The government is yet to respond to the Law Commission’s proposal to modernise the Women and Children Repression (Prevention) Tribunal Act 2000 increasing punishments for rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and children.
The commission sent a draft law titled Women Repression Prevention Act 2021 to the law ministry on December 30, 2020, expanding the definition of sexual harassment and assault on women and prescribing jail terms ranging from 10 years to 30 years with an additional fine of Tk 10 lakh for the crimes.
‘As the commission has sent the recommendations to us, we will have a close look at it,’ law minister Anisul Huq told New Age in the past week.
The commission recommends jail for 20–30 years for rape although the 2000 law was amended on November 17, 2020 providing death penalty as the highest sentence for rape. The amendment came amid the countrywide protests against rising incidents of rape.
The existing law stipulates life imprisonment or death as the highest punishment, including a fine, for causing the death of the victim by raping.
The law proposes that the tenure of a life-term sentence should be until death in jail.
The proposed law defines different types of sexual violence as rape and recommended punishment for various sexual perversions.
The commission pointed out that the victim’s consent was not well-defined in the penal code. It said that during the trial of many rape cases, the question of consent was raised and the marks of physical injuries on the victims’ bodies used to be considered the signs to determine whether the victim objected to or made an attempt to resist the crime.
The marks of assault on a victim’s body may not exist in every case, the commission argued.
The present law has to be interpreted as there is a difference between the consent of a victim aged above 16 years and that of a victim under 16 years, it said, adding that the consent of a girl under 16 years may be deemed immaterial but it is relevant in determining the financial penalty.
Though taking the victim’s consent by cheating is considered rape as per the existing law, the courts consider repeated intercourse as silent consent and that is why the consent taken by cheating has been clarified in the proposed law.
The proposed law has broadened the definition of ‘any person’ by including the government officials and by proposing greater punishment for assault or rape of a victim in their custody and jurisdiction.
The existing law provides jail for 5–10 years with a fine of Tk 10,000 for raping a woman in police custody. The draft law proposes a higher financial penalty considering the negligence of duty.
The commission proposes jail for 10–30-years and a fine of Tk 20 lakh for rape by the victim’s relative, guardian, teacher or other people to whom she has fiduciary relations.
It proposes 10-year jail and a fine of Tk 5 lakh for raping a girl of 14 years or above even with her consent.
The commission proposes jail for 15–30 years and a fine of Tk 10 lakh for causing grievous hurt to a woman by raping or distorting or damaging her face.
The proposed law prescribes jail for 20 years or more or life term and a fine of Tk 10 lakh for rape by a person or more than one person.
The commission suggested ensuring rehabilitation and treatment of victims with the amount of the fine.
The proposed law suggests a double jail term or life term or death sentence for a person for committing rape for the second time.
The commission recommended imprisonment for 5 years and a fine of Tk 2 lakh for an attempted rape. The existing law provides jail for 5–10 years for the offence.
The proposed law prescribes rigorous imprisonment for 10 years or 30 years with an additional 10 lakh fine for an offender after finding him guilty of sexually assaulting or harassing a woman with human parts of his body and prescribes rigorous imprisonment for two years jail terms with Tk 2 lakh as additional fine for molestation.
The proposed law prescribes imprisonment for 10 years with Tk 5 lakh fine as an additional penalty for sexually assaulting or harassing women with an object.
The law commission proposed a 30-year minimum rigorous imprisonment or any other maximum imprisonment or death sentence with a fine of Tk 5 lakh as an additional penalty following the death of a woman due to sexual assault or harassment.
The commission also prescribes three-year rigorous imprisonment and a fine for sexual harassment or assault if any person makes any suggestive gestures, acts with a certain sexual intent or orders the victim to extend sexual favour by abusing administrative or professional position or power or forcefully making the victim watch pornography, etc.
The proposed law prescribes a maximum of one-year jail term and a fine for a person for sexually harassing or assaulting the victim by making perverse statements or showing indecent gestures.
The existing law prescribes a jail term of 10 years as the maximum but three years as the minimum sentence and a fine for sexually harassing or molesting a woman or children.
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