Draft should be locally tailored to make it more effective, says Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association president
According to a recent survey, 79% of the respondents, who knew that there is no law for the protection of victims of various crimes, said a law is needed to protect the victims and the witnesses as they get further victimized after a case is filed.
Manusher Jonno Foundation conducted the survey on victims and witnesses to develop a draft law for the protection of victims and witnesses; the survey findings were disclosed in a webinar on Wednesday.
As many as 763 people from the eight divisions of the country participated in the survey titled “Victim and Witness Protection to Develop a Draft Law”.
According to the survey report, 1.3% of the respondents said they do not get any support from government representatives, while 11% said government representatives often threaten them after a case is filed.
Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association President Advocate Salma Ali said the draft should be locally tailored to make it more effective.
“We visited different countries before writing the draft for the domestic violence act. We took several good elements from the existing laws abroad but we made the final draft considering the social and economic situation of Bangladesh,” she said.
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She also mentioned that advocates and human rights activists are willing to sit with different ministries to work on the draft.
Shaheen Anam, the executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, said human rights activists and lawyers are advocating for a law for protecting witnesses and victims so that they would not be threatened or harassed during or after trial.
“Enacting a law for the protection of victims and witnesses would not be enough if the system does not implement it properly,” she said.
Professor of law at Dhaka University and former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Mizanur Rahman said: “We should worry less about the technicalities of the law.
“Instead, we should focus on the common peoples’ perspective about this draft because at the end of the day, they can tell us how they can be benefited from the law.”
He also said the state must accord full protection for the victims and the witnesses.
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While presenting the survey findings, Barrister Tapas Kanti Baul said respondents from the LGBT community said they feel they are not treated as human beings during the trial process.
He also said the definitions of victim, protection, and witness are not clearly defined in the existing legislations of Bangladesh, which is a major challenge to write a draft of the law.
Coxy Talukder from Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (Blast) said it is not always the witnesses or the victims who have to face harassment and threats from the perpetrators and their allies.
“People like NGOs workers, who help the victim get justice, often get attacked, harassed, and threatened. They need to be protected by the law as well,” she added.
The speakers at the webinar recommended passing of a law for the protection of victims and witnesses, establishing an office for the victims and the witnesses in every district, forming a compensation fund for the victims and the witnesses, and establishing a victim and witness protection cell at every police station of the country.