An 18-year-old student, Nusrat Jahan Rafi studying at an Islamic school in Feni district, Bangladesh, went to police on March 27, to file a complaint against her principal for allegedly harassing her sexually. Nusrat reported that the principal, Maulana Siraj Ud Doula, had called her into his office and repeatedly touched her inappropriately. The police officials and society asked her to keep quiet. Since the brave teenager chose to speak against her headmaster, Nusrat was soaked with kerosene and set on fire at her school. Sexual harassment victims often face judgement from their communities, harassment, in person and online and some cases violent attacks. The young girl experienced all of these. Woman Journalist Tweets Horrific Accounts of Sexual Harassment at Workplace.
It was on March 27, when Nusrat’s headmaster called her into his office and repeatedly touched her inappropriately. Before things could go any further, Nusrat ran out of his office. With the help of her family, on the same day, she went to the police station to lodge a complaint against her principal. Instead of providing her with a safe environment to recall her traumatic experience, the police officer-in-charge filmed her on his phone as she described the incident, reported BBC. A video which was leaked and went viral in the local media showed visibly distressed Nusrat trying to hide her face with her hands. The policeman was reportedly calling the complaint “no big deal” and asking her to remove her hands from her face. Post #MeToo Movement, Number of Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims Rise in US.
Society Blamed Nusrat
Nusrat was from a small town, born into a conservative family and went to a religious school. After the police arrested the headmaster, Nusrat’s sexual harassment case came with consequences. Things only got worse for her. Local reports stated that a group of people gathered in the streets demanding the principal’s release. Two male students and local politicians arranged the protest. Apart from her family, everyone began to blame Nusrat.
11 Days Later, She Was Burnt Alive
Eleven days later, after the alleged complaint, on April 6, Nusrat went to her school to appear in her final examinations. “I tried to take my sister to school and tried to enter the premises, but I was stopped and wasn't allowed to enter,” Nusrat’s brother, Mahmudul Hasan Noman was quoted saying in BBC. “If I hadn't been stopped, something like this wouldn't have happened to my sister,” he added. As per the statement was 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 she reached the spot, she saw four to five people, wearing burqas, surrounded her, allegedly pressurising her to withdraw the case. Nusrat refused. They poured kerosene and set her on fire.
The Police Bureau of Investigation chief Banaj Kumar Majumder informed that the murderers wanted “to make it look like a suicide.” However, their ill-plan failed, when Nusrat was rescued. Before she died, she was able to give a statement. She even identified some of her attackers as students at the madrassa. Local hospital doctors found 80 percent of her body burnt and they sent her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. On her way, fearing that she might not survive, the brave girl recorded a statement on her brother’s mobile phone. “The teacher touched me, I will fight this crime till my last breath,” she was heard saying.
As per recent reports, police have since arrested 15 people, seven of them allegedly involved in the murder. The headmaster remains in custody. The policeman who filmed her sexual harassment complaint has been removed from his post and transferred to another department. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina promised that every person involved in the killing would be punished. People across social media are expressing their anger, and demands #JusticeForNusrat. Will Nusrat’s case change the way people view sexual harassment in Bangladesh or globally?