Proper implementation of the High Court’s 18 guidelines could bring justice to countless victims of sexual violence
The High Court has delivered a landmark judgment issuing 18 directives that any police station must record a rape case, and samples are to be sent for DNA testing to a forensic laboratory within 48 hours of the alleged crime taking place.
The authorities must consider these directives as guidelines, and strictly follow and observe them until a specific law is made to ensure protection, security, investigation, and justice for the victims who are sexually abused or raped.
Five human rights organizations collectively filed a writ petition with the HC on May 24, 2015 seeking necessary orders from the High Court over the gang rape of a Garo girl in the capital on May 21, 2015.
These guidelines have to be followed by all until adequate legislation is enacted. The court has issued a series of 18 rules to serve as guidelines.
- In all rape cases or cases of sexual assault, it is mandatory for DNA tests to be conducted. The DNA and other samples have to be sent to the concerned forensic science lab or DNA profiling centre within 48 hours of the alleged occurrence
- Victims must be given the necessary security and have their privacy protected. At all stages, the identity of the victim should be confidential
- A server will have to be opened immediately, where the complainant can register their complaints or information
- The relevant officer at the police station cannot refuse or delay the recording of the complaint, irrespective of whether the incident takes place under its jurisdiction or not
- Every police station will make a list of social workers who will assist the police station
- The statement of the victim will have to be recorded in the presence of security officers, social workers, lawyers, or anyone of the victim’s choice, as per the directives
- Every police station must keep a female police officer not below the rank of constable who will take the victim for a health check-up
- Each police station must make a list of female social workers who will provide victims with mental help and support
- Victims should be informed of their right to protection from the state and should be given any information they request on the matter. Immediately upon receipt of the complaint, the duty officer shall inform them about the victim support centre
- In case of women with disability, children, or young people who are unable to understand, interpretation services will have to be provided
- The statute should contain a specific provision dealing with refusal or failure of the officer concerned of the respective police station without sufficient cause to registrar such cases
- Any failure of duty on part of the investigation officer in collecting the report or to take the victim to the nearest hospital for medical examination would be a punishable offense
- The investigation officer shall endeavour to complete the investigation at the earliest
- There should be wider dissemination of the national helpline number on violence against women, girls, or children through visual, audio, as well as print media, including a designated website
- An office has to be established in every metropolitan city for the purpose of providing necessary security, medical assistance, counseling, and secured protection for the victims
In addition, the Supreme Court registrar general shall send the copy of its verdict to the ministries of law, children and women, and home affairs, as well as the inspector general of police for taking necessary steps for the enforcement of the guidelines.
Young women experience a shocking amount of sexual violence in our country. Generally, people in our society largely consider it a private issue, not something to be discussed in public, and tend to blame the girl when she comes forward with a complaint.
Moreover, the lengthy legal process also makes it very difficult for her to run the case year after year to get justice. “Justice delayed is justice denied” is a very popular saying.
In between seeking justice and getting justice, a victim has to go through a lot of formalities and legal proceedings, which are inevitable.
But we hope that proper implementation of these guidelines may eradicate undue delays by providing quick justice to the victims.
Miti Sanjana is a Barrister-at-law from Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, an Advocate of Supreme Court of Bangladesh, and an activist.