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    Nusrat Jahan Rafi: Death penalty for 16 who set student on fire

    October 24, 2019

    A Bangladesh court has sentenced 16 people to death for the murder of a student set on fire after accusing her teacher of sexual harassment.Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 19, died in April in Feni, a small town some 160km (100 miles) outside the capital Dhaka.The headteacher Nusrat had accused of harassment and two female classmates were among those convicted.Her murder shocked the country and led to a series of protests demanding justice for Nusrat.The trial has been one of the quickest in a country where such cases usually take years to conclude. Prosecutor Hafez Ahmed told reporters it proved "that nobody will get away with murder in Bangladesh".Lawyers for the defendants say they will appeal.
    The investigation into Nusrat's death revealed a conspiracy to silence her which included her own classmates and a number of powerful men from within the community.Three teachers, including the headmaster, Siraj Ud Doula, who police say ordered the killing from prison after he was arrested under suspicion of harassment, were found guilty by the court on Thursday. Another two of the defendants convicted, Ruhul Amin and Maksud Alam, are local leaders of the ruling Awami League party.A number of local police were found to have collaborated with those convicted in spreading false information that Nusrat had committed suicide. The officers were not among those tried for Nusrat's murder.
    Nusrat went to police to allege headteacher Siraj Ud Doula (centre) sexually harassed her last MarchNusrat's family, who supported her decision to go to police back in March, have since been given police protection. Her brother Mahmudul Hasan Noman said they were still in fear for their lives."You already know they threatened me in public inside the courtroom," he told reporters. "I am very afraid. I am urging the prime minister to ensure our security. And the police super should also keep a track on our wellbeing."However, the family welcomed the verdict, asking for the sentence to be carried out quickly. In Bangladesh, the death penalty is carried out by hanging
    When the judge announced the verdict, some of the defendants burst into tears, while others shouted out across the courtroom that they had been denied justice.But in Bangladesh, it is more usually women like Nusrat who are denied justice.Sexual harassment in Bangladesh's education institutions - including madrassas like the one Nusrat attended - is widespread, while the cost of speaking out is high.What happened to Nusrat?
    She was lured to her school's rooftop on 6 April this year, 11 days after she reported the headmaster to police for repeatedly touching her inappropriately.Nusrat was then surrounded by four or five people wearing burqas, pressuring her to withdraw her complaint.
    When she refused, they set her on fire.According to police, they had hoped to make it look like a suicide. Instead, she managed to escape and get help.
    The investigation revealed a widespread plot involving 16 people (seen here inside a prison van)
    But knowing she was badly hurt, she gave a statement which her brother filmed on his phone."The teacher touched me, I will fight this crime till my last breath," she says, naming some of her attackers.Nusrat, who had sustained burns to 80% of her body, died four days later, on 10 April.How widespread is sexual abuse in Bangladesh?Sexual harassment is thought to be relatively commonplace in Bangladesh: a recent report by charity ActionAid earlier this year found 80% of women working in Bangladesh's garment industry have either seen or experienced sexual violence at work.
    Meanwhile, women's rights group Mahila Parishad said that, in the first six months of 2019, a total of 26 women were killed after being sexually assaulted, 592 were allegedly raped and 113 women said they were gang raped.However, these are just the reported figures: there are fears the true number is far higher.Speaking out like Nusrat is still uncommon as reporting sexual harassment carries risks. Victims often face judgement from their communities, harassment, in person and online, and in some cases violent attacks.
    Susrat was particularly unusual because she went to the police. They filmed her statement on a mobile phone - which was later leaked to the media.
    Meanwhile, protesters took to the streets to demand the release of the headmaster, leading her family to fear for her safety.How did the public react to Nusrat's murder?The case sparked mass protests in Bangladesh and shone a spotlight on the vulnerability of victims of sexual assault and harassment in the country.Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina publicly pledged that "none of the culprits will be spared from legal action". Her interest in the case was praised by the family."We never imagined that justice will be ensured so fast by the prime minister," Mahmudul Hasan Noman told reporters. "We want to express our gratitude to her directly in person. Hopefully she will give us a chance to do it. "The police initially dismissed the sexual harassment allegations but laid charges against the 16 accused in May. The specially fast-tracked hearing took just 62 days to complete.Activists say the killing exposed a culture of impunity around sex crimes. Whether more victims of sexual abuse will feel emboldened to come forward following Nusrat's case remains to be seen.

    Burned to death for reporting sexual harassment
    By Mir Sabbir
    BBC Bengali, Dhaka
    18 April 2019
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    Image copyrightFAMILY HANDOUT
    Nusrat Jahan Rafi was doused with kerosene and set on fire at her school in Bangladesh. Less than two weeks earlier, she had filed a sexual harassment complaint against her headmaster.

    Her courage in speaking out against sexual assault, her death five days after being set alight and everything that happened in-between has gripped Bangladesh and brought attention to the vulnerability of sexual harassment victims in this conservative South Asian country.

    Nusrat, who was 19, was from Feni, a small town 100 miles (160km) south of Dhaka. She was studying at a madrassa, or Islamic school. On 27 March, she said the headmaster called her into his office and repeatedly touched her in an inappropriate manner. Before things could go any further she ran out.

    Many girls and young women in Bangladesh choose to keep their experiences of sexual harassment or abuse secret for fear of being shamed by society or their families. What made Nusrat Jahan different is that she didn't just speak out - she went to the police with the help of her family on the day the alleged abuse happened.

    At the local police station she gave a statement. She should have been provided with a safe environment to recall her traumatic experiences. Instead she was filmed by the officer in charge on his phone as she described the ordeal.

    In the video Nusrat is visibly distressed and tries to hide her face with her hands. The policeman is heard calling the complaint "no big deal" and telling her to move her hands from her face. The video was later leaked to local media.

    'I tried to take her to school'
    Image copyrightNURPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES
    Image caption
    Protests have been held in Dhaka and in Feni - Nusrat's hometown
    Nusrat Jahan Rafi was from a small town, came from a conservative family, and went to a religious school. For a girl in her position, reporting sexual harassment can come with consequences. Victims often face judgement from their communities, harassment, in person and online, and in some cases violent attacks. Nusrat went on to experience all of these.

    On 27 March, after she went to the police, they arrested the headmaster. Things then got 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 say they started to worry about her safety.

    Nevertheless, on 6 April, 11 days after the alleged sexual assault, Nusrat went to her school to sit her final exams.

    "I tried to take my sister to school and tried to enter the premises, but I was stopped and wasn't allowed to enter," said Nusrat's brother, Mahmudul Hasan Noman.

    "If I hadn't been stopped, something like this wouldn't have happened to my sister," he said.

    Image copyrightSHAHADAT HOSSAIN
    Image caption
    Nusrat Jahan's brother grieves at her funeral
    According to a statement given by Nusrat, 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.

    But when Nusrat was taken to a local hospital, doctors found burns covering 80% of her body. Unable to treat the burns, they sent her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

    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.

    She also identified some of her attackers as students at the madrassa.

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    News of Nusrat's health dominated Bangladeshi media. On 10 April, she died. Thousands of people turned out for her funeral in Feni.

    Police have since arrested 15 people, seven of them allegedly involved in the murder. Among those arrested are the two male students who organised the protest in support of the headmaster. The headmaster himself remains in custody. The policeman who filmed Nusrat's sexual harassment complaint has been removed from his post and transferred to another department.

    Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met Nusrat's family in Dhaka and promised that every person involved in the killing would be brought to justice. "None of the culprits will be spared from legal action," she said.

    Image copyrightSHAHADAT HOSSAIN
    Image caption
    Huge crowds gathered in Nusrat's hometown for her funeral
    Nusrat's death has sparked protests and thousands have used social media to express their anger about both her case and the treatment of sexual assault victims in Bangladesh.

    "Many girls don't protest out of fear after such incidents. Burqas, even dresses made of iron cannot stop rapists," said Anowar Sheikh on BBC Bengali's Facebook page.

    "I wanted a daughter my whole life, but now I am afraid. Giving birth to a daughter in this country means a life of fear and worry," wrote Lopa Hossain in her Facebook post.

    According to women's rights group Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, there were 940 incidents of rape in Bangladesh in 2018. But researchers say the real number is likely to be much higher.

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    "When a woman tries to get justice for sexual harassment, she has to face a lot of harassment again. The case lingers for years, there is shaming in society, a lack of willingness from police to properly investigate the allegations," said Salma Ali, a human rights lawyer and former director of the Women Lawyers' Association.

    "It leads the victim to give up on seeking justice. Ultimately the criminals don't get punished and they do the same crime again. Others don't fear to do the same because of such examples."Now people are asking: Why did Nusrat's case only get attention after she was attacked? And will her case change the way people view sexual harassment in Bangladesh?Nusrat's family have been left distraughtIn 2009, the country's Supreme Court passed an order to establish sexual harassment cells in all educational institutions where students can take their complaints, but very few schools have taken up the initiative. Activists are now demanding the order be implemented and enshrined in law to protect students."This incident has shaken us, but as we have seen in the past, such incidents get forgotten in time. I don't think there will be a big change after this. We have to see if justice gets done," said Professor Kaberi Gayen of the University of Dhaka."Change has to come in, both psychologically and in implementing the rule of law. Awareness about sexual harassment should be raised from childhood in schools," she said."They have to learn what is right and wrong when it comes to sexual harassment."

    The women killed on one day around the world
    25 November 2018
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    An average of 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or family member every day, according to new data released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

    They say it makes "the home the most likely place for a woman to be killed".

    More than half of the 87,000 women killed in 2017 were reported as dying at the hands of those closest to them.

    Of that figure, approximately 30,000 women were killed by an intimate partner and another 20,000 by a relative.

    BBC 100 Women wanted to find out more about the women behind the numbers. We spent October monitoring reports of gender-related killings of women on the first day of that month. We will share some of their stories below and find out more about how these killings were reported.

    Male homicide rates still higher
    The data collected by UNODC highlights that "men are around four times more likely than women to lose their lives as a result of intentional homicide".

    The UN indicates that men accounted for eight out of 10 homicide victims worldwide.

    However, the same report suggests that more than eight out of 10 victims of homicides committed by intimate partners are female.

    "Intimate partner violence continues to take a disproportionately heavy toll on women," the report states.

    Forty-seven women, 21 countries, one day
    The UN statistics summarise the findings for 2017 based on homicide statistics provided by government sources. The figures for "gender-related killings of women and girls", or "femicide", are collated using the criteria of intimate partner/family-related homicide.

    BBC 100 Women and BBC Monitoring set out to find out more about the women behind the numbers.

    We monitored press coverage of women killed by another person on 1 October 2018 around the world. Our regional specialists counted 47 women reported killed, apparently for gender-related reasons, in 21 different countries. Most of these killings are still being investigated.

    Women whose killings were reported by the media on 1 October 2018
    Neha Sharad Chaudhary, age 18, was killed in Malegaon, India
    An unnamed woman, age 31, was killed in Mashhad, Iran
    Linda Miller, age 66, was killed in Indianapolis, United States
    An unnamed girl, age 17, was killed in Alipur, India
    Judith Chesang, age 22, was killed in Baringo, Kenya
    Farzana Bibi, age 22, was killed in Pakpattan, Pakistan
    Dina Mapelli, age 77, was killed in Vimercate, Italy
    Sandra Lucia Hammer Moura, age 39, was killed in Palmas, Brazil
    Jennifer Majín Males, age 24, was killed in Los Cámbulos, Colombia
    An unnamed woman, age 82, was killed in Dracsani, Romania
    Yanet Nuñez Niclouse, age 46, was killed in Rio Claro, Chile
    Ritu Devi, age unknown, was killed in Neeli, India
    An unnamed woman, age 30, was killed in Amsterdam, Netherlands
    An unnamed girl, age five, was killed in Amsterdam, Netherlands
    An unnamed woman, age 67, was killed in Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Katty Mayorly Jácome Hernández, age 34, was killed in Cúcuta, Colombia
    Niah, age unknown, was killed in Dumai, Indonesia
    Marie-Amelie Vaillat, age 36, was killed in Oyonnax, France
    An unnamed woman, age 85, was killed in Kawasaki, Japan
    Vanessa Vicente da Silva, age 27, was killed in Serra Talhada, Brazil
    Resti Nova Dila, age 20, was killed in South Solok, Indonesia
    T. Zh, age unknown, was killed in Asaka district, Uzbekistan
    Justina Coelho Lopes, age 69, was killed in Bauru, Brazil
    Griselda Iria Osorio Álvarez, age 21, was killed in Tijuana, Mexico
    Edineuza Costa Silva was killed in Quixeramobim, Brazil
    Paula Andrea Alvarez Morales, age 35, was killed in Ciudad Bolivar, Colombia
    An unnamed girl was killed in Tandlianwala, Pakistan
    Maria Gladis Herrera de Damian, age 55, was killed in San Pedro Puxtla, El Salvador
    Tábata Amscoli de Paz López, age 18, was killed in Guatemala City, Guatemala
    Barbie Pigg, age 49, was killed in Middlesbrough, UK
    Leoncia Tupas, age 67, was killed in Quezon City, Philippines
    Vilma Josefina Contreras, age 55, was killed in Huiziltepeque, El Salvador
    An unnamed woman was killed in Belem, Brazil
    An unnamed woman, age 39, was killed in Campeche, Mexico
    Emily Punzalan Bucay, age 27, was killed in Quezon City, Philippines
    An unnamed woman was killed in Tapachula, Mexico
    Gabriela da Rosa Silva, age 18, was killed in Porto Alegre, Brazil
    An unnamed woman was killed in Lahore, Pakistan
    Zeinab Sekaanvand, age 24, was killed in Urumieh, Iran
    Unmar Sanam, age 50, was killed in Birmingham, UK
    Rute Maria da Conceicao, age 36, was killed in Olinda, Brazil
    Avan Najmadeen, age 32, was killed in Stoke-on-Trent, UK
    Karen Groves, age 58, was killed in Indianapolis, United States
    Damaris Yoselin "N", age 18, was killed in Acapulco, Mexico
    Milaine Ferreira de Oliveira, age 19, was killed in Minas Gerais, Brazil
    An unnamed woman, age 61, was killed in Vanj district, Tajikistan
    Supinah, age 48, was killed in Sekadau Hilir, Indonesia
    An unnamed girl, age 17, was killed in Alipur, India


    Here are five of these cases, reported initially by local media and then verified by local authorities the BBC contacted.

    Image copyrightFAMILY HANDOUT
    Judith Chesang, 22, Kenya
    On Monday 1 October, Judith Chesang and her sister Nancy were out in the fields harvesting their sorghum crop.

    Judith, a mother of three, had recently separated from her husband, Laban Kamuren, and had decided to return to her parents' village in the north of the country.

    Soon after the sisters began their duties, he arrived at the family farm where he attacked and killed Judith.

    Local police say he has since been killed by villagers.

    Africa was where women ran the greatest risk of being killed by their intimate partner or family member, the UN report says. It occurred at a rate of 3.1 deaths per 100,000 people.

    Asia had the greatest number of women killed by intimate partners or family members in 2017, with a total of 20,000.

    Image copyrightMANOHAR SHEWALE
    Neha Sharad Chaudury, 18, India
    Neha Sharad Chaudury died in a suspected "honour" killing on her 18th birthday. She had been out celebrating with her boyfriend. Police confirmed to the BBC that her parents did not approve of the relationship.

    Her parents and another male relative are accused of killing her in their home that evening.

    The investigation continues and the three remain in judicial custody awaiting trial.

    The BBC has learned from the lawyer representing Neha's parents and her male relative that they intend to deny the charges.

    Hundreds of people are killed each year for falling in love or marrying against their families' wishes. Official data on so-called honour killings is hard to come by as such crimes are often unrecorded or unreported.

    Zeinab Sekaanvan, 24, Iran
    Zeinab Sekaanvan was executed by the Iranian authorities for murdering her husband.

    Zeinab was born in the north-west of Iran into a poor conservative family of Kurdish origin. She ran away as a teenager to marry in the hope of finding a better life.

    Amnesty International says her husband was abusive and had refused to grant her a divorce, and that her complaints were ignored by police.

    She was arrested for the killing of her husband at the age of 17.

    Her supporters, including Amnesty, say she was tortured to confess to the killing of her husband, beaten by police and did not receive a fair trial.

    The UNODC report suggests women who kill intimate partners have often experienced "extended periods of suffering physical violence".

    Meanwhile, the motivations typically expressed by male perpetrators include "possessiveness, jealousy and fear of abandonment", the report says. This appears to be the case with another long-term couple who were found dead in Brazil on the same day that Zeinab was executed.

    Image copyrightREPRODUCTION / FACEBOOK
    Sandra Lucia Hammer Moura, 39, Brazil
    Sandra Lucia Hammer Moura married Augusto Aguiar Ribeiro at the age of 16.

    The couple had been separated for five months when she was killed by him.

    Police in Jardim Taquari confirmed to BBC Brasil that she was stabbed in the neck.

    They found a video of her husband confessing to the crime on his mobile phone. In it, he said that Sandra was already dating another man and he felt betrayed.

    He also said in the video that he would not be arrested as the couple would go to the "glory of the Lord" together. He then hanged himself in what had been their bedroom.

    Sandra's case highlights a form of killing known as a "murder-suicide" - when an individual kills one or more people before killing themselves.

    BBC Monitoring found 14 cases of women killed on 1 October this year in Latin America. Two were in El Salvador.

    Authorities in El Salvador have told the BBC that at least 300 women have been killed so far in 2018. Karla Turcios is one of them. Watch her story here.


    Media captionIs El Salvador the worst country to be a woman?
    Marie-Amélie Vaillat, 36, France
    Marie-Amélie was stabbed to death by her husband, Sébastien Vaillat.

    The couple had separated after four years of marriage.

    He attacked her with a knife before confessing to the police. A few days later, he killed himself in prison.

    Outside the door of Marie-Amélie Vaillat's lingerie shop on Rue Bichat, residents left a sea of flowers and organised a march in her memory.

    The killing of Marie-Amélie came on the same day that the French government announced new plans to tackle domestic abuse.


    A march in memory of Marie-Amélie Vaillat
    What does it take for a woman's killing to be reported?
    To collect these stories, BBC Monitoring's international network of journalists and researchers analysed TV, radio, print, online and social media around the world, looking for reports of women killed, apparently for gender-related reasons, on 1 October 2018.

    They found a total of 47 reports of women killed on that one day around the world. We have shared just some of those cases. There are many more where the motives were unclear, or the perpetrators unidentified.

    The new UNODC report suggests that a large share of violence against women is "widely underreported to authorities and that a large share of such violence is hidden".

    Rebecca Skippage, who led the project for BBC Monitoring, found that behind the numbers, "the way in which the media reported their lives and deaths revealed a huge amount about how women are viewed by different societies around the world".

    She explains: "We were looking for deaths within one day, but we searched for that day's stories for a month. We found that the time-lag in reporting, the tone of the coverage or the scarcity of information often told a wider tale about the status of women in that region."

    Maryam Azwer works for BBC Monitoring and drew much of the final data together.

    "This is as much about the deaths that aren't reported, as those that are," she says.

    "Those whose stories never reached the media, that went unreported, were unverified, or were not or could not be investigated. It makes you wonder: what does it take to make a woman's killing important enough to be reported?"

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