What happened to an 18-year-old female madrasa student from Feni cannot be seen as an isolated incident -- we have seen terrible crimes like this happen in Bangladesh many times before.
After the young woman had lodged a case against the madrasa principal, Sirajuddaula, for sexual misconduct, she was doused with kerosene and set on fire by supporters of the principal.
Every year, countless women and girls are raped, assaulted, or sexually harassed in the country, and most of these crimes do not get reported or investigated due to the fear and stigma attached to sexual violence in Bangladesh.
The Feni madrasa incident shows exactly why women find it so hard to report sexual violence -- when they do, they often face violent retaliation, and are therefore doubly victimized.
It is a fact that, as a culture, we still do not take sexual violence as seriously as we should, too often shaming and blaming the victim, investigating the accuser instead of the accused.
The Feni student was brave enough to come forward about her principal’s misdeeds, and for that she was punished, through which the attackers may have hoped to silence all other women who think of speaking out against their abusers.
But it is time to shatter the fear and stigma, it is time for all of us to rise up and fight this deep sickness within our society -- a sickness that keeps letting rapists and abusers off the hook while punishing victims.
If we, as a nation and as a society, fail to address this problem and make life safer for women, our development ambitions will remain a far cry; because there can be no meaningful development without ensuring the basic rights of women first.