Dhaka, 14 January 2021: Of 25 rape cases filed in the country from 2012 to 2016, 25 accused have been granted bail within 15 days after their arrest. At present, 20 accused rapists are out on bail, three accused rapists in jail and two are roaming around under the umbrella of influential people, avoiding arrests.
In addition, most of the accused have been released on bail and are trying to influence the case in various ways. Most of these 25 rape cases are under trial and hearing stage. Charge sheets have been filed in 22 cases in the six months after the case was filed. However, 9 such cases filed during 2014-15 are yet to get verdicts. Twelve cases filed in 2016-2017 also didn’t get verdicts yet and there has been no progress in two cases. No charge sheet has been filed in three cases so far.
Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) presented these findings today through an online press conference in the morning. The purpose of the press conference was to highlight the current status of 25 rape cases followed up by MJF’s partner NGOs and to find out the reasons for the delay in handling the rape cases.
Out of these 25 cases, two cases are inactive. Documents of four cases are not available. Of the 20 charge sheets, dates of hearing have been given some 8-23 times. Medico-legal test of one case has not been done yet. It was found that the hearing of these cases has been postponed due to non-appearance of most of the witnesses. Parents are frustrated and do not want to go to court. Poor parents are reluctant to sue for financial hardship.
Upon inquiry into why the rape case was delayed, it was found that the Prevention of Violence against Women and Children Act clearly states that work must be completed within 180 days from the date of receipt of documents for trial and once the hearing has begun, it will have be conducted every working day. Despite continuous management guidelines, it is not being followed properly.
Due to the delay in the investigation, the investigation report is not being submitted within the time limit of 90 days. Besides, the public prosecutor did not take any initiative to produce the victim and the witness in the court on the date of the case.
It was also found that that children and women who have been raped are being blamed in various ways police and the judiciary processes. Defendant’s attorneys deliberately mistreated the raped child and woman. Even if the crime of rape is uncompromising under the law, the courts are often indifferent to compromise under circumstantial pressure.
Although abusive methods such as medico-legal and evidence-based two-finger tests have been banned by the high court, the process is still ongoing in remote areas. Among rape victims, three children are persons with disabilities. Four children are aged between 5 to 10 years, five children aged 11 to 15 years and 16 adolescents and women aged 18 to 35 years. Two disabled women gave births to two children. But fathers of these two children have not yet been identified. Although the state is supposed to bear the responsibility of the child born as a result of rape, it is not being implemented.
MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam observed that unless the justice system is not fully strengthened and people’s attitude towards women and girls are transformed positively, the menace of rape and subsequent trial processed will continue to remain unhelpful to rape victims.
The legal aspects of the cases was presented by senior lawyer Elina Khan. She emphasized the shortage of Justice in this particular issue. She mentioned that there is no 24 hours forensic lab in the country, which we need it urgently. She also told that the form used by the Plaintiff is very unclear. It should be clear and in Bangla and English. Nazrana Hira and Ruma Sultana, Programme Coordinator, MJF presented the documents
It was also found that five accused were released on bail and were trying to influence the case in various ways. The four accused criminals are pressuring the victim and her family to withdraw the case in various ways including intimidation. Four people are threatening not to testify in the case. The six accused are pressuring through local people’s representatives, political leaders and influential people to reach a compromise with the victim and her family. Two social workers who have come forward to help victims are being threatened. The lawyers of the accused party harassed the raped child and woman with indecent questions, forced the victim to narrate the incident by repeating the incident and malign character in various ways.
The victim’s medical examination was abnormally delayed allowing evidence to disappear. Medical reports are not written properly. Although the rape case is closely related to the age of the victim, the report does not accurately state the age. Unusually reports that are submitted are not provided to the victim. Most of the district headquarters hospitals in the country do not have a system to determine the age of the victim. In many cases DNA testing is not done. And yet the accused influences the results of the DNA test.
Placing several recommendations, MJF demanded reforming rape laws, enacting witness protection laws, completing investigations and trials in a timely manner, and instituting strong monitoring of whether legal provisions are being properly observed and taking swift action against those responsible, compromising or compromising rape cases.
It also suggested to amend relevant law so that persons with language and hearing and intellectual disabilities can testify in rape cases. It also demanded identifying any errors in the medical report as punishable offence. Legal assistance for travel expenses and other expenses should be given to victims. MJF also urged effective capacity-building of police, judges, lawyers, doctors, court staff and all stakeholders involved in the trial of rape cases.