Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) on Thursday urged the government to reform rape laws, enact witness protection laws, and complete investigations and trial in a timely manner.
MJF also recommended amending the relevant law to allow persons with language and hearing and intellectual disabilities testify in rape cases.
It also urged effective capacity-building of police, judges, lawyers, doctors, court staff and all stakeholders involved in the trial of rape cases. MJF also demanded identifying any errors in the medical report as punishable offence.
The suggestions came at a virtual press conference 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.
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 are 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 cases 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 they had been filed.
However, nine 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. Charge sheets are yet to be filed in three 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 to 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. Defendants’ attorneys deliberately mistreated the victims.
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 birth 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 process will continue to remain unhelpful to rape victims.