The hasty decision on enacting death penalty for rape is not only appalling but harmful too, a feminist alliance said today.
Instead the government should reform the social and legal system to tackle root causes behind impunity for rape and other sexual violence against women, they added.
The culture in society which has allowed this violence to breed, needs to be uprooted, Feminists Across Generations, an alliance of individual activists fighting gender-based violence told a press briefing at Naripokkho's office in Dhanmondi today.
Terming gender-based violence an epidemic in Bangladesh, they declared it as national emergency. They placed a 10-point demand to take action and eliminate gender-based violence.
Activists believe 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 as most victims will not report the incidents, their families will discourage them if it happens within close relatives and at the same time, the rapist will be more aggressive in killing the victim to eliminate proof, she said.
Rights activists said there is a need to broaden the scope of organising beyond trial and punishment to include discourse around long-term change.
They 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, is made mandatory in all school curricula, swift action against all those weaponising cyber tools to commit violence against women.
The activists demanded womens' rights to occupy all public spaces without the fear of violence, at any time and for any purpose. They wanted families to hold their boys and men accountable for such violence.
Rights activists further demanded the 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 survivors are treated with respect and due responsiveness during reporting, investigation and prosecution.