We applaud the High Court for directing the government to form a commission under the law ministry to stop rape and violence against women. As per its directive, once the committee is formed, it will have to make recommendations within six months about how to stop rape incidents. The court has also issued specific directives about enacting a law for witness protection in rape cases, ensuring protection for victims through one-stop crisis centres in every district, forming a separate court for rape trials, etc.—which are essential for ensuring justice for the rape victims. The directives are no doubt timely, given the alarming increase in cases involving rape of women and children across the country.
Reportedly, rape of women and children almost doubled in 2019 compared to the previous year, and according to the statistics of Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum, around three children are being raped across the country on a single day. Clearly, the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators only embolden others to carry out such crimes. In addition to ending such impunity, there is a need for combined efforts from the government and the society at large to address the patriarchal mindset which treats women and girls as objects.
Unfortunately, the court also issued other directives over the last 12 years—including forming a sexual harassment complaint committee in every educational institutions and workplaces—which have not been implemented till date. We think the court should have a monitoring mechanism in place so that after issuing such directives, it can oversee what changes have been made on the ground.
Coming back to the issue of forming the commission, since the HC has directed the government to form the committee within 30 days and has specifically mentioned who will make up the commission—led by a law ministry additional secretary, and comprised of representatives from lawyers, judges, rights activists, renowned personalities, media persons, physicians, and victims (if any victim agrees)—it should not take much time to form it. And once it is formed, it should have the freedom to work independently. We hope unlike many other commissions in the country which do not have any real power to perform their duties, this commission will have the authority and efficiency to do its job.