The cabinet's decision comes following a sudden nationwide spike in the crime and protests demanding the capital punishment
The government has approved the death penalty as the highest punishment for rape, amid waves of anti-rape demonstrations across the country.
The cabinet gave its approval for the amendment of the Prevention of Women and Children Repression Act 2000 in this regard during the weekly cabinet meeting at the secretariat on Monday, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in chair.
The Prime Minister joined the meeting virtually from Ganabhaban, while other cabinet members and secretaries attended from the secretariat.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said President Abdul Hamid might declare an ordinance regarding the amendment by using the power vested in him in accordance with Article 93 (1) of the constitution, since parliament is not in session now.
Law Minister Anisul Huq and State Minister of Women and Children Affairs Fazilatun Nessa Indira said they were hopeful of President Abdul Hamid issuing the ordinance on Tuesday.
Government sources said the amendment would be placed before parliament in its next session, to be held in November, but approval from the president through the ordinance would also be effective.
The cabinet secretary said: “The Women and Children Affairs Ministry submitted the draft law proposing to amend Section 9 (1) of the existing The Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000 by replacing the words ‘lifetime rigorous imprisonment’ with ‘death penalty or lifetime rigorous imprisonment’ for rape.”
In response to a question, the cabinet secretary said: “The people who intend to commit rape will think twice if death is the punishment for the crime. It will definitely have a positive impact.”
He also said the Legislative Division had added some other minor amendments to the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, such as in Articles 11 (c) and 20 (7).
“According to Article 11 (c), simple hurt without rape will be compoundable. As for Article 20(7), the Children Act 1974 will not applicable and it will be replaced by the Children Act 2013,” Khandker Anwarul Islam said.
Justice within 180 days
In response to another question, the cabinet secretary said: “Rape case trials will be held before the speedy trial tribunal and the verdict must be completed within 180 days.”
Referring to Section 15 of the existing act, the cabinet secretary said compensation for rape victims from the convict or convicts will be prominently taken into consideration in the trial process.
Anisul: Death penalty will reduce rape
Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq said the increase in the maximum penalty for rape from life imprisonment to the death penalty would serve to reduce the number of such crimes committed in the country.
The minister was speaking at a press conference at his Gulshan office on Monday afternoon.
“The maximum punishment for rape is being raised as a result of circumstances. There is a lot of controversy around the world concerning the death penalty, but the prime minister decided that punishment for such crimes should be increased since rape has reached such epidemic proportions in the country. The law is being amended to reflect that,” he said.
Indira: A milestone in women empowerment
State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Fazilatun Nessa Indira said the amendment to the Women & Children Repression Prevention Act 2000 to include the death penalty for perpetrators of rape was a milestone for women empowerment in Bangladesh.
She made the remarks after the cabinet meeting at the secretariat on Monday afternoon.
“There is no place for rapists in Bangladesh. That is why our ministry submitted the proposal for the amendment to the cabinet,” she said.
Indira also thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Law Minister Anisul Huq and other cabinet members for supporting the amendment.
Anti-rape demonstrations erupted across Bangladesh after video footage of five men stripping a woman naked and gang-raping her in Noakhali’s Begumganj upazila went viral on social media on Sunday.
The incident occurred at Joykrishnapur village under Eklaspur union of the upazila on September 2.
According to Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), nearly 1,000 rape cases were reported between January and September this year, including 208 gang rapes.