Death Penalty Is The Only Answer To Prevent Rape?
M A Hossain :
In the wake of country-wide protests over the alarming increase of rape incidents in the society have paved the way to amend the existing law by the government, to make death sentence the highest punishment for committing rape. On October 13, there was a "reintroduction" of the death penalty for single perpetrator rape in the Woman, and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Ordnance 2020 after the Woman and Children Repression Prevention(Special Provisions) Act 1995 and the 2000 Act. It's a holy commendable move by the government to show zero tolerance towards rapists. But will this reform have any paradigm shift in our society or significant impact on the judicial system for rape? Let's analyze the reality.
The death penalty existed for rape last 25 years. But this capital punishment could not throttle such heinous crime. This because of the judicial conscience to exhibit extra caution for avoiding guilty verdict on capital punishment. Every judge always strongly demands a zero errors standard of proof to give verdict on the death penalty in any case. To substantiate this statement, we find only 3 per cent convention has turned up in rape case filed in Dhaka's tribunal. More so, we don't have sentencing guidelines in rape laws. That means a rape survivor has to avail an unattainable standard of evidence against the rapist which will ensure the gallows or else culprit will get acquitted. Also, the law does not allow any other alternative punishments.
There are few major obstacles to exhibit full proof evidence against the rapist on trial. First, rapists are always about the power monger regarding political, financial, and psychological disorder. This very power imbalance makes it difficult to get justice for the rape survivor. Secondly, social stigma plays a significant role to preclude the victim from taking legal action. A rape survivor becomes the pariah in society. Our society puts a rape survivor in an ordeal of attire, attitude, anti-social proficiency instead of their rapist on the account. Guardians make victim hush to stem the further deterioration of their family honour in the society even a president of a superpower country paid 'hush money' to a woman for this. Thirdly, lack of efficiency to handle a rape case within the legal framework by our law enforcement agencies and public prosecutors make it more difficult for the victims to pursue and prove the case in court. A burning example, OC Moazzem an abettor to the much-hyped Nusrat murder case dropped from the murder charges. Fourth, section 155(4) of the Evidence Act 1872, has a provision for the defence lawyer to raise questions about the character of complainants on trial proceedings. This discriminatory and humiliating provision give the rape survivor a feeling that they are being trialled not their rapist. And at the very beginning, they become exhausted to proceed further legal battle.
It will be unjust if our concerted effort to be so short-sighted in our demands for justice. We need to focus on a society of politically and economically strong. A strong political will and its implementation can only eliminate such heinous crime for its people irrespective of age, gender and economic status. Social values, ethos and religious teachings need to be embedded from the very beginning of our primary and secondary life and enforced from the tertiary level.
Archaic rape and evidence laws need to be reformed in line with human rights standards and expertise our investigatory organization for a fair and speedy trial. Last but not the least, a social awareness against sexual violence and concerted effort to raise our voices against sexual violence at any time, any place could eradicate this heinous crime. Albert Einstein said the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who all are watching this without doing anything.
(Mr. Hossain, a political and defence analyst, writes on diversified topics in Bangladeshi and foreign newspapers).