Rape incidents, irrespective of time do make our hearts bleed and hurt us deep. The recent rape incidents were deep enough to create a social reaction that has come from every section of the society. According to the recent statistics of Bangladesh Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) of last two months (from January to February) of 2016 on rape cases found shocking. It shows that 105 women have been raped by offenders and among them 20 victims are between 7-12 years old. Further, 3 victims are killed after rape and 2 committed suicide. Evidently these numbers demonstrate the gravity of these incidents.
In Bangladesh rape is considered as a brutal sexual crime but still the numbers of incidents are rising day by day. In our legal arena, rape has been defined in the Penal Code1860 and it also provides punishment for rapists. It is provided that whoever commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, unless the woman raped is his own wife and is not under twelve years of age, in which case he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
Punishment for rape has also been described in section 9 of the Prevention of Oppression against Women and Children Act 2000. It is provided that whoever commits rape with a woman or a child shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for life and with fine. If in consequence of rape or any act by him after rape, the woman or the child dies later, the man shall be punished with death or with transportation for life and also with fine not exceeding one lakh taka.
Moreover, if more than one man rape a woman or a child and that woman or child dies or is injured in consequences of that rape, each of the gang shall be punished with death or rigorous imprisonment for life and also with fine not exceeding one lakh taka. Further, whoever attempts on a woman or a child to cause death or hurt after rape, he shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for life and also with fine.
Rape in custody has got attention by this Act which states that if a woman is raped in the police custody, each and every person, under whose custody the rape was committed and they all were directly responsible for safety of that woman shall be punished with imprisonment for either description which may extend to ten years but not less than five years of rigorous imprisonment and also with fine.
It must be mentioned here that the section155(4) of the Evidence Act, 1872 regarding the rape cases seems discriminatory and troublesome for female rape victims. In the court proceedings they are being harassed by opposition lawyers as the lawyers try to establish that the victims possess immoral characters. It prevents victims to come to court for justice so the section must be revised and amended considering inconvenience of the female rape victims.
In Bangladesh, though there are laws but still the victim or family members of the victim remain silent due to the lack of support services or provision of protection for victims and witnesses, social stigma associated with rape, prevailing patriarchal attitudes, protracted court proceedings, inadequate investigations by the police, lacunae in the law, particularly the absence of rape shield provisions, etc. Moreover the rape victim has to undergo severe mental and social constraints. That's why rape cases in Bangladesh remain largely unreported. So, Immediate legal reforms, enforcement of laws, exemplary judicial decisions, effective government rape prevention policies and social awareness including education programs for boys can improve the scenario of this heinous violence.
The writer is a Lecturer of law, SSHL, Bangladesh Open University.