It is unimaginable that less than two percent of rape cases filed in the country over the last five years have ended in conviction. Legal experts point out that because the legal process is so humiliating, the bulk of cases end in out of court settlements. According to police data, 18,668 rape cases were filed during the last five years and there were only 22 convictions. The bulk of rape victims shy away from pursuing cases because it is simply too embarrassing.
That the police are less than helpful in most rape cases was highlighted in the recent double rape case in Banani. And in a society where the rich and powerful hold so much sway, it is not surprising that many in the police force are averse to recording such cases. And even when they do, there have been allegations that the “preliminary investigation” takes up much of the 72 hours of the incident for any forensic evidence to be found. Considering the existence of Section 155 (4) of the Evidence Act that states “when a man is prosecuted for rape or even attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix [the rape victim] was of generally immoral character”, which is applied liberally by defence counsel to vilify the victim's character, it is hardly surprising why so many cases are settled out of court!
The Banani case was perhaps an eye opener for us. It showed that no one is safe, but unless we are willing to make the system work for the victims as opposed to be favourable for rapists, thousands of such cases will simply be numbers in a police database and justice will continue to be denied.