The state has to take responsibility for the increasing number of rapes
According to statistics provided by the police, more than 20,000 rape cases have been filed between 2014 and 2019. These are just the reported cases, in reality, the number of rape is much higher than this.
Rape is a crime, a heinous crime. Just like other crimes no one can justify rape. Crime is a crime, and it should not take place in the first place. In every rape, the state is responsible for the incident, not the victim. The state failed to protect a citizen, who fell a victim of a heinous crime.
According to Ain o Salis Kendra, 889 women were raped, 192 fell victim to attempted rape, 41 were killed after rape while 9 committed suicide after rape in the first eight months of this year. Who is responsible for all these?
On average, four women were raped every day, and over a hundred women were violated every month. This just reflects the incapability of the state and the system to provide security to its citizens.
A citizen should feel safe anywhere at any time and it is the government's responsibility to ensure such security. If any of us do not feel safe, the government has to take the blame, naturally.
Rape is an expression of power when someone becomes bigger than their size and thinks of himself as someone powerful due to some kind of shelter from the powerful ones (political or other). The rate of getting away with the crime is 97 percent.
He gets a confident feeling that he will also get away committing the crime and thus such heinous crimes keep happening.
Surely the government or the police cannot ensure 100 percent safety and security in every corner of Bangladesh, but justice can be ensured for each reported case. But, unfortunately, the delay in the process, invisible pressure, and wrongful exercise of power are responsible for delayed justice.
Only three percent are convicted in cases relating to violence against women and children as reported by Women and Children Repression Prevention tribunal from five districts in 2019. Which means, in every 100 cases, only three accused are convicted.
The punishment, according to section 376 of the Penal Code 1860, says "whoever commits rape shall be punished with [imprisonment] for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, unless the woman raped is his wife and is not under twelve years of age, in which case he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both."
In other words, section 376 of the penal code says, the punishment of rape in Bangladesh is a maximum of 20 years of imprisonment (life imprisonment). In every case in which sentence of [imprisonment] for life shall have been passed, [the Government] may, without the consent of the offender, commute the punishment for imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding [twenty] years.
The punishment can be less than that, according to Bangla daily Prothom-Alo (25th September 2014), Mithu Mia, in a rape case was sentenced with just two years of imprisonment in Narshigndi.
Bangladesh is a country of Muslim majority, and according to Islamic scholars, the punishment of rape is to publicly stone the offender to death if married or 100 lashes if unmarried. Such laws can be applied easily in Muslim majority countries.
But that would be considered medieval barbarism by some of the civil society and there is also a worldwide rise of voice against death sentences. Is the death sentence of the criminal truly a solution to the problem? That is another debate.
The punishment, whatever it is, should reflect justice. The reason why rape cases are increasing is the lack of an example of justice; victims are harassed and alleged criminals are released in many cases.
If instead of three percent conviction, it was 97 percent and speedy delivery of justice, we would not see 4 cases of rape every day even during a pandemic.
There is a new trend where some people say, "put the rapist in the crossfire". Those people are supporting extra-judicial killings unknowingly out of emotion (or maybe knowingly to serve a purpose). Extra-judicial killing is a crime, and a crime cannot end another crime.
Rather it would increase the number of crimes and can result in the death of innocent people. Just like justice delayed is justice denied, denied justice to one is a threat to the whole of humanity.
Along with many reasons of rape like unemployment, pornography and drug addiction, lack of justice is a significant reason. The victim cannot be blamed for a crime, only the criminal is to be blamed and the system which is helping the criminal to get away with the crime is to be blamed.
If justice was ensured, women would feel more secured. We do need to build a culture and environment safe for women, but to do that women knowing karate and carrying pepper spray is not the solution, the solution is to (along with other solutions) create an example of justice and spread it so much that anyone would think hundred times before even thinking of committing such crime. 1 rapist punished can result in 1000 fewer rapes.
Shah Md Akib Majumder is a student of BRAC University School of Law.