Photo Credits:Kanyi Daily
Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 19-year-old girl from Feni (a small town 100 miles [160km] south of Dhaka) filed a sexual harassment complaint against her headmaster. Almost two weeks later she was set on fire at her school. Nusrat suffered 80% burns to her body and died 10 days later from her injuries.
Despite the fact she lived in a conservative country such as Bangladesh, Nusrat decided to raise the issue with police on the same day. A police officer filmed her evidence on his smartphone. When her distressed testimony was leaked to local media by police after the arrest of the head teacher, Nusrat faced abuse and threats of violence from the local community as she tried to continue attending school. In Bangladesh, many girls choose to keep their experiences of sexual harassment or abuse secret for fear of being shamed by society or their families.
As BBC reports: On March 27th, after she went to the police, they arrested the headmaster. Things then became worse for Nusrat. A group of people gathered in the streets demanding his release. The protest had been arranged by two male students and local politicians were allegedly in attendance. People began to blame Nusrat. Her family says they started to worry about her safety.
Nusrat went to her school to take her final exams on April 6th. According to her statement, a fellow female student took her to the roof of the school, saying one of her friends was being beaten up. When Nusrat reached the rooftop four or five people, wearing burqas, surrounded her and allegedly pressured her to withdraw the case against the headmaster. When she refused, they set her on fire.
Police Bureau of Investigation chief Banaj Kumar Majumder said the killers wanted "to make it look like a suicide." Their plan failed when Nusrat was rescued after they fled the scene. She was able to give a statement before she died.
"One of the killers was holding her head down with his hands, so kerosene wasn't poured there and that's why her head wasn't burned," Mr Majumder told BBC Bengali.
In the ambulance, fearing she might not survive, she recorded a statement on her brother’s mobile phone. “The teacher touched me. I will fight this crime till my last breath,” you can hear her say.
Let’s hope the Nusrat’s case would bring attention to the vulnerability of sexual harassment victims in this conservative South Asian country. Also, her courage may in the future help other young women to fight against sexual violence in school, at job or in the family.