NEW DELHI — A 35-year-old woman from Bangladesh was allegedly gang-raped after voting against the ruling party.
On Dec. 30, the woman — whose identity cannot be revealed according to to the country’s rape laws — entered the local high school in her district in Dhaka to cast her vote for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party instead of the governing Awami League.
The victim told local reporters she was threatened at the polling booth by a local Awami League official — a man named Ruhul Amin — for voting against his party. He also allegedly attempted to snatch the ballot out of her hands.
The next day, the woman alleged, the same official sent a group of men to her house. The men broke into the house, detained her husband and children, and sexually assaulted her multiple times. The victim also said the rapists robbed them and threatened to kill her husband and children and torch their house if she told anyone about the rape. Despite this, the woman pressed charges against her attackers.
Video of the woman’s testimony with her face blurred, and images of the injuries she sustained, have been widely shared on Twitter.
Since the woman’s complaint, opposition groups have held protests in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka and in Noakhali, the constituency where the woman lives. The Awami League has expelled Amin from the party for his alleged involvement in the gang rape, and seven men including Amin have been detained. They deny the allegations.
The arrests mark an ominous beginning for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s fourth term in office. Last month’s election, which saw the Awami League win a landslide victory, occurred amid massive violence and charges of vote-tampering. Hasina’s previous term as prime minister saw uprisings and human rights violations in Bangladesh, including student-led protests initially over road safety that brought the country to a standstill.
Over the years, Hasina’s government has practiced a zero-tolerance policy toward dissent, brutally removing any hint of opposition and almost decimating the Awami League’s main rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
Various human rights bodies including the United Nations have warned Bangladesh to exercise restraint post-election.