Rape incidents rose by 19pc last year | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 19, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:17 AM, February 19, 2020

Rape incidents rose by 19pc last year

Shows police data; on average, 17 women, children were raped a day

On an average, 17 women and children were allegedly raped each day last year, shows data based on cases filed with police stations across the country.

The number of such cases rose by 19 percent compared to the previous year, shows the data of the Police Headquarters.

The actual number could be higher as many victims refrain from lodging complaints due to social stigma associated with rape as well as insecurity and fear of harassment, say experts and rights activists.

According to the PHQ statistics, 6,321 rape cases were filed with police stations from January to December last year. For the period in 2018, the number was 5,123.

The statistics rings an alarm bell as the number of alleged rape victims exceeds those given by different rights bodies. 

For example, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), in its annual report released recently, said 1,413 victims were either gang-raped or subjected to rape last year. The number almost doubled compared to the previous year, it said.

The ASK report, prepared on the basis of media reports, said 118 of the victims were aged six or bellow, 210 victims between seven and 12, and 234 victims were aged 13-18.

Another recent report, published by Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, said 1,370 rape incidents were reported last year.

Talking to The Daily Star about the PHQ data, Rokeya Kabir, executive director of Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS), said the situation was very grave. "The picture is also grim when it's about women repression."

Going by the PHQ statistics, the alleged rape victims included children below six; girls in schools, colleges and universities; middle-aged female domestic and garment workers; and elderly women. Some of the victims were raped allegedly by police members or while in the custody of law enforcers.

The conviction rate in such cases is extremely low.

Between 2012 and 2016, less than 2 percent of all reported rape incidents ended in conviction, shows the PHQ data. During that period, 18,668 rape cases were lodged with police stations across the country.

The latest PHQ statistics shows that out of the 6,321 rape cases filed last year, charge sheets were filed in 4,231 cases, while police found no evidence of rape in 745 cases.

The rest of the 6,321 cases are now under investigation.

Incidents of rape are continuing unabated at a time when public outcry against the crime is getting louder.

Recently, even some lawmakers, both from the treasury and opposition benches, demanded in parliament that rapists are killed in "crossfire".

On January 19, the High Court directed the government to form a commission within 30 days under the law ministry to stop rape and violence against women.

Hearing a writ petition filed in the form of public interest litigation, the court also issued a rule asking the authorities to explain why rapists should not be awarded capital punishment if the victims are under 16.

Experts and rights activists blame the culture of impunity, low conviction rates, degradation of moral and social values, easy availability of pornography, culprits getting political backing and the use of rape to show dominance over women as primary reasons behind the rise of sexual violence, including rape, in the country.

"Androcentric thinking by police, lawyers and others associated with the judicial system and the absence of strong protests against rape are also to blame," said noted rights activist Rokeya Kabir. "Those committing the crime are hardly being punished," she said.

Prof Mahjabeen Haque, chairperson of Dhaka University's educational and counselling psychology department, sees another reason for the rise in rape cases.

"Sometimes, wide media coverage of rape incidents, especially the detailed description of the crime, instigates rapists to look for targets," she said, suggesting that the media should be more careful and act more sensibly while reporting on rape.

Saying that the existing law was stringent, Salma Ali, another rights activist, stressed the need for ensuring modern forensic labs in hospitals with adequate experts and logistic support for victims.

Enactment of a witness protection law and proper use of the evidence act are also crucial to prove a case in the court, she said.

Salma suggested rape cases be tried under the Speedy Trial Tribunal Act so rapists can be handed punishment quickly. "The government should research why rape incidents are increasing and take measures accordingly."

Asked about the increasing number of rape incidents, Sohel Rana, assistant inspector general (media and PR) of the Police Headquarters, said there was a time when rape victims tend not to speak up as they feared being socially disgraced.

But women's awareness on their rights is increasing every day. Also thanks to technology and social media, no information or (rape) incidents remain secret, he said.

"The number of formal complaints is on the rise. Police are recording cases soon after receiving complaints and arresting the accused in quick time," said the AIG.

He, however, said not all the allegations were true and that there were allegations of harassing people by filing false cases.

Sohel Rana also said police were proving shelter, treatment and legal services to the victims through the victim support centres. "Police attach the highest importance to every incident of women and children repression. They submit probe reports completing investigation in due time."

He, however, said enforcement of law would not be able to stop rape unless preventive measures were taken to address various social, cultural, and psychological issues which turn someone into a rapist.


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