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Dhaka Tribune

How can we address campus sexual violence?

Examining the legal perspectives and implications of campus sexual violence in Bangladeshi universities

Update : 16 Feb 2024, 11:28 AM

Sexual assaults on college campuses are a disconcerting matter in society that necessitates urgent consideration and all-encompassing legal remedies. A reported 3,703 females and girls were subjected to a range of violent crimes in 2021, including rape and murder, according to the Bangladesh Mohila Parishad. Recently, a 19-year-old woman's alleged rape has been exposed at a prestigious university in Bangladesh, sparking widespread protests and demands for justice. 

Legislations in place

The Women and Children Repression Prevention Act is primarily responsible for establishing the legal framework governing the handling of sexual violence cases in Bangladesh. Adopted with the primary objective of protecting the welfare and rights of minors and women, this legislation is of utmost importance in the legal effort to prosecute those accountable for sexual violence. Serious provisions have been set forth in the act pertaining to the filing of cases, the conduct of investigations, and the timely and equitable prosecution of offenders. 

Universities in Bangladesh have established policies and guidelines to combat sexual violence on campus, as well as the measures mandated by law. Institutional frameworks are of utmost importance in ensuring that students and staff are situated in a safe and secure environment. In most cases, these policies comprise preventative measures, reporting guidelines, and disciplinary procedures for individuals convicted of sexual misconduct. 

By integrating policies specific to individual universities and legal provisions outlined in the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, a comprehensive approach can be established to address the issue of sexual violence. Bangladesh can enhance the safety of its people, with a focus on women and children, by implementing such institutional guidelines and statutory regulations that address sexual violence.

Obstacles

Although legal frameworks are in place, the prosecution of sexual violence cases faces numerous obstacles impeding their effectiveness. Societal obstacles, such as victim shaming, stigma, and the lack of sufficient evidence, frequently impede efforts to achieve justice. The legal process is further complicated in the recent rape case being examined due to the political influence of the accused. Moreover, the act of evading capture and accountability presents significant challenges for those accused.

Accountability

At the core of efforts to prevent sexual violence on college campuses is ensuring that offenders are held accountable and providing survivors with robust support. Priority must be given to conducting fair and impartial investigations in legal proceedings so as to afford due process to both accusers and accused. Furthermore, it is imperative that survivors are provided with comprehensive support services that include but are not limited to legal aid, counseling, and medical care.

The purported participation of individuals with political affiliations in the incident gives rise to concerns regarding the impact of power dynamics on the judicial system. As a result of endangering the impartiality of investigations and proceedings, political interference poses a serious risk to justice. This highlights the critical nature of safeguarding legal procedures against external influences in order to maintain justice regardless of one's political views.

Urgency is vital

It is the responsibility of university administrations to ensure the health and safety of their students and faculty. The university syndicate has implemented resolute measures in light of the recent incident, which comprise the suspension of identified students and the commencement of disciplinary procedures. The university's determination to initiate legal proceedings and form an investigative committee indicates the urgency of tackling the matter at its source.

Since immediate responses are crucial when it comes to tackling particular incidents, in order to mitigate the risk of sexual violence occurring on college campuses in the future, it is also crucial to implement comprehensive reforms. Potential revisions could encompass improving legal safeguards for victims, boosting safety standards on university campuses, and advancing knowledge and consciousness regarding gender-based violence. It is critical to acknowledge and confront systemic challenges, including power dynamics and impunity, in order to foster learning environments that are both secure and inclusive.

The university has immediately implemented mitigation measures in light of the incident, which include the suspension of students who have been identified and the commencement of legal proceedings. The steps taken are impressive, as they demonstrate the university's dedication to promptly resolving the matter. However, in order to prevent future incidents and ensure accountability throughout the legal process, it is necessary to implement enduring reforms.

In light of the difficulties posed by sexual violence on college campuses, it is reasonable to consider legal reforms. Future measures could consist of greater penalties for offenders, streamlined legal procedures to ensure prompt administration of justice, and the creation of dedicated tribunals to adjudicate such matters. Moreover, efforts aimed at increasing knowledge and understanding regarding legal rights, consent, and reporting systems can serve to promote a community that is both secure and well-informed.

The Jahangirnagar university rape incident highlights the critical nature of implementing comprehensive initiatives to address sexual violence on college campuses in Bangladesh. The significance of a multifaceted approach that prioritizes accountability, justice, and the safeguarding of human rights has been underscored in this article's examination of the legal implications and perspectives surrounding such incidents. To foster an atmosphere of safety, justice, and equality, addressing sexual violence on college campuses necessitates collaborative efforts from legal authorities, academic institutions, and society as a whole.


 

Md Naeem is a freelance contributor and a student of law and human rights.

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