Protesters in Bangladesh and human rights groups are calling for justice for a teenage girl burned alive after refusing to withdraw sexual harassment and assault claims against a headteacher.
Eighteen-year-old Nusrat Jahan Rafi was reportedly tricked into going to the rooftop of her madrassa, a Muslim school, in southeastern community of Feni, on 6 April.
She was then allegedly tackled by at least four people, who doused her in kerosene and set her alight.
Ms Rafi suffered burns to 80% of her body and died several days after the attack.
It is alleged the atrocity happened after she refused to withdraw her complaint against the headteacher of her school.
A report in The Dhaka Tribune, a Bangladeshi English-language newspaper, said a police officer who received Ms Rafi’s complaint filmed her testimony, telling her that the incident was “nothing major”.
Before Ms Rafi was killed, the teenager’s family received threats and faced pressure for her to drop the complaint, according to local media.
A total of 18 people have so far been arrested for their alleged involvement in her murder, according to Bangladeshi investigators. Bangladeshi media reported her alleged abuser is in jail, accused of orchestrating the killing after the teenager refused to drop her claims.
On Tuesday, an international human rights watchdog called for justice for the murdered student.
Human Rights Watch urged the Bangladesh government to thoroughly investigate her killing and prosecute those responsible.
“The horrifying murder of a brave woman who sought justice shows how badly the Bangladesh government has failed victims of sexual assault,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s death highlights the need for the Bangladesh government to take survivors of sexual assault seriously and ensure that they can safely seek a legal remedy and be protected from retaliation.”
Local media reported Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has promised “exemplary punishment” for people behind Ms Rafi’s killing, saying she was “lost for words to condemn” what happened.
The teenager’s death has caused public outrage and sparked protests around the country, urging the government to bring in tougher measures against sex offenders.
But Human Rights Watch said the Bangladeshi government’s record on prosecuting sexual violence cases is extremely poor as “enormous stigma” associated with reporting sexual assault still persists in the South Asian country.
The group says victims are often discouraged from seeking a legal remedy because of long court cases, humiliation and victim blaming at police stations and hospitals, pressure from public officials and the accused to drop cases and harassment during defence questioning in court.
The Dhaka Tribune reported at least eight women were raped across Bangladesh over two days last week.
Bangladeshi human rights organisation, Ain O Salish Kendra, said there were more than 730 cases of rape recorded in 2018, in which 63 victims died after being assaulted.