On 23 October 2011, in the Satkhira District, South-western Bangladesh, human rights defender Ms Shampa Goswami was harassed by a group of men believed to be linked to individuals who were accused of gang raping an elderly woman. Shampa Goswani assisted that woman in May 2011 by visiting her in hospital and giving her moral support. Shampa Goswani is a teacher who has been working with Odhikar on a project on violence against women since early 2011. Odhikar is an organisation that works on awareness raising of human rights and human rights abuses in Bangladesh through monitoring and training programs.
In May 2011, Shampa Goswami also gave legal advice to the elderly woman who was victim of the gang rape to file charges against the men. Several days later, Shampa Goswami learnt about the arrest of four men in connection with the rape. Mr Shushanta Kaur, who lives near her house and is believed to have connections with the four men, contacted her and told her to intervene on behalf of the men as she works in human rights.
Shampa Goswami told him that there was nothing she could do and ignored his phone calls.
On 23 October 2011, as Shampa Goswami was waiting for her colleague from Odhikar in front of Shuchona Bakery at Laboni Mor in Satkhira town, she was approached by four men who made sexual remarks about her. As she left the shop to avoid further abuse, a group of around ten men, including Shushanta Kaur, surrounded her and told her to come with them.
The men took her mobile phone when she attempted to call the police. One of them dragged her away and took her to a nearby rooftop. The men took her photo, and verbally harassed and intimidated her. They also demanded money from her.
Later, an unknown man arrived on the rooftop and chastised the group of men for harassing Shampa Goswami. The man, who later identified himself as a journalist, escorted Shampa Goswami off the rooftop.
On 25 October 2011, Shampa Goswani went to the Satkhira Police Station to lodge a First Instance Report against the men. Under FIR no. 72, the men have been accused of unlawful assembly, wrongful confinement, theft and criminal intimidation, under sections 143, 342, 379, 506 of the Penal Code respectively. On 26 October, a man by the name of Mr Samir Dey was arrested by the police. On 29 October, Shampa Goswami received a phone call during which she was threatened that she would face dire consequences for getting Samir Dey arrested.
Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Shampa Goswani and believes that she has been harassed and intimidated solely as a result of her legitimate human rights work, particularly with regard to her support to women who have suffered violence.
Front Line urges the authorities in Bangladesh to:
- Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the harassment and intimidation of human rights defender Shampa Goswani, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
- Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Shampa Goswani;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bangladesh are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals.
For actions see http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/16455/action