Directives for Rape Cases; A New Hope for Fair Trial

Violence against women is a common scenario in our male-dominated society. But among all the tortures the statistics of rape is alarming. According to a report of Ain O Salish Kendra, a total of 818 women were raped across the country in 2017. On being asked in parliament in February 2018, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has said, a total number of 17289 cases of women & child rape were recorded in past four years. There are many other incidents that do not come to light because of shame, social insecurity and fear of harassment. Our law prescribes punishment for this heinous crime which has been described in both Nari O Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain 2000 [section 9] and The Penal Code 1860 [section 376]. A victim must report as early as possible after the rape is committed. Often they try to rub all the vices from their body through a complete shower. But this is a big mistake they make. By doing this, they are destroying the evidence. A woman should go to the doctor so that all the evidence are still fresh enough to justify what happened. Moreover, there is a social practice to marry the victims later on so that the rapist can avoid the trial by compromising marriage. For this, they could use section 19 of child marriage restraint (amendment) act, 2017. Which states, child marriage can be allowed of both underaged girls and boys in special cases. But what is that ‘special case’ is not mentioned in the act. The government faced huge criticism for this provision. Then the State Minister for Women and Children Affairs, Meher Afroz confirmed that marriage of rape victim with the rapist is strictly prohibited. The legislature has already made a draft and currently it is pending to be enacted as law.

Recently, 2 benchmark judgments have been passed by the High Court regarding rape cases. On 12th May, while delivering the verdict on BLAST and Others Vs. Bangladesh and Others, Writ Petition No. 10663 of 2013; the high court division have banned the ‘two-finger test’ of rape victims declaring it has no scientific merit or evidential value. In such cases, new healthcare protocols shall be introduced by the government and that must be followed. Also, victims can be accompanied by their relatives, doctors, female police and nurse. Furthermore, during the trial, the lawyer can not ask any disrespectful question to the victim.

Earlier, in the year 2016, five forensic medical specialists opined that this method is ‘outdated and immoral’. The test is outlawed in countries like Britain, the United States, Canada and India. In 27th May, the High Court delivered another verdict of a writ challenging the legality of accepting complain 27 hours after the incident of rape of a Garo woman in the capital in 2015. In the judgement, the DNA test has been made compulsory for rape cases and samples should be sent within 48 hours. The High Court also formulated 18 directives to ensure fair investigation and prosecution of rape cases, which was released on April.

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High Court’s Directives for Rape Cases are as follows:

1. The officer-in-charge of the police station will record the complaint in writing and whether in the jurisdiction of the police station or is not important.
2. A separate website should be created immediately so that such complaints can be made directly online.
3. If a police officer delayed receiving the complaint without specific reasons, then there should be specific provisions for taking action against him.
4. There should be female police not below the rank of constable in every police station.
5. At all stage, the identity of the victim should be kept confidential
6. There will be a list of female social workers in each police station.
7. The complaint will be recorded in the presence of the victim’s lawyer, friend, the social worker or security officer.
8. The victim should be made aware of the rights granted by the state and all information must be provided if she wishes.
9. After receiving the complaint, the duty officer will immediately notify the ‘Victim Support Center’.
10. If any woman or girl who is a victim of rape or sexual harassment is unable to understand, she must be provided with necessary counselling.
11. After taking the written information, the investigating officer without any delay will send victim for medical examination with a female police officer.
12. Victim Support Center will have the necessary facilities for the victim to recover soon.
13. In all case of rape or sexual assault chemical/ DNA tests are mandatory
14.DNA & other samples shall be collected and sent to forensic science lab within 48 hours of the commission of a crime,
15. Any failure of the investigating agency will be considered as a punishable offence.
16. The investigation officer of the case will prepare the investigation report as soon as possible.
17. In order to get relief for crime against women and children, people can call ‘10921’ and extensive campaigns in print, electronic and web media should be carried out to make people aware of this service.
18. In order to provide security, necessary health care and advice to the victim, a support centre must be set up in every metropolitan city.

This is a breakthrough ruling regarding a fair investigation of rape cases. It has been said in the verdict to comply with the directions until a specific law is passed. In order to create an acceptable policy in accordance with the directives, The Ministry of Law, Ministry of women & children affairs, Home ministry and Inspector General of Police have been asked to take necessary steps. But only laws are not enough to prevent rape, it also demands our moral response. The attitude of the society towards rape victims must be changed. Victims should be provided with proper care and necessary counselling because they experience both short and long-term psychological problems. Self-blame often results in suicide. Other common emotional and psychological effects of rape include depression, personality disorder, sleep disorder, anxiety, lack of trust to others etc. This is just as important as punishing the perpetrator.

Experts believe that education is the key to bring about a change in the mindset of our society. More and more awareness building programs are to be taken among young people especially schools & colleges and places where it is happening rampantly. Sons and daughters should be given equal importance in their family. Schools need to teach the rules of self-defence. People have to be aware of the law and punishment for rape, oppression, torture against women. Due to social-economic barriers and state mismanagement, many raped women are out of the trail. To ensure fair trial Government has to take more deterrent initiatives. Our fight against sexual violence is a tough fight, we must win this war. Because if we don’t pay heed to the alarming rate of committing rape right now, one day our near & dear ones can be the victim.

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Aparajita Debnath

Aparajita Debnath, currently studying in the department of law in Jagannath University. I choose law because a career in the legal profession can be intellectually challenging, personally fulfilling and financially rewarding, and also the legal profession has long been regarded as a noble and elite profession. I want to serve the society and render justice to the victims. However, I am an avid reader and regularly participate in many legal workshops and seminars. My interests are varied and include constitutional law, human rights law, personal laws and business law.

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