Award of compensation sustained in only one case out of 90
The court has awarded compensation to victims in only 6.8% of rape cases in Bangladesh, according to a report by the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST).
The report was published as part of the Rape Law Reform Now campaign, supported by the UN Women Combatting Gender Based Violence Project funded by Global Affairs Canada, and authored by BLAST Research Specialist Taqbir Huda.
“Through this report we choose to challenge (#ChooseToChallenge) the almost exclusive focus on punishment of the perpetrator when discussing justice for rape, while overlooking the victim-survivor’s right to reparation,” said a BLAST press release on Sunday.
“Ensuring justice for rape victims and survivors in Bangladesh has mostly been understood and pursued in punitive terms. While ensuring punishment of the perpetrator is important, redress for the rape survivor is seldom discussed. The objective of this report is to restore the balance in the discourse on justice for rape, so the urgent necessity of granting monetary remedies to the rape survivor becomes clear,” it added.
The report analysed 99 Supreme Court judgments relating to 90 rape cases reported in six of the leading law reports of Bangladesh: Dhaka Law Reports, Bangladesh Legal Decisions, Bangladesh Law Times, Mainstream Law Reports, Bangladesh Law Chronicles and Appellate Division Cases.
Of these 90 cases, reported between 1995 and 2019, 46 were rape cases filed under the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act 1995, while 44 were filed under the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act 2000.
Statutory provisions on compensation for sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including rape, were first introduced in Bangladesh through the 2000 Act, but it did not provide any standalone right to compensation. Instead, it provided for the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal to exercise its discretion on when and whether to convert an order of fine into an award of compensation.
According to the report, the court imposed fines on convicted rapists in 100% of the cases filed under the 2000 Act. However, the court converted the fine into compensation and awarded it to the survivor in only 6.8% (3 out of 44) of these cases.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court acquitted the convicts in two out of the three cases where compensation was awarded, so the award of compensation was sustained in only one case.
BLAST recommended that the government amend section 15 of the 2000 Act, so that compensation is a matter of right and not judicial discretion.
They also recommended to enact the Crime Victims Compensation Act drafted by the Law Commission in 2007, so that a Crime Victim Compensation Fund is established in every district. As a result of the fund, victims of violent crimes would be able to apply for compensation independently of criminal proceedings.
BLAST also suggested a sub scheme and guidelines for SGBV victims in the fund.
Shoko Ishikawa, country representative of UN Women Bangladesh, said: “Compensation is the bare minimum that ought to be provided as reparation to SGBV survivors. It is therefore critical to ensure that the legal framework for compensation for survivors of rape and other forms of SGBV is strengthened in Bangladesh in line with the reform proposals set out in this report.”
Sara Hossain, honorary executive director at BLAST, said: “We hope this report encourages lawmakers, lawyers, academics and activists alike to refocus some much needed attention to ensuring that every rape survivor has effective access to remedies and to reparation.”
Taqbir Huda, research specialist at BLAST, said: “As we celebrate our graduation from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) category, it is essential that we reinvest some of the country’s wealth in activating the Crime Victims Compensation Fund proposed by the Law Commission back in 2007, so victims of violent offences, such as rape survivors are able to get some compensation irrespective of the outcome of the criminal prosecution.”
The reform proposals in this report were developed in consultation with the Rape Law Reform Coalition, a coalition of seventeen human rights organisations working on ensuring justice for rape, including an advisory committee comprising experts on justice for SGBV and rape. Relevant stakeholders in various events held as part of Rape Law Reform Now campaign were also consulted.
The stakeholders in these meetings included but were not limited to former District Court and Supreme Court judges, Supreme Court and District Court lawyers, legal academics, women’s rights activists from groups such as Ain o Salish Kendra, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association, Brac, Naripokkho, researchers, including those from the Law Commission of Bangladesh.