Speakers at a virtual roundtable yesterday discussed ways to prevent and remedy the ongoing incidents of violence against women.
Titled "Prevention and remedy for violence against women: What needs to be done?" the virtual roundtable was organised by Shujan-Citizens for Good Governance.
Keynote presenter Prof Dr Shahnaz Huda of law department at Dhaka University, also an executive member of Shujan, presented recent statistics of rape and violence against women and talked about causes behind them, such as the prolonged legal battle of cases, the culture of impunity and political affiliation of the perpetrators, all of which hinder the conviction of the rape cases.
Prof Shahnaz also presented some recommendations for the policymakers, such as repealing of archaic section 155 (4) of the Evidence Act-1872, that allows defence lawyers to introduce character evidence against rape complainants, redefining the archaic rape law by widening the scope of acts to be considered as rape, including special provisions for rape incidents for the male child, and criminalising marital rape, raising awareness and educate the people at large about the concept of zero tolerance towards all forms of sexual violence and emphasising the concept of consent, ensuring gender-sensitive training for the agencies related to justice, and challenging the existing social prejudice that emphasises on victim-blaming and victim's attire.
Serving as moderator of the event, Shujan secretary Dr Badiul Alam Majumder said along with the coronavirus pandemic, a "rape pandemic" has also been spreading in all spheres of society. "The government has imposed the death penalty as the maximum punishment for rapists. But what is more important is to ensure justice for rape," he said.
Rights activist Salma Ali, president of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA), highlighted how survivors are discouraged by the family, police stations, medical practitioners and courts from seeking justice, due to the absence of a women-friendly environment in the judicial system.
Tania Haque, professor of women and gender studies at DU, stressed the necessity of having a comprehensive family policy and practising responsible parenting. "Along with formal education, we must focus on the importance of moral and sex education," she said.
"We also need to rethink objectification of women in the media," she added.
Member of Shujan's national committee CR Abrar said the government hurriedly changed the law without consulting with citizens and handled everything whimsically. "Citizen's opinion must be ensured on any issue of public interest and the participation of citizens must be increased," he said.
Shujan assistant secretary Zakir Hossain stressed on the creation of a network for survivors and take necessary action for their compensation and rehabilitation.
Prof Dr Sharin Shajahan Naomi of Asian University for Women urged for research initiatives to understand the psychology of rapists and other perpetrators.
Among others Syeda Rezwana Hasan, executive member of Shujan; Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum; Nasima Akhter Jolly, secretary of National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, spoke at the event.
The programme was presided over by Shujan president M Hafizuddin Khan, former adviser to a caretaker government.