In the wake of protests over the growing number of rape incidents, the government is going to amend the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000, to make death sentence the highest punishment for committing rape.
Currently, the highest punishment is life imprisonment.
Law Minister Anisul Huq told The Daily Star yesterday, “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last night [Wednesday night] instructed me to prepare a draft for amendment to section-9(1) of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000, and to place it before the cabinet on Monday for approval.
“Accordingly, we are in the process for preparing a draft for amending section-9(1) and a few other sections of the act for consideration of the cabinet,” he said without giving further details.
According to section-9(1), if any male rapes a woman or a child, he could face rigorous life imprisonment and fines.
The government move came at a time when the country is witnessing vigorous protests over the growing number of incidents of sexual harassment and rape.
The gang-rape of a woman in Noakhali and the video of it being released on social media triggered outraged as anger was already simmering across the country following a string of recent rape incidents.
At least 975 incidents of rapes had happened between January and September 2020, according to Ain O Salish Kendra.
The demand for capital punishment as the highest punishment for rape has been getting louder every day.
Even Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury yesterday called for enactment of strict laws and their enforcement to stop incidents of rape.
STRICTER PUNISHMENT NOT ENOUGH
Prominent rights activist Nur Khan Liton believes enhancement of punishment would not reduce the number of rape incidents, rather proper implementation of the law could bring the numbers down.
He said there were incidents in which suspects were killed in the so-called gunfights but those did not deter the perpetrators and reduce the number of rape incidents.
“I think proper implementation of the existing law can bring down the number of such incidents. Enhancement of punishment without looking into the real issue would not solve the problem,” he told The Daily Star last night.
He said with political patronage, the perpetrators turn into monsters and they think that they would not face trial.
“So, what we need to do is quick trials of such cases and give a clear message that no one would be spared after committing such crimes,” he added.
Salma Ali, president of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, said capital punishment could be incorporated in the question of child rape. However, that should be done after long discussions, she said.
Referring to India, she said the Indian government has incorporated death penalty for rape after the 2012 Delhi gang-rape and murder case but the number of rape incidents there did not decline.
“So, I think enhancement of punishment is not enough to bring down the number of rape incidents,” she told The Daily Star last night.
She said victims’ access to justice has to ensured and to do so several steps have to be taken. The steps include amendment of The Evidence Act and Code of Criminal Procedure, enactment of victim and witness protection act, creation of an environment where women feel secure to continue their legal battle, and compensate victims at the preliminary stage of the case.
“Without doing these, enhancement of punishment would not be able to prevent incidents of rape,” she added.