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Death Penalty for Rape: Blessing or Curse?

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Being one of the most heinous forms of sexual violence, rape is a traumatic event of life for a victim not only affecting their self-esteem negatively but also causing long-term psychological disaster.  Due to having a weak social strata, rape survivors along with her family ultimately face countless dreadful effects once that she falls victim to a rapist. It is unfortunate that day by day rape has been increasing in our society. It is estimated that approximately 35% of women worldwide have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime, according to World Population Review data of Rape Statistics by country 2020.

Article 32 of the Constitution of Bangladesh says,

 “No person shall be deprived of life and personal liberty saves in accordance with law.”

But in reality, how much effective is this in case of women?

According to Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), a Bangladeshi Human Rights Organization, 975 rape cases were reported in Bangladesh including 208 gang rape cases in between January to September 2020. It is surprising that in fact amid COVID-19 Pandemic, a total 632 rape incidents took place in between April to August this year, according to Statistics compiled by Ain O Salish Kendra from various media reports. Women are still now in reality facing these egregious incidents. While reporting on the topics of rape, there is a public tendency to blame victim’s outfit which paves the way to increase rapeWriter and human rights activist Britta Rani Dipa said:

 “The more we talk about clothes the more we move away from the enormity of the crime. How are clothes to blame if anyone from infants and 70 year old women are getting raped?”

 It is unfortunate that around 3 children are being raped in Bangladesh every day, according to statistics of Bangladesh Shinshu Adhikari Forum. The forum further stated that rape incidents increased by an alarming 76.01 percent in just the last year.

After the recent strongly numerous protests against rape held throughout the country, the government has announced death penalty as punishment for rape and stated that the trial must be completed within 180 days. If we notice Section 9(2) of Nari O Shinshu Nirjaton Daman Ain, 2000 says, if in consequence of rape or any act by him after rape, the women or the child so raped, died later, the man shall be punished with death or with transportation for life and also with fine not exceeding one lakh taka.

Furthermore, Section 20(3) of Nari O Shinshu Nirjaton Daman Ain, 2000 provided that,

“The Tribunal shall complete the adjudication within 180 days from the date of the case was filed”.

The announcement of the government is nothing but cooling the rage because already we have these provisions mentioned in our laws. Besides, Section 100 of the Penal Code, 1860 says that,

“The right of private defense of the body extends to the voluntary causing of death or of any other harm to the assailant, if there is an assault with the intention of committing rape.”

Now the question is that why the situation is getting worsen?

There are some reasons liable for this situation even though death penalty has been announced for punishment such as:

  • Political impunity: Political patronage works as a major barrier in case of getting justice in rape cases. It is reported by media and other NGO’s that maximum rape cases remain unpunished due to political reason. If we notice recent gang rape of Sylhet MC College, talking to several present and former BCL activists of the college, this correspondent came to know that all the accused are followers of Advocate Ranjit Sarkar, former youth and sports affairs secretary of Sylhet district Awami League. There are allegations that a group of local Awami League leaders tried to settle the issue over discussion which gave the suspects enough time to flee.

Also, in the drastic gang rape of Noakhali case, whereas identified criminals go unpunished because of political involvement. Moreover, the main accused Delwar previously raped the victim multiple times at gunpoint. Needless to say, he has always gone scot free because of his affiliation with local ruling party leaders. Instead of getting justice the victim had to leave her home in fear of her life and safety. There is belief among culprits that ultimately their leaders will come to release them. In reality, it is actually happening.

  • Political influence on law enforcement agencies: It is shameful for society that even though there are existing rules, policies and plans addressing gender-based violence against women, due to political influence, law enforcement agencies cannot get freedom to do their duties.

As the offenders enjoy strong political backup, in maximum cases, the victims deprived from their right to file rape case against the rapists. Because, at present context, there is mind set up that they won’t get justice. Therefore, they do not want to sustain any further trouble for this.

  • Prolonged judicial proceedings: Though in order to lessen the enormity of such act, the trial Court must complete the proceedings within the fixed time. But in reality, due to long time procedure, it becomes difficult for a victim to drag the fight forward.  Between 2015 and 2019, a total 3,316 child rape incidents were reported of which justice has been dispensed in only 164 so far, as per Bangladesh Shinshu Adhikari Forum (BSAF).

Besides, over the past 19 years, according to the government, the One Stop Crisis Centre says that between January 2001 and July 2020, only 3.56 percent of cases filed under the Prevention of Oppression against Women and Children Act, 2000 have resulted in a court judgement and 0.37 percent of cases have ended with a conviction.

In Tonu Case, in spite of seeing ray of hope for getting justice, now it seems elusive as 4 years have gone by but no progress yet in investigation.  Like that, so many rape cases are being unpunished because of prolonged judicial procedure.

  • Lack of Witness Protection Act: Though a Witness Protection Act was drafted by the Bangladesh Law Commission in 2006 but it has yet to be passed into law. Therefore, witnesses who are willing to testify on behalf of victims risk serious threats, harassment and even death so that survivors do not get legal remedies.

So, because of these problems rape incidents are becoming a global problem. Therefore, as early as possible the government should take steps to eliminate these problems. Otherwise, no improvement is possible.

Have all rape cases been taken in same consideration?

At present context, except few cases which get viral on social media platform, in maximum cases the rapists remain unpunished. Now it seems like that in order to get justice the cases must get viral on social media and then government will consider it.  It is so shameful that cases like after recording these videos and release it on social media is happening. Even they do not feel guilty for their crime. Nowadays they are losing their moral values also. There is no answer to the question as to why Prime Minister is our last hope for getting justice despite there are laws to combat with rape and judiciary to ensure justice.

Moreover, how much death penalty will be effective in order to curb rape menace?

The situation might become worsen and opposite of what is expected. Reasons are stated below:

  • Possibility of filing false cases: Due to any personal conflict, one may hire a woman who would file false rape case against an innocent man in exchange of money.
  • Deprivation of right of private defense:Whether an accused is criminal or not, has the right of private defense. Under Article 27 of the Bangladesh Constitution,

“All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.”

 Article 35(iii) of the Bangladesh Constitution provided that,

“Every person accused of a criminal offence shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law.”

No one should be punished before getting any chance for his /her right of defense.

  • Fear of murder: Fear of death penalty might trigger even more killings of rape victims. Due to death penalty, in order to get away with the crime the rapists might think of murdering the victims as well as hiding the body. Like Tanu rape case, there are so many cases where victims were murdered after rape as the rapists want to abscond from the punishment.

Recommendation:

Capital punishment cannot be the appropriate measure to punish a rapist. The government should take the following steps so that ultimately justice can be ensured:

  • The government should enact provisions regarding the consequences if this trial cannot be disposed of within 180 days.
  • Law enforcement agencies must have given freedom in case of investigation.
  • The government should enact Witness Protection Act so that witness feels secured in society.
  • In order to prevent this havoc, police should also have positive attitude on victims so that vulnerable woman does not feel insecure.
  • Due to weak social strata, the victims become mentally unstable. Therefore, social awareness must be raised through education on sex, moral teaching as well as protesting sexual harassment.
  • The main concern should have given to eliminate “culture of political impunity in rape cases.”

Indeed, it has become crying need for every woman to be trained for their self-defense.

Conclusion:

At last, we can come to the conclusion that whether the case is real or fake, the government must bring it under trial as early as possible and ensure justice so that the real culprit gets proper punishment. The government should stop giving empty promise. It is high time to make clear road map to eliminate the culture of rape from Bangladesh.  

Writer: Meem Afza Simee, Student of LL.B (3rd year), Department of Law, Jagannath University, Dhaka, Bangladesh.            
Endnote
  1. Countries with the highest rape incidents: The business Standard, last modified: October 13, 2020, available at: https://tbsnews.net/world/countries-highest-rape-incidents-144499.

  2. Bangladesh approves death penalty for rape after protests: The Guardian, published on October 12, 2020, available at:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/12/bangladesh-approves-death-penalty-for-after-protests.

  3. Women raped every day on average in Bangladesh amid Covid-19 pandemic: Dhaka Tribune, September 29, 2020, available at: https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2020/09/29/4-women-raped-every-day-on-average-during-coronavirus-pandemic.

  4. Three child rapes a day, The Daily Star , published on January 11,2020, last modified: January 12, 2020, available at :https://www.thedailystar.net/editorial/news/three-childrapes-day-1852363.

  5. Rape in MC College: 6 accused BCL men moved with impunity: The Daily Star, last modified: September 27, 2020, available at: https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/news/rape-mc-college-6-accused-bcl-men-moved-impunity-1968069.

  6. Political patronage of rapists, criminals must stop: The Daily Star, last modified: October 09, 2020, available at: https://www.thedailystar.net/editorial/news/political-patronage-rapists-criminals-must-stop-1974785.

  7. 3 children raped daily in 2019: Dhaka Tribune, published on: January 09 ,2020, available at: https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2020/01/09/three-children-raped-daily-in-2019?fbclid%3DIwAR2KcVwCijdxmUm76xoEkL21H9J87jVbXFvAXRplEhbhG8Sa4u-49neTlF8.

  8. I’m alive but not living’: Survivors of Bangladesh’s rape crisis: Aljazeera, published on: October 26, 2020, available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2020/10/26/survivors-of-bangladeshs-rape-epidemic#:~:text=Sharmin%20has%20developed%20an%20eating,doubled%20to%201%2C413%20in%202019.

  9. 4 years of Tonu Murder: ‘Everyone forgot my daughter, but how will I forget her: Dhaka Tribune , published on: March 21, 2020, available at: https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2020/03/21/4-years-of-tonu-murder-everyone-forgot-my-daughter-but-how-will-i-forget-her.

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