A schoolgirl aged 19 was burned to death in Bangladesh on the orders of her head teacher after she had reported him for sexually harassing her. The demise of Nusrat Jahan Rafi flickered protests across the South Asian nation last week. This included statements from the country’s Prime Minister Sheik Hasina promising to prosecute to all those who are involved.
Nusrat was lured to the rooftop of her school, where the attackers asked her to withdraw the complaint she had filed against the head teacher to the police. When she refused to do so, they poured kerosene on her and set her on fire. Police had said that one of the 17 people arrested is connected with her death and had accused the school’s head teacher of ordering the attack.
Nusrat had gone to the police in late March to report the sexual harassment and had leaked a video, which shows the local police station chief registering her complaint, but dismissing it stating that it is not a big deal.
Mohammad Iqbal, who is leading the investigation had said that at least five of those who are under arrest, including three of Nusrat’s classmates, had tied her up with a scarf before setting her on fire. He also mentioned that the plan was to make it look like a suicide, but it didn’t work as Nusrat managed to come downstairs while on fire because the scarf burnt and freed her hands and feet. Nusrat died on 10th April after she suffered burns to 80% of her body.
She recorded a video before her death, giving her statement against the head teacher. She also stated, “The teacher touched me, and I will fight this crime till my last breath”. She also identified some of the attackers. Nusrat’s brother Mahmudul Hasan Noman said that the people close to the head teacher had also tried to put pressure on the family to withdraw the case against him.
This case has caused shame in Bangladesh, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promising that “legal action will be taken and the culprits will not be spared”.
Human Right organisations have asserted that the number of sexual assault cases has been increased in Bangladesh, as authorities have failed to prosecute the attackers. South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Meenakshi Ganguly, said in a statement that: “the horrifying murder of a brave teenager, who asked for justice shows how badly the Bangladesh government has failed victims of sexual assault”.