The new law was also promulgated through the president’s ordinance on October 13 as the parliament was not in session at that time
The much-talked-about Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has been passed in the parliament, for ensuring death penalty as the highest punishment for the heinous crime of rape.
State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Fazilatun Nesa Indira moved the bill on Tuesday and it was passed by voice vote.
The bill was amended to incorporate the death penalty as the maximum punishment in rape cases.
In the proposed law, the punishment for rape is death penalty or life imprisonment. According to Article 9 (1) of the existing Women and Children Repression Prevention Act of 2000, the punishment for rape is life imprisonment.
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This was earlier promulgated through an ordinance issued by President Md Abdul Hamid on October 13 as parliament was not in session, in the face of populist demands to ensure the death penalty for rapists.
As per the legal obligation, the ordinance was placed in parliament for its approval by Law Minister Anisul Huq.
The ordinance was issued following waves of anti-rape demonstrations across Bangladesh after a serious of heinous rapes, most notably the September gang-rape of a housewife in Noakhali’s Begumganj upazila.
The act was videoed by the perpetrators and later the video turned up on the internet, which went viral. The incident had occurred at Joykrishnapur village under Begumganj’s Eklashpur union on September 2.
Protesters had staged demonstrations over the growing incidents of rape, sexual harassment and violence against women in Bangladesh.
The articles in question
According to the Article 9 (3) of the existing law, if a woman falls victim to gage-rape and gets injured or dies, the punishment is the death penalty or life imprisonment for each rapist.
As per the bill, changes were also proposed to two other sub-articles –- 11 (Ga) and 20 (7) -- of the existing law
Any simple injury for dowry will be a compoundable offence (the complainant can compromise to drop the charge against the accused) in accordance with the Article 11 (Ga) of the proposed law.
As per the 11 (Ga) of the existing law, one shall be sentenced for maximum three years but minimum one year’s rigorous imprisonment and will be awarded pecuniary (monetary) penalty as the punishment for making the ‘simple hurt’ for dowry.
In the Article 20 (7) of the bill, the Children Act of 2013 has been incorporated in place of Children Act of 1974 to follow the latest law as much as possible during the trial of any crime committed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act of 2000 in case any child commits or witnesses such crime.
The trial of rape cases shall be completed by 180 days at Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals in line with the existing law.
MPs voice concern
Taking part in Tuesday’s discussion, Jatiya Party (JaPa) MP Pir Fazlur Rahman from Sunamganj 4 questioned who will pay the bill to test the DNAs of the rapist and the victim of rape — which is mandatory in such case.
Another opposition MP, Fakhrul Islam from Mymensingh 8, termed the bill as good and essential, but there was a derailment of the law as the ordinance, which the president promulgated earlier, was not placed as bill.
"The scrutiny committee amended the ordinance, if the ordinance becomes law then it should become so as it is in the ordinance. If there is any need of change then it should come as amendment," he said.
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BNP MP Rumeen Farhana questioned whether this law will be able to contain incidents of rape in the country.
In this connection, she mentioned the murder after rape incidents in India after enacting the law including capital punishment as the highest punishment. She put emphasis on appropriate and proper implementation of the law.
JaPa MP Shameem Patwary, from Gaibandha 1, said that there was no need for the promulgation of the ordinance. "Ordinance is needed when there is a necessity of immediate action," he said.
He put emphasis on excluding deceptive physical relations without taking consent for containing false cases.
BNP MP Harunur Rashid from Chapainawabganj 3 said that capital punishment might not resist rape, rather illegal sexual relation should be taken under cognisance of crime to reduce rape incidents.