The incidence of rape and murder after rape is on the rise across the country, a women’s rights group has said.
According to Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) statistics, at least 241 rape incidents were reported between January and May 23 this year.
The organisation said the incidence of rape has been rising since 2010. BNWLA statistics showed 789 rapes reported in 2014, 719 in 2013, 836 in 2012, 603 in 2011 and 411 in 2010.
Young girls and elderly women are equally at risk of being raped, women’s rights activists said.
Accused rapists frequently go unpunished, they added. Sources at the Metropolitan Magistrate Court of Dhaka said just two percent of rape cases go to trial each year.
Statistics show that in rape cases, after a complaint is registered or a case is filed, the trial of the cases hardly ever take place.
Fourteen years’ worth of data collected by the One Stop Crisis Centre in Dhaka showed that at least 5,321 females sought help at the centre after being emotionally or sexually harassed, but a mere 43 people received punishment in the cases.
Laxity in applying the law, failure of police to investigate properly and delays in the trial process are behind the rising trend of rape, BNWLA said.
Salma Ali, executive director of BNWLA, said the absence of social and political responsibility and a lack of transparency contribute to the problem.
The absence of a victim protection policy and delays in police investigations were a major factor in explaining the trend, she said, adding that police often take too long to file cases giving perpetrators time to go into hiding.
“There are a number of relevant laws that we need to apply better. With the law properly being applied and awareness created about the crime, it is possible to combat the trend,” she said.
Cases are sometimes dismissed because of the interference and domination of ruling party men, rights activists said.
On March 19, two local ruling party men raped a teenage girl near the Awami League office of the capital’s Dholaipar area, according to a complaint lodged at Sutrapur police station.
Although police arrested the two ruling party men, the case is likely to be dismissed because the victim has not come forward. The two men were soon released from custody.
Rights activists said a climate of impunity and a fear of reprisals discouraged women, already facing social pressures, from fighting for justice.
Law enforcers sometimes turn a blind eye to allegations of rape against high profile personalities, activists added.
Additional Inspector General of Police Mokhlesur Rahman denied that the police were negligent when investigating rape cases. He said every police station across the country had been instructed to help rape victims receive proper attention and service.
Experts said delayed justice and infrequent convictions embolden perpetrators to be repeat offenders.
Professor Mahfuza Khanam, member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), told the Dhaka Tribune that a cycle had now been created in rape cases because the criminals get bail using loopholes in the law and then rape again.
“If the law is not used properly and justice is not ensured, this kind of crime will be repeated again and again,” she said.
Social attitudes towards women also explain the rise in rape, she said.
Professor Zia Rahman, chairman of the criminology department at Dhaka University, said the commodification of women in popular culture was a factor in the increasing incidences of sexual violence.
From childhood, boys are exposed to a patriarchal mode of thought, he said, with little scope of learning about respect for women.
Institutions which work on sex education also fail to provide proper knowledge and create awareness, resulting in the rise of rape cases, Prof Zia said.
Prof Zia claimed the entire criminal justice system had failed rape victims.
According to police headquarters statistics, in 2014, some 4,642 rape cases were filed, while 4,538 cases were filed in 2013.
Police recorded 797 cases of rape across the country in the first three months of this year.
Data suggested that at least 300 rape cases are filed on an average month, but the real number of incidents is likely double that number.
Although police filed 2,921 charge sheets in 2013 and 2,918 in 2014, the trial of any of the cases was yet to be held.
Police submitted final reports of 1,437 cases and 1,564 cases, respectively, in 2013 and 2014.
Interestingly, the charge sheets were not for rape cases that took place in 2013 or 2014 but for cases filed in previous years.
Case backlogs can run for years, causing plaintiffs’ circumstances to change and enthusiasm to go to trial to wane.
Police officials said the timely submission of charge sheets was difficult because every year there are cases pending investigation spilling over from the previous year.
At the end of 2014, 1,280 rape cases were under investigation and 18,662 cases were under trial in court.
There were 980 rape cases under investigation in December 2013 and 17,414 cases in trial.
Abdullah Al-Mamun, deputy inspector general (operations) of police headquarters, said: “The investigation of rape cases gets top priority from us.
“If any police official is found to be negligent in investigating these cases, we will take action action against them.”
Source: Dhaka Tribune