Bangladesh approves death in rape cases
Easterntimes, Special Correspondent, Dhaka, 12 October: The cabinet has approved a legal amendment to elevate the maximum punishment in rape cases to death from life imprisonment.
On Monday, the cabinet led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the proposed amendment to the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act.
President Abdul Hamid is likely to issue an ordinance as the parliament is not in session, Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam told reporters.
“The ordinance will be issued tomorrow,” Law Minister Anisul Huq later told Our Correspondent.
Different organisations have been protesting at Dhaka’s Shahbagh square and other parts of the country for nearly a week over sexual assaults on a woman in Noakhali and the rape of another woman in Sylhet’s MC College.
The government moved to amend the law to introduce capital punishment in rape cases amid the ongoing protests.
The maximum punishment under the previous law in rape cases was life imprisonment.
In the event of the rape victim’s death, the maximum penalty is death. The convicts also face fines.
The deadline for the submission of investigation reports is one month, while tribunals have 180 days to dispose of a case. But the timeframe is seldom followed in most cases.
The incidents of rapes and other sexual violence against women rock the country regularly, but exemplary punishment is not common.
Most of the cases get forgotten due to the delay in trials. A lack of proper medical tests of the victims, fears of reprisals and social stigma and interference by influential people make it difficult to get justice.
As many as 4,541 rape cases have been reported in the past 16 years. The accused were punished in only 60 of these incidents, according to data from the tribunals.
At least 889 women have been raped in Bangladesh between January and August 2020, according to rights group Ain O Salish Kendra or ASK.
As many as 192 others faced attempted rapes and sexual harassment in this period, while nine of the victims took their own lives.
Rights activists believe the numbers are much higher because many of the victims do not complain to the police.