It all comes down to a culture of impunity
Every day, from the beginning of 2020, as I read the newspaper, I have come across at least one or more reports on rape. I ask myself, what could be the reason for such a heinous offense to be occurring continuously?
And the answer is the culture of impunity.
Although there is the Penal Code 1860 and Nari o Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain 2000 to punish an offender of rape, still, most rape victims are not getting the justice they deserve. So, as a result, the number of rapes is gradually increasing.
Citizens of Bangladesh have become frustrated watching the same crime happening every day. In the past, they demanded the death penalty and various deterrent punishments and recently, they demanded crossfire –- extra-judicial killing -- of the accused rapist.
A few lawmakers also supported the “crossfire” punishment. But extra-judicial killing violates Article 27, 31, and 35 of the Constitution of Bangladesh. Article 27 denotes: “All citizens are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law.”
Article 31 indicates: “It is the absolute right of all citizens to be treated only in accordance with the law.” Article 35 denotes the protection in respect of trial and punishment. So, extra-judicial killing will be a big slap on the rule of law.
Nari o Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain 2000, Section 9, prescribes the punishment of death or imprisonment for life to the rapist(s) if the woman or the child raped dies as a consequence of rape or any act by the rapist(s) after the rape.
Even though we have strict laws and punishment against rape, the number of punishments given for rape is very low. In most cases, due to lack of evidence, the rapist gets away unpunished.
Many victims are deterred from going to court due to a number of social, legal, and institutional factors. Most victims do not disclose incidents of rape and abstain from filing a case due to social stigma.
Many rape victims do not file rape cases in fear that they will be interrogated about their character and lifestyle. The Evidence Act 1872, Section 155 says that in the case of rape, the victim can be interrogated about their character and lifestyle.
Just because a person has engaged in flirting or other kinds of relationships with another man, the court might rule out the victim’s accusation, as the victim is capable of getting into a sexual relationship with another man -- this section of law should be reformed for the sake of proper justice.
In fear of being harassed or harmed, the witnesses for rape cases avoid giving statements in the court against the accused.
Our society judges rapists by looking at their attire: Can this person commit such a crime? Is he the real rapist? Well, a rapist can be anyone from any class of society, clothing doesn’t change anything.
On the other hand, forensic evidence is highly important to prove rape. But in order to acquire forensic evidence, forensic examination of the victim has to be done within the shortest possible time.
The law gives a limitation of 24 hours after the complaint is lodged. It has been reported that many police officers are unaware of this legal requirement. So they delay sending the rape victim for a forensic examination, and as a result, valuable pieces of forensic evidence get lost.
Now the question arises: How can we stop rape offenses? First of all, we have to abolish the culture of impunity and dole out the right punishment to all offenders. The government should reform laws to make them more gender equitable.
Victims and witnesses should be given protection so that they can deliver their statements without any hesitation or fear. The victims should be sent for forensic examination within 24 hours after the complaint has been lodged.
Overall, we have to develop our moral compasses.
Mehadi Hasan is a student from the Department of Law, North South University.