Shocking details of child abuse has been pouring in on the Internet as former Bangladeshi students are resorting to social media websites to recount stories of “rampant” sex exploitation at the hands of their teachers while studying in the madarsas.
Once considered as a taboo to speak openly about child abuse prevalent in the orthodox country of Bangladesh, a traditional Muslim nation where extremist Islamic groups have an upper hand and wield considerable influence over thousands of madarsas in the nation, older pupils who have endured through the abuse are coming out to broach the sensitive topic of child abuse widespread across the nation in these madarsas.
The tipping point came when a teenage girl was brutally burnt to death in April for levelling accusations of sexual assaults on her headteacher. This incident has sparked a nationwide debate about the security of children in such madarsas and has become a subject of debate for the first time. According to reports, at least five madrasa teachers were rounded up on rape charges against boys and girls under their auspices in July alone.
The reports reveal that children belonging to humble and modest background, who couldn’t afford education in secular schools are mostly the ones who are affected by the abuse from the teachers in madarsas. According to rights activists, the child abuse cases which extend from forceful kissing to violent rapes are so ubiquitous in madarsas that recent complaints are just the beginning.
The head of child rights’ group Bangladesh Shishu Odhikar Forum, Abdus Shahid, told AFP that for years these crimes dodged attention due to sensitivity of the subject. He said, “Pious Muslims send their children to madrasas, but they refrain from speaking up about abuses meted out to the children as they feel it would undermine and bring disrepute to these religious institutions.
One of the victims of the child abuse atrocities, Hojaifa al Mamduh, who was enrolled in three madrasas in the capital Dhaka, uploaded a series of posts on Facebook in July describing in excruciating detail the abuses experienced by students including himself.
Another victim, Al Mamduh, now a journalism student at a Dhaka University stated that the assaults were so widespread in the madrasas that every student who studied there knows about it. He revealed that several of the madrasa teachers considered sex with children a lesser crime than fornication.
Al Mamduh’s posts stoked a fiery debate in the country, for which he was personally threatened. He was accused of being “an agent of Jews and Christians” and one social media user accused him of slandering the “sacred image” of a madrasa. One social media user reminded him of the terrible fate of Avijit Roy, a top Bangladeshi atheist blogger and writer who was lynched to death by Islamist extremists in 2015.
However, his posts heralded a change in how Bangladeshis viewed sexual abuses rampant in madarsas. Several others were encouraged to share their own miseries of alleged sex crimes. One Mostakimbillah Masum posted on on a feminist website, that he was raped for the first time by an elder when he was just seven.