Jatiya Sangsad on Tuesday passed the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2020 incorporating death as the highest punishment for rape.
The amendment was earlier promulgated through an ordinance during countrywide protests against rape and violence against women in October when the parliament was not in session.
The bill was passed by voice vote while many opposition lawmakers urged the house to gather people’s opinion on the issue as many doubted the effectiveness of the death penalty in curbing such crimes.
The bill also made DNA and medical examinations mandatory for both victims and accused even if they refuse to give consent to such examinations.
Earlier on Monday, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on women and children affairs ministry Meher Afroze submitted the report to the house for its passage.
The bill incorporated the term ‘rape victim’ instead of ‘raped’ in reference to the victim in the law following the recommendation of the committee.
The bill proposes amendments to the previous law to incorporate the death penalty as the maximum punishment for rape. According to Article 9 (1) of the previous act, the punishment for rape is life imprisonment.
On October 13, the bill was promulgated through as an ordinance as parliament was not in session.
The protest was sparked by a rape incident on MC College premises in Sylhet where a group of Bangladesh Chhatra League activists on September 25 violated a newly-wed after confining her husband to a room at the college hostel.
Later waves of protests rocked the country following a series of rape incidents, most notably the gang-rape of a housewife in Noakhali’s Begumganj upazila, which was videoed by the perpetrators and uploaded on the internet.
According to the Article 9 (3) of the previous existing law, if a woman falls victim to gang-rape and gets injured or dies, the punishment is the death penalty or life imprisonment for each rapist.
As per the bill, changes were also proposed to two other sub-articles — 11 (Ga) and 20 (7) — of the previous law.
Any simple injury for dowry will be a compoundable offence, following which the complainant can make a compromise and drop the charge against the accused in accordance with the article 11 (Ga) of the proposed law.
As per the 11 (Ga) of the previous law, an accused is to be sentenced for maximum three years but minimum one year’s rigorous imprisonment and will be awarded a pecuniary penalty as the punishment for inflicting ‘minor injuries’ for dowry.
In the article 20 (7) of the bill, the Children Act, 2013 has been incorporated in place of Children Act, 1974 to follow the latest law as much as possible during the trial of any crime committed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act-2000 in case any child commits or witnesses such crimes.
The trial of rape cases shall be completed by 180 days at Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals according to the existing law.
The number of rape incidents has increased by 15 per cent in the third quarter of the year, said rights group Odhikar.
Odhikar said that it recorded a total of 322 incidents of rape from July to September and 58 per cent of the victims were minor.
The organisation recorded a total of 280 rape incidents in the first quarter and 281 in the second.
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