Ensure justice for rape victims and protect the witnesses
SPEAKERS at a conference demanded enactment of the Witness Protection Bill which was drafted in 2006 by the Law Commission aimed at ensuring security of rape victims and witnesses. They made the demand at a national conference on "Rape law Reform", organised by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), in the capital's CIRDAP Auditorium recently.
Presenting a keynote paper on "Necessity of Witness Protection Law for Ensuring Justice to Rape Survivors", BLAST Advocacy Officer said rape victims and their families, as well as witnesses, are often subjected to humiliation and threats on their lives and properties by rapists. Programme Manager of BRAC human rights and legal aid services said the legal process of rape cases must be completed within 180 days according to the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000. The BLAST official also stressed the need for trained female doctors and allocation of modern facilities in medical laboratories, so that rape victims feel easy during medical procedures. Ain o Salish Kendra Director said legal protection of victims and building up people's trust in the law is needed to stop informal arbitration or out-of-court settlements in rape cases.
From January 2013 to December 2017, a total of 18,668 cases of women and child rapes were recorded throughout the country. The total number of victims in those cases was 17,389, of which 13,861 were women and 3,528 children. During the period, 673 people were convicted and sentenced in 3,430 cases disposed of by the courts with 17 death penalties, 80 life imprisonments and 576 in different prison terms.
It is unimaginable that less than three percent of rape cases filed in the country over the last five years have ended in conviction. This is because the legal process is very humiliating. The bulk of cases end in out of court settlements. A huge number of rape victims shy away from pursuing cases fearing social constraint.
The government must bring reformation to the relevant laws in conformity with international human rights standards, and place the rape law reform agenda in the national action plan on violence against women. We must say, crimes like rape must be investigated and brought to a successful conclusion.