Whole country seems in a situation of horrendous lawlessness

06 October 2020

THE perpetrators Badal, Delwar, Rahmat Ullah, and Abdur Rahim entered the house of a woman and beat up her husband on the night of the incident. They took him to the adjacent room and tied him up. Later, they tortured the victim and assaulted her while filming the incident on their mobile. At one point, locals gathered around the house hearing the victim's cry for help.
The accused then threatened to kill her if she speaks about the incident, and left. The victim, fearing for her life, fled her house and has been living elsewhere since then. The perpetrators however, contacted her over phone and threatened to release the recorded video of the incident on social media if she did not go back to her house and agree to their demands. The incident happened in Noakhali's Begumganj upazila at Joykrishnapur village of Eklashpur union on September 2.The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested all the accused by Monday.
A total of 892 incidents of rape happened in Bangladesh in the last eight months since January, a report has said---and these are just the reported ones. The unreported cases can range from 2-5 times that number --- a horrifying estimate. In Bangladesh, only 3% of cases relating to violence against women and children result in a conviction, as reported by Women and Children Repression Prevention tribunal from five districts.
 A rape victim does not know where to go and what to do. If we can create a system where a victim can visit the police station first, and the authorities complete the rest of the procedure - that would help in breaking the silence of victims. Social taboo and harassment in every stage are the major reasons why most rape victims do not want to disclose anything.
The notorious Section 155(4) of the Evidence Act 1872, which allows defence lawyers to show that a rape complainant is of "general immoral character" to undermine her credibility in court, must be changed. In practice, Section 155(4) has the effect of putting the rape victim on trial instead of the rape accused, as the focus on a woman's morality egged on by the defence inadvertently leads to questions about a woman's lifestyle, clothing and sexual history.
The successive governments failed to consider the constitutionality of discriminatory provisions such as Section 375 of the Penal Code and Section 155(4) of the Evidence Act, which clearly breach basic principles of non-discrimination and gender equality as guaranteed by the Constitution. For more rape convictions be upheld we must change the law and then ensure that it is actually implemented by the judicial system. With the current state of our security forces, this seems a long shot.

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