office staff of him who was thrown out of the hospital.
Explaining the situation under which the victims were taken away from the hospital, Devasish said that ‘force was used’ and his office staff was ‘forced out’.

Adviser to Chakma Circle at Chakma king’s office Yan Yan, also Chakma queen, was with the victims when more than a dozen women and men in plainclothes entered the room where the victims were staying on the first floor of the hospital at about 7:00pm. They started beating the victims’ attendants, including Yan, and dragged them to the ground floor, kicking and punching. Yan managed to flee from there. 

‘I saw the victims were crying as they were being dragged out of the room too,’ said Yan, adding that other attendants knew the attackers by their face as being members of law enforcement agencies.
Rangamati superintendent of police Sayeed Tarikul Hassan claimed that the Marma sisters were put in their parents’ custody after being released from the hospital following a court order. ‘The family is now staying at a relative’s house in the town under police protection,’ he said. He denied that force was sued in taking away the sisters from the hospital. 

The Marma sisters, aged 17 and 14, were allegedly raped and molested at their house at Orachari in Bilaichari early January 22. The elder sister later told rights activists that her rapists were in army uniform, an allegation denied by the army. The victims were admitted to Rangamati General Hospital on January 23. 

On February 8, six prominent rights activists in a writ petition sought a High Court directive to put the victims in Devasish Roy’s custody for they were not willing either to go back to their village or to the custody of their parents. The rights activists in their petition to the court said that the victims were afraid that they might face social stigma if returned to village. They did not want to go back to parents over security concerns, according to the petition. The petitioners are rights activists Sultana Kamal, Khushi Kabir, Ziauddin Tariq Ali, ABM Shamsul Huda, Gitiara Nasreen, and Shireen Parvin Huq. The court adjourned the hearing in the petition till February 13 asking the petitioners to produce some documents.
On February 12, the victims’ father filed a writ petition seeking custody of their daughters. The next day A High Court bench ordered the custody and also ordered police to provide protection to the family. 
Senior lawyer Kamal Hossain, who stood before the court on behalf of the rights activists, on Thursday appealed against the order to put the victims in their parents’ custody. 
Devasish expected that the appellate division would hear the petition on Sunday.

Photo courtesy of Adam Jones