Bangladesh is struggling to tackle gender-based violence against women.
According to Ain o Salish Kendra(ASK), 84 women were either raped and physically assaulted in January 2021 alone. Additionally, 62 rape cases against children and nine attempts were listed at the beginning of the year.
The steady growth of sexual violence raises the question, “How do we stop rape culture?”
In October 2020, after footage of a brutal gang assault on a 37 years old woman went viral, protestors came down to the streets asking for justice for rape victims and a safer environment for women across the country.
That same year Bangladeshi lawmakers amended parts of the country’s laws, toughening the country’s punishment on rape from life imprisonment to death. However, the changes are yet to be implemented in an actual court proceeding.
“We are hopeful that the inhuman rape offences will notably be controlled as we are going to adopt other necessary measures along with the enactment of a new law.”- Law Minister Anisul Huq
There is no conclusive evidence death penalty curbs any crime or discourages rapists.
In 2018, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said more than 17,000 rape cases were registered in the past four years. But the figures are much higher, according to data published by Ain o Salish Kendra(ASK)
“Rape incidents have been increasing in Bangladesh due to leniency in the justice system and I demand speedy justice by hanging of the people committing rape,” -Sagufta Bushra, a female demonstrator and student leader.
The Government of Bangladesh announced the reform to make the protestors happy. So, they go back to their houses. However, the women’s rights activists urged the Government to implement the existing law properly. Instead, the Government decided to make the law even more strict.
That again raises the question, will the new law be implemented correctly?
Section 155 (4) The Evidence Act, 1872
“The issue of consent should be the main concern in rape trials. Adducing character evidence in courts in such trials is completely irrelevant.”
- Nurunnahar Osmani, Member of the National Human Rights Commission
The law dates back to the 18th century. It allowed the accused to question the victims’ character and brings down victims’ credibility.
There are no victim and witness protection laws in Bangladesh.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime conducted a national workshop in Nepal and Bangladesh in August 2014. The seminar called South Asian Governments to strengthen criminal justice systems, protect and help the victims and witnesses. Nepal introduced The Crime Victim Protection bill in 2018. However, Bangladesh did nothing of that sort.
According to Professor K. Shamsuddin Mahmood, a three-member committee of the Bangladesh Law commission advised a new witness protection law back in 2006. A bill was outlined and sent for consideration. But, even after the second release in 2011, it was not authorized.
Bangladesh Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik said the conviction rates for rape cases are less than 3%. He also said it is because of the nations’ male-dominated police force. They are unable or unwilling to investigate and gather forensic evidence. According to him, they don’t even consider rape as “a serious crime.”
Again in January 2021, a 17 years old girl was raped by Fardin Iftekhar Dihan. Leading the controversy back to the Government again. The girl who died in the hospital remained one of the two rape cases last month. Death caused by the sexual assault and killed after sexually assaulting them. Not including 62 reported cases of child rape.
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The Covid-19 pandemic did not stop people from screaming out for systemic change. New rape cases are being added to the already overflowing list of cries. You will find copious amounts of news about sexual assault every single day. But sadly, the number of resolved sexual assault cases is rarely seen.
The promise made by the Government back in October 2020 might have worked to put the protestors, activists go back to their sheds but is not curving the rate of sexual assault on women.