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A rape victim’s past has nothing to do with it

  • Published at 11:00 pm January 21st, 2020
Gavel and Hammer
Photo: BIGSTOCK

Our legal system fails rape victims on a regular basis

Despite reports of Bangladesh occupying the top position in the Gender Gap Index, at least within South Asia, there are all too many laws and policies that simply do not belong in the 21st century.

To that end, one of the most egregious ways that women are oppressed is, our rape laws, which are well and truly stuck in the dark ages.

Not only does an unhealthy environment permeate the courtrooms where rape victims are made to relive their trauma, the very legal framework is problematic on a number of levels.

The worst manifestation of this may be the “character evidence” of rape victims that get presented.

Apropos of a study conducted by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and UN Women, it was recommended that, if not outright abandoning, lines of questioning which bring a rape victim’s sexual history under the spotlight should be reduced. There is no place for such policies in any civilized society.

A rape victim’s “moral character” has no bearing whatsoever on the crime committed, and in fact, cannot be determined based on history. This attitude, embedded in our legal system, implicitly blames the victim while shifting the focus away from the actual perpetrator.

The scrapping of Section 146(3) of the Evidence Act while amending section 53 of said act is necessary to update the law, and to get better justice for rape victims.

We wholly agree with the recommendations put forth by BLAST and UN Women, and hope the courts will take them into cognizance sooner rather than later.

Our legal system fails rape victims on a regular basis, be it implicitly or explicitly. It is high time that changed.