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Christian And Muslim Leaders Demand Punishment For Rape, Killing Of Christian Girl

6/9/08 DHAKA, Bangladesh (UCAN) — Muslims and Hindus joined Christians at a meeting near Dhaka to demand the arrest of the culprits who raped and murdered a Christian schoolgirl, as well as protection for her family.

ba_toomilia_parish.gifAbout 300 people attended a protest meeting on June 7 at Toomilia Boys’ High School to call for justice in the April 30 rape of 14-year-old Bituny Asru D’Silva. Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA) organized the meeting.

Participants demanded the arrest of the culprits who raped the girl and her mother at their home, poisoned the girl and then killed her in the hospital where she was receiving treatment. They demanded safety for the girl’s family, which reported receiving threats, and for all school-age girls.

After the meeting, representatives went to the nearby Kaliganj police station and handed over a memorandum of protest addressed to the Gazipur District commissioner. Toomilia parish is about 40 kilometers northeast of Dhaka.

The girl’s rape and killing made national newspaper headlines, but BCA secretary Nirmol Rozario told UCA News before the meeting that even though suspects in the case had been identified, none had been arrested.

He added that after appearing at a media press conference to protest the rape and killing of their daughter, James D’Silva and his wife locked up their house and fled into hiding.

Rozario said Toomilia union council chairman Abu Bakar Bakku told him and other BCA representatives that the three suspects “are terrorists. He quoted the Muslim official as saying he strongly protests the killing, and demands justice be done and the offenders punished.

Most rapes in the predominantly Muslim Bangladesh are committed against girls and women of minority groups — Christians, Hindus and tribal, Rozario said.

According to Rosaline Costa, coordinator of Hotline Human Rights Bangladesh, the rate of violence, including rape, against minority women has been increasing in the country over the last few decades.

Costa claimed some Islamic fundamentalists consider rape “the number-one instrument for cleansing the minority community.”

Costa told UCA News on June 8 that previously the media did not report rapes, but that the press now reports about 25 percent of these cases. However, she said only 5 percent of rapes against the minority communities receive publicity.

Najjota (rightfulness), the hotline’s bimonthly newsletter, counted media reports of rape cases involving 175 girls and women of various religions from March 2007 to February 2008. Of these victims, 54 were killed. The population of Bangladesh currently stands at about 150 million people.

Going public about rape can be dangerous.

“Once an issue of the rape of a minority girl or woman is published in the press, more pressure (from the offenders) is created for the victims,” Costa said, claiming only 2 percent of the rapists are arrested.

The Catholic rights activist suggested rapists see minority communities as weak and powerless, since their numbers are small. She claimed that sometimes local law-enforcement authorities prefer to resolve a rape through local arbitration rather than recording it as a criminal case, allowing rapists to get away with minimal punishment.