Rumana – a victim of violence and mindset

Wednesday, June 29, 2011, 8:31 AM

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Rumana – a victim of violence and mindset

by Sigma Huda

WHEN one thinks of Rumana Manzur, a picture of a young pretty woman with a lovely bright smile and shining eyes holding a lovely child of five years old in her arms flashes across your mind and then immediately the last few days’ pictures of a tortured face with closed eyes and a bandage wrapped around her cute nose brings with it the knowledge of how brutality is lurking all around us, especially for those of us who have been unfortunate to be more enlightened, more intelligent, more successful than our worse half or male siblings or colleagues. The story of Rumana being a victim and a survivor of a horrendous incident is not new. It has been repeated down the ages but what makes it different is that it has been perpetuated upon a brilliant person who had the world before her and was destined to go far in her life.

I have dealt with similar stories of how spouses get infuriated with a more intelligent and successful wife and will go to any length to bring her down to her ‘rightful place’—i.e. dependent totally on and under the control of her spouse. This mindset is accepted by all, even women, when the offence is perpetrated by the men of their family. That is when people state, as Rahnuma Ahmad in her article in New Age (June 27) said, ek haatey tali bajey na (one cannot make a sound of clapping with one palm but requires two).  However, I am not here to talk about the pros and cons of the action or the underlying cause for such action. All that matters is that Rumana has been attacked by her violent spouse which has led her to lose her eyesight, have her face disfigured, etc all leading to not just physical injury but severe mental distress, loss of her right to her sight, to see her child and her surroundings, loss of good profitable job opportunities, right to further studies, etc. If these are converted into cash, the compensation will be very high.

The state under the criminal justice system will punish Rumana’s husband for breaking the law—a mere period of imprisonment, hopefully rigorous, under the Penal Code (Sections 320, 324, 325 and 326). The newly enacted Domestic Violence Act (the relevant section being Section 3) where of course Rumana has to apply for compensation is still to come in force—if it was in force and could have been invoked, the benefit that Rumana might have obtained would be compensation for the personal injury then, at least, Rumana could be avenged as Penal Code coupled with the Domestic Violence Act of 2010 would have thus become an effective tool for redress.

Nevertheless, it must be mentioned that Rumana still has her option to claim compensation open by filing a damage suit in a tortuous action in an appropriate court which of course will entail the maximum court fees and other miscellaneous court costs. Most unfortunately, the Nari O Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain being restrictive in its jurisdiction will not be applicable or attracted in her case.

Such being the case, Hasan, the accused in this case, has found a lawyer to assist him in his forthcoming trial. Unless the women and human rights movement continues the full length of the trial period we are apprehensive that she may not get proper justice. I am also apprehending that the lawyer for the accused may plead mental instability and get a mild punishment of being given medical treatment for his purported mental instability in prison or mental hospital. The lawyer supporting the prosecution or the women’s groups should act as a united front and post efficient criminal lawyers excelling in the art of examination in order to get the maximum punishment awarded to the accused.

When we first read of this gruesome news, the lawyers and the Rights Protection Squad of the Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of Human Rights rushed to the victim’s residence only to be informed by Rumana’s father that as he is a relative of advocate Sultana Kamal, any initiation of any action will be done under her guidance and her organisation. This being so, we are maintaining a low profile while keeping constant watch on the progress. As seen in the past, people have a short memory and while the incidents are new, lots of hues and cries for justice is heard and press making a big news items. After a while everything calms down and people go their own individual ways. In some cases the movement continues till the trial is over. But is that final? No. The real trial only then starts. After a conviction, the matter is taken up in appeal and if necessitated, a second appeal before the final verdict becomes enforceable. No organisation is at that stage seen to follow up the matter once the trial is over. It has been seen and recorded that the BSEHR then plays a most effective role. It follows the case till its very end. Victims such as Yasmin, Seema, Trisha, Barnali are all witness to our contribution. We have appeared on their behalf to contest the appeals and have successfully upheld the decisions of the trial court. No human rights organisation or individuals are seen at this stage as they have moved on to some other more current burning issues.

In conclusion, we would like to request our human rights activists and organisations to also urge the law enforcers to mete out the same kind of treatment to other victims of violence who are not in the news but are suffering the same kind of atrocities as Rumana all over the country and not getting either justice or a call for justice.


Sigma Huda, secretary-general and founder of the Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of Human Rights, founder and immediate-past president of the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association, former UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.

[This article is also published in the New Age on June 28, 2011.]