Humane First Movement campaigning against sexual violence

Humane First Movement, a collaboration partner of the Bangladesh Workgroup at The Hague Peace Projects, recently started its campaign on the prevention of sexual violence. Md. Sayem Hossain, volunteer of the movement shares his thoughts on the campaign:

Humane First Movement is running its current campaign on the prevention of rape and sexual violence against women, and I would like to share my personal views as a committed supporter of this movement.

Rape is a curse to any civilized society and social disease of the highest order. If we claim to be civilized individuals, then we must also acknowledge that this curse is widespread in our society today. However, are we realizing the depth of the problem? Often when an incident of rape happens, society looks for ways to justify the incident, indirectly siding with the rapist by pointing out the victim’s dress style, behavior, personal issues, lifestyle, etc. Is this the behaviour of civilized human beings? In our society, socially powerful rapists are eventually released, and roam freely only to commit more rapes. On the other hand, rape victims are outcasted and ostracized by society. In some cases the victim is unable to cope with the ensuing insults and social harassment and commits suicide, leaving behind family members with no other choice but to helplessly shed tears and long for divine justice. This is because the state often fails in ensuring justice, or the legal procedure is so slow that the victims and their families often lose hope of receiving it. We have witnessed how little Ayesha Moni’s mother was the lone warrior in this fight for justice. Can we really call ourselves civilized in a society where people have to resort to widespread protests every time to seek justice for rape crimes?

I would also like to share my frustration about another aspect; we shy away from calling out on a rape incident if the victim is a boy or a man. Why do we have such a narrow mindset? Rape is always rape, no matter to whom it or where it happens.

We need to remember one thing- when we overlook a crime or justify it in many ways, then we are not safe from that crime. In a society where records are not set straight through exemplary punishments for heinous crimes, it encourages the frequent repetition of these crimes. This is something that is now evident in our society as rape incidents are becoming a regular phenomenon.

If you belong to the powerful section of society, you may assume that you are free from danger. But you need to remember that your power and privileges may not last forever. Today your family might be safe, but do you have any guarantee for the future? So please be aware. When you make your closest ones aware, then they will do the same, and in this way we can spread awareness in our society.

If you raise your voice against an incident of sexual violence/abuse in the street, or in the workplace or an educational institute, you will see that others will also raise their voice. Please teach your children how to differentiate between “good touch” and “bad touch”. Be the safe space for your children so that they can share if something unwanted happens to them.

So let us begin with changing ourselves. Let us put an end to rape and all forms of sexual violence and abuse. We do not want to see more sufferers.

Let us begin now!

Note: Bengali version of this article was published by Sangbad24. Bangladesh team-HPP obtained permission to publish the translated version.

Threats to Human Rights Defenders in The Netherlands

Foreign human rights activists who work in the Netherlands or live as refugees are regularly victims of threats, intimidation or even violence. Each time there are clear indications that these incidents are organized by the country of origin, with the aim of preventing the human rights activist living in the Netherlands from talking about the human rights situation in the country of origin. This is one of the conclusions from the report “Threats to Human Rights Defenders in the Netherlands” that The Hague Peace Projects published on 17 February 2020.

The report presents the experiences of fifteen human rights defenders who are currently in the Netherlands. Their stories range from online death threats through social media and the hacking of telephones to more extreme incidents such as following a Rwandan activist on the street, a car driving deliberately into a Congolese activist and the sabotage of a Palestinian activist’s car who was in the middle of a lawsuit against Israeli generals.

Just two weeks ago, NOS reported that one of these activists, Waqass Goraya, a well-known blogger from Pakistan, was attacked on the street. He was beaten in front of his home by an unknown man, while a second man filmed the incident. Afterwards they shouted that they would kill him next time. Prior to this escalation, Waqass had already told the researchers that he was regularly threatened online and reported each of these incidents to the police.

Some Uyghur activists say that they are threatened over the phone directly from China. In their case it is not their own lives that are at stake, but that of their family members in China. And indeed, after they refused to give in to the threats by the secret service, their children, parents, brothers and/or sisters disappeared soon after. These activists live in constant stress and fear of what may have happened to their family in their home country.

All activists make it clear that the threats and intimidation have a much wider negative effect than just their own physical and mental well-being and that of their immediate family. They emphasize that these incidents create fear within the entire migrant community of which they are a part. The real effect of threats and violence, organized from countries with oppressive regimes, is that people in the Netherlands do not feel free to express any criticism about their country of origin.

The result of this research demonstrates a serious problem in The Netherlands. Immediate action is necessary. The Hague Peace Projects calling upon the Dutch Government to organize a focal point at one of the ministries, where human rights activists who are threatened could turn to for help and advice. One central focal point could be the Dutch government to keep an eye on foreign threats and to take rapid action against these and possible reprimand the country of origin. The focal point could also help local police services file reports and launch investigations into these kinds of threats because it has been found that there are still shortcomings in that regard.

Threats to Human Rights Defenders in The Netherlands

For more information about the research you can contact Jakob de Jonge:

#BeHumaneFirst in a nutshell

Be Humane First in a nutshell!
Recently, The Hague Peace Projects signed a MOU with Be Humane First, a movement contributing towards promoting social cohesion in Bangladesh.

(Info-graphic prepared by Sayem Hossain, a member of the movement).