Hasty decision of enacting death penalty in the law is not only appalling but harmful too, and the government should instead reform the social and legal system that actually tackle root causes behind impunity for rape and other sexual violence against women, a feminist alliance has said.
Terming gender-based violence an epidemic in Bangladesh, Feminists Across Generations said the culture in society which has allowed this violence to breed needs to be uprooted.
The coalition of activists fighting gender based violence made the remarks at a press briefing at Naripokkho office in the capital's Dhanmondi yesterday.
They placed a 10-point demand to take action and eliminate gender-based violence.
Activists believe the rape incidents in the country are on the rise because of social stigma, a lengthy justice process, low conviction rates and fear of harassment by offenders.
"Death sentence was already a provision for gang-rape or rape-murder convictions. Now it's a deception, a play to the gallery. Without upholding human rights, what the law minister did is a stunt. There is no proof or research that death penalty can reduce rape. What happened now is not only appalling but harmful too," said Shireen Huq, founder member of Naripokkho.
Now the path of women has become harder too, as most victims will not report the crime now. Their families will discourage them if it happens within close relatives. At the same time, the rapist will be more aggressive to kill the victim to eliminate the proof, she said.
Shireen Huq said, "Most of the times it is seen that the ruling party men are behind the crimes. It is the ruling party's responsibility to clean their party..."
Activists also demanded an end to all gender-based violence by private and state actors, zero tolerance for victim-blaming at all levels of society, comprehensive sex education --including consent -- be made mandatory in all school curricula, and swift action against those weaponising cyber tools to commit violence against women.
The group demanded women's right to occupy all public spaces without fear of violence, at any time and for any purpose. They wanted families to hold their boys and men accountable for such violence, which they perpetrate.
Rapists will no longer be sheltered in homes, schools and workplaces, they said.
The alliance further demanded urgent and immediate adoption of a 10-point demand issued by the Rape Law Reform Coalition, including redefining rape to ensure that it covers all forms of non-consensual penetration, whether penile or not, and irrespective of gender, reviewing the Evidence Act 1872 to remove all scope for institutional victim-blaming, ensuring protection and access to justice without discrimination for all rape victims, and conducting sensitisation trainings for police, lawyers, judges and social workers so rape victims are treated with respect and due responsiveness during reporting, investigation and prosecution.