ONLY female magistrates will record statements of female and child victims of rape and sexual harassment, as a circular issued by the Supreme Court reads, in the interest of fair investigation and justice. But a number of female suspects in various cases alleged that they were not interrogated by female officials while being in custody but, instead, by their male colleagues in the law enforcement agencies and that they were also badly treated during interrogation. The issue of the interrogation of women by male officials came up after a male police official interrogated a victim of sexual harassment, madrassah student Nusrat Jahan Rafi, in Feni. The official also recorded a video of the interrogation and later circulated it. On April 15, a Supreme Court lawyer filed a case against the official under the Digital Security Act for circulating the video on the social media. The Police Bureau of Investigation found that the official forcibly videoed Nusrat’s statement at his office on March 27, shared it with journalists on April 8 and posted it online for creating social unrest.
What should be viewed as an act of impertinence is that the official recorded the statement of the madrassah student asking her objectionable questions when she was filing her compliant. Reportedly, the Chattogram unit publicity secretary of Jatiyatabadi Mahila Dal who said that after being arrested by the Rapid Action Battalion on January 21, she was kept waiting until their female colleagues came but was eventually interrogated by male officials keeping their female colleagues apart. On August 4, 2018, the battalion arrested an actress and model at Uttara in Dhaka under the Information and Communication Technology Act on charge of spreading rumours during a road safety campaign. She was taken in custody by the cyber unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police and she was interrogated by male officials. The assistant secretary general, a female, of the immediate-past central committee of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, who was arrested on November 15, 2018, said that she had been interrogated by male officials when she had been remanded in custody of the Detective Branch for five days. The disparaging fact is that not only the investigators in public cases but also the police fail to engage female officials to receive complaints from, or to deal with, their female colleagues within the service.
It is imperative for the government to increase the percentage of the female members in the law enforcement agencies and engage them in the interrogation process so that female suspects or complainants of rape and sexual harassment are not subjected to unnecessary harassment, to comply with the court directive.