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MJF: No end in sight to sufferings of rape survivors

  • Published at 07:05 pm January 14th, 2021

Rape survivors have to face character assassination, delayed justice or no justice, financial crisis, psychological trauma and so on

Despite there being written laws in the country to safeguard rape survivors and ensuring them justice, the ground realities are very different — of struggle and injustice.

The unbearable aftermath of rape offers rape survivors with character assassination by society, delayed justice or no justice, financial crisis, psychological trauma and so on.

Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), a human rights organization, recently analyzed 25 rape cases, filed between 2012 and 2017, to draw a picture on the situation. The findings were disclosed at a press conference on Thursday.

MJF found that the accused in all of the cases had managed to secure bail within a maximum of 15 days of their arrest by the law enforcement agencies. 

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Though police submitted charge sheets against them within six months in 22 cases, no verdict has been delivered in 21 of the cases yet as not much progress was made regarding trial proceedings.

Dates of hearing were scheduled from 8 to 23 times in 20 of the cases, where the charge sheet was submitted. The medico-legal test of one case has not been done yet. 

Never-ending sufferings

It was found that hearings of these cases had been postponed due to the non-appearance of most of the witnesses. Parents of the rape survivors are frustrated and do not want to go to court. Poor parents are reluctant to sue due to financial hardship.

Of the 25 incidents of rape, two rape survivors who gave birth to two children were physically challenged. The government is yet to identify the rapists or take any steps to provide the children’s alimony.

MJF said two of the accused were never arrested as they had strong political support. On the other hand, at least eight of the accused either threatened the rape survivors and their families to withdraw the cases or threatened witnesses in the cases.

In six cases, family members faced tremendous pressure from influential quarters of society for out of court settlement. Two cases are currently stalled in court.

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Due to the delay in investigations, the investigation reports are not being submitted within the time limit of 90 days. Besides, the public prosecutor did not take any initiative to produce rape survivors and witnesses in court on the dates of the cases.

After observing the legal and trial process of the 25 cases, MJF also noticed that all rape survivors were blamed by society.

There were instances where rape survivors had to face misbehaviour from lawyers. They were cornered by being asked abusive questions and subjected to character assassination in the courtroom by lawyers.

Of these 25 cases, two cases are inactive and the documents of four cases are not available.

Why is this happening?

MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam said that the country needed to stop the culture of victim blaming first.

“Women and children will not get a safe country until we make a positive change to our mindset first,” she said, adding in the legal process, the main focus should be providing rape survivors with accurate justice as soon as possible.

Speaking at the conference, Advocate Elina Khan drew attention to the shortage of judges at the courts where rape cases were being tried.

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She said that there were no 24-hour forensic lab facilities in the country, which were necessary to provide prompt support as delay in forensic tests distorts evidence.

She said that district headquarters did not have DNA testing facilities at hospitals to examine the age of the victims as well as the accused persons, which often benefited the accused during the trial.

The MJF placed a set of demands at the press conference, including reforming rape laws, enacting witness protection laws, completing investigations and trials in a timely manner, instituting strong monitoring to ensure legal provisions are properly followed, and taking swift action against those responsible or compromising rape cases.

It also suggested amending relevant laws to ensure persons with language and hearing and intellectual disabilities could testify in rape cases. Another demand was that making any errors in the medical report should be regarded as a punishable offence.