The much-talked-about Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2020, was passed in parliament yesterday to provide for death penalty as the highest punishment for rape.
State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Ministry Fazilatun Nessa Indira moved the bill, which was passed a by a voice vote.
The bill was amended to incorporate the death penalty as the maximum punishment in rape cases.
In the proposed law, the punishment for rape is death penalty or life imprisonment. According to article 9 (1) of the existing Women and Children Repression Prevention Act-2000, the punishment for rape is life imprisonment.
Amid countrywide protests denouncing violence against women, the cabinet on October 12 approved the draft of the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Bill 2020, incorporating the provision of capital punishment.
The following day, President Abdul Hamid promulgated the bill through an ordinance as parliament was not in session.
As per the legal obligations, the ordinance was placed in parliament for its approval by Law Minister Anisul Huq.
It was issued in the wake of waves of anti-rape demonstrations across the country after a series of rapes, most notably the gang-rape of a housewife in Noakhali’s Begumganj upazila on September 2. The incident was videotaped by the perpetrators and later released and made viral on the internet.
At least 975 women were raped across the country in the last nine months and 161 rape incidents took place in September alone, according to rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra’s October report.
Of them, 208 women were gang-raped, 43 murdered after rape and 12 victims of rape died by suicide afterwards, the report added. Three women and nine men were killed while protesting assaults.
On the other hand, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad said they recorded 129 rape incidents in September and 83 of the victims were minors.
A number of organisations, including Feminists Across Generations, an inter-generational feminist alliance, however, argued that the death penalty was not a solution; they demanded an end to the “rape culture”.
Naripokkho argued: “How many people can be dealt with by the death penalty? The problem is all around us, rapists don’t come from another planet — they are our brothers, our relatives. Children must be taught to respect women from an early stage, this is the only solution.”
According to article 9 (3) of the existing law, if a woman falls victim to gang-rape and gets injured or dies, the punishment is death penalty or life imprisonment for each rapist.
As per the bill, changes were also proposed to two other sub-articles — 11 (Ga) and 20 (7) — of the existing law.
Any simple injury for dowry will be a compoundable offence (the complainant can compromise to drop the charge against the accused) in accordance with the article 11 (Ga) of the proposed law.
As per the same article, one shall be sentenced to maximum three years but minimum one year’s rigorous imprisonment and will be awarded pecuniary (monetary) penalty for “hurting” for dowry.
In article 20 (7) of the bill, “the Children Act, 2013” has been incorporated in place of “Children Act, 1974” to follow the latest law as much as possible during the trial of any crime committed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act-2000 in case any child commits or witnesses such crime.
The trial of rape cases shall be completed within 180 days at Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals, according to the existing law.