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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Justice for Rape Victims

Evnat Bhuiyan :
The word 'Justice' has become a hallucinating term for the rape victims at present. Tackling the abruptly increasing number of rape incidents seems to be a herculean task for the government. The 2016's Shohagi Jahan Tonu rape and murder case shook the whole nation deeply and the brutality of the 2018's Shubarnachar housewife's rape case fueled up the public anguish and utter dissatisfaction of the civil society. A horrifying statistics of Ain-O-Shalish Kendro (ASK) reveals that a total 3,587 women were raped in the last 5 years. Among them, the number of murder after rape is 278. Serious matter of concern is that, 86% of those rape victims are adolescent and children. The study reveals that girl child being 6-12 years old are the random victims of rape. A diametrically opposite scenario, the Police Head Quarters show, where above 19 thousand cases have been reported within the same 5 years duration of ASK's statistics, averagely 11 rape cases being reported every day. A research of the Legal Aid Committee of Bangladesh Women Association reveals that, 942 rape incidents have been occurred in January, 2018 where 697 were raped, 182 were gang-raped and 63 were killed after rape.
In the year 2019, only 23 occurrences of rape and attempt to rape of the first 18 days of January, got media coverage, among which 15 were children and adolescent, many cases are not even being reported or brought to book. Thirty-nine girl children have been raped in between April 2 to April 16, 2019 - a survey of the Human Rights Organisation, Manusher Jonno Foundation says. Even a 15 years old autistic girl was raped in 17th April, in Narayanganj.
The culture of lawlessness, lack of justice and investigational loopholes are the pretext of this alarming rate of rape incidents. The percentage of accused in rape cases is very lowering in comparison to the number of the cases reported. The daily Prothom Alo, after observing the circumstance and progress of trial of almost five thousand rape cases of around 15 years (2002-2016), instituted in five Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Tribunals of Dhaka District, found that only 3 per cent of rape-accused got penalty among those disposed rape cases. Failure of judicial and administrative activism ultimately clicks the fearlessness of the perpetrators. A recent finding shows that, 97 per cent accused of rape cases get acquittal for many reasons, be it political connection or high social status. Victim's families are pressurised or threatened or bound to negotiate to withdraw their cases. Many cases don't even reach to the trial.
The Prevention of Oppression Against Women and Children Act, 2000 enumerates life imprisonment with fine for the Commission of rape, death penalty or transportation for life with one lakh taka fine for rape following death, rigorous imprisonment or death penalty for committing gang rape and imprisonment of 10 years, not less than 5 years, for attempt to rape- under Section 9(i), 9(ii), 9(iii) and 9(iv) respectively. Having no death penalty provision, Section 376 of Penal Code, 1860 imposes life imprisonment or 10 years imprisonment with fine. Due application of these laws can put a halt to the present scenario of rape victims.
Due compliance with the enactments, ensuring fair investigation, speedy trial, establishment of judicial independence, removal of corruption, stopping excessive focus on the victims' conduct, social awareness, moral education and if necessary, reshaping the existing penal provisions, can cure the ongoing cancerous situation of the State entirely. One of the most appreciating rules have been formulated by the Supreme Court regarding the recording of statement of the victim under Section 22 of the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain, 2000 which contemplates that from now, only female magistrates will be assigned for serving the purpose of this Section. This splashes a drop of hope for the rape victims in giving statements conveniently without a hesitation. More welcoming approaches might possibly eradicate the stumbling blockades to the quicker disposal of rape cases and might pacify the wounded hearts of the victims throwing shine of justice upon them.

(Evnat Bhuiyan, student of LLB (4th year), Department of Law,  Jagannath University)