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Outside the law

  • Published at 12:00 am February 13th, 2019
Vigilante justice can’t be a solution DHAKA TRIBUNE

The system is not doing enough to punish rapists

Hercules, an illustrious character of Roman classical mythology, is recalled for his strength and numerous far-ranging adventures.

But Hercules returned, in the guise of a slayer who killed three suspected rapists in the country so far.

The bodies of two rapists were found at different places on January 26 and February 2 in Jhalakati with two suicide notes tied with their bodies that noted Hercules killed them, essentially punishing them for their crimes.

Besides, on January 17, the police recovered the body of a 25-year-old man from Birolia area in Savar. The young man was identified as Ripon, a suspect in the rape of a 14-year-old girl at Ashulia who committed suicide on January 6, hours after she was raped by a group.

These incidents have not only captured the country’s imagination, but on a deeper level, have also left a question mark against extra-judicial killing.

The number of rape incidents is on the rise in our country. The news, from various newspapers to TV channels, has been drawing attention to it for years, and the trend in yearly statistics of rape incidents continues to be alarming.

Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, a women’s rights organization, in a report in July 2018 claimed that at least 592 rape incidents occurred across the country until June in the year. On the other hand, Ain O Salish Kendra, an organization working for law and human rights, revealed in a report that a total of 818 women and children had been raped in the country. Among them, 47 were killed after rape and 11 committed suicide. It also claimed at least 659 women and children were raped in 2016.

Meanwhile, in a parliamentary session in 2018, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal reported that a total of 17,289 cases of women and child rapes were filed throughout the country from January 2014 to December 2017. The courts disposed 3,430 cases, convicting 673 people with 17 death penalties, 80 life imprisonments, and the rest serving different prison terms.

The numbers from the trials are, no doubt, inadequate compared to the massive number of rape incidents throughout the country.

The reasons behind the lack of trial are many. The victims, after being raped or sexually harassed, do not share their experiences, with many withdrawing their cases fearing threats by political and social influence, or are settled out of court for money.

The lengthy process of trials can also be blamed, as it usually takes more than two or three years for each to finally reaching the courts.

The research compiled by ActionAid over the violence against women was also very concerning. The organization, which works against poverty and injustice, revealed in the research that only 3.01% of victims get a favourable trial. The complaints made by the victims mostly do not reach the judges.

Extra-judicial killings are not new for the country, though for decades, the trend is more about the law enforcement agencies executing people -- whether in custody or in crossfire, or in so-called “gunfights.” The law enforcement agencies, either through orders from higher ups, or in response to any emergency, have continued to commit extra-judicial killings as a tool to tackle crime. 

The anti-drug drive, launched by RAB on May 4, 2018, is the fairly recent example of the authorities exercising the necessity to justify extra-judicial killings. The drive left more than 100 people dead across the country, who were said to have been involved in drug peddling and trafficking across the country. 

Now, the killing of suspected rapists has emerged as the new trend in the country, while the rape incidents continue to rise. This sort of killing has emerged as a new form of extra-judicial killing.  

But how long can such an operation continue? Someone accused of rape is naturally hated by all, but they deserve to be sentenced through a trial and the existing laws of the country. It is the current laws and procedures relating to violence against women that must be upgraded.

Md Mehedi Hassan is a journalist.

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