The number of rape has increased in the last five years since 2016, according to a report submitted to the Police Headquarters to the High Court on Wednesday.
The report said that a total of 26,695 rape cases were filed across the country in the past five years — from January 2016 to October 2020.
Of the cases, 4,331 were filed in 2016, 4,683 were filed in 2017, 4,695 were filed in 2018, and 6,786 were filed in 2019 while 6,220 were filed until October 2020.
The actual number of rape is many times higher as all the incidents are not published in the media, rights activists said.
They said that amendment to the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act in Jatiya Sangsad incorporating death as the highest punishment for rape has brought no respite from recurring rape incidents.
On November 17, 2020 Jatiya Sangsad passed the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2020 incorporating death as the highest punishment for rape.
The amendment came amidst the countrywide protests flared up after a newly-wed woman had been gang-raped by Bangladesh Chhatra League leaders and activists at MC College in Sylhet in late September and a video of a woman being sexually assaulted in Noakhali by a local Juba League man’s gang members had gone viral in early October 2020.
The bill incorporated the term ‘rape victim’ instead of ‘raped’ in reference to the victim in the law following the recommendation of the committee. According to Article 9 (3) of the previous 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.
‘The death of a rapist by hanging or intimidating offenders cannot prevent violence against women unless our present social, educational and cultural values are changed,’ academician and social activist Mahfuza Khanam said.
Courts across the country too would have to dispose the rape cases on a priority baisis.
Trials of 1,64,551 cases for crimes committed against women and children till March 31, 2019 were still pending with various tribunals in the country.
Out of the pending cases, the Supreme Court’s statistics said that the trials of 38,006 cases were pending for over five years and the trials of 1,217 cases were stayed by higher court’s order due to delay in finishing the trial proceedings.
The Supreme Court registrar’s general Md Ali Akbar in another report to the High Court on Wednesday said that he led the central monitoring cell which was formed to examine reports of the district monitoring committee over the progress of trials in rape cases. Other members of the central monitoring committee include representatives from the ministries of home and law.
The Police headquarters and the registrar general filed the separate reports to the bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Kamrul Hossain in compliance with its directive issued on October 21, 2020.
The court gave fresh time to other respondents — ministries of women and children affairs and social welfare secretaries — until May 23 on the progress made by them in implementing the three judgements, two of which were delivered in 2016 and the other was pronounced in 2019.
The bench issued the directives on October 23, 2020 after hearing in a public interest litigation writ petition filed by Ain O Salish Kendra’s general director Nur Khan Liton.
ASK filed the petition to implement the High Court’s previous three judgements on how to deal with rape cases, victims and witnesses and complete each trial in 180 days.
The registrar general also said in the report that the chief justice on December 5, 2020 directed all the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals to follow the six directives issued by the High Court on July 18, 2019 for the speedy disposal of cases relating to crimes against women including rape, murder, sexual assault and harassment.
As per the High Court’s directive, the government asked to form a district monitoring committee with additional district magistrate, additional superintendent of police for administration, the civil surgeon’s representative and the tribunal’s public prosecutor to ensure the presence of witnesses as well as their security during the trials.
The public prosecutors would be co-coordinators of the monitoring committees, and each is required to submit separate reports to the High Court’s registrar and the law and home ministry every month informing them of the activities of each committee.
Each tribunal is required to hear the trial of each new case without any adjournment after commencement of the trial.
The High Court directive said that the monitoring committees would be accountable for the state’s failure to produce any witnesses before the tribunals on the scheduled days. The court also said that the monitoring committees would observe whether or not the witnesses were summoned promptly.
The court said that the tribunal would recommend departmental action against official witnesses like magistrate, police, doctor, and other experts if they do not appear before the court without showing any satisfactory reason and would order for halting their salaries if it deemed such an action necessary.
The bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman issued the six directives on July 18, 2019.
Aneek R Haque with Yeadia Zaman appeared for ASK while deputy attorney general Nawroz Md Rasel Chowdhury represented the government.
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