Speakers at a conference yesterday demanded enactment of the Witness Protection Bill which was drafted in 2006 by the Law Commission aimed at ensuring security of rape victims and witnesses.
They made the demand at a national conference on “Rape law Reform”, organised by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), in the capital's Cirdap auditorium.
Presenting a keynote paper on “Necessity of Witness Protection Law for Ensuring Justice to Rape Survivors”, BLAST Advocacy Officer Sofia Hasan said rape victims and their families, as well as witnesses, are often subjected to humiliation and threats on their lives and properties by rapists.
In her speech, Mitali Jahan, programme manager of Brac human rights and legal aid services, said the legal process of rape cases must be completed within 180 days according to the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000, but proper implementation of this law is not being seen in the country.
She also stressed the need for trained female doctors and allocation of modern facilities in medical laboratories, so that rape victims feel easy during medical procedures.
Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) Director Nina Goswami said legal protection of victims and building up people's trust in the law is needed, to stop informal arbitration or out-of-court settlements in rape cases.
Rita Das Roy, a member of women's rights organisation Naripokkho, chaired the session at the conference.
Four more sessions were held at the conference. The opening session featured a slideshow illustrating the chronological development of existing laws on rape in the country, and highlighted landmark Supreme Court decisions on justice for rape. Chaired by Nizamul Huq, former justice of the Appellate division of the Supreme Court and legal adviser of BLAST, Dhaka University's Law Department teacher Taslima Yasmin and ActionAid's Country Director Farah Kabir also spoke at the session.
Speakers at the second session highlighted issues on discrimination and inequity in existing laws in the country. With DU law Professor Shahnaz Huda in the chair, National Human Rights Commission member Nurun Nahar Osmani and Director of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association Tawhida Khondokar also spoke at the session.
In the fourth session, speakers said incidents of rape are increasing day by day due to the inefficiency of the criminal justice system in the country. BLAST Executive Director Sara Hossain chaired the session.
At the closing session, speakers urged government to bring the laws concerned in conformity with international human rights standards, and situating the rape law reform agenda in the national action plan on violence against women. They said the law should be reformed if the government wants fulfillment of sustainable development goals.
With Bangladesh Mahila Parishad President Ayesha Khanam in the chair, Progarmme Analyst of UN Women Mahtabul Hakim, Prothom Alo News Advisor Qurratul Ain Tahmina and journalist Nobonita Chowdhury spoke at the session.