With 1% conviction rate in Dhaka metro areas, Bangladesh is the land of impunity for rape

According to statistics of Bangladesh police, a total of 18,508 cases of rape have been filed with the police across the country in the past five years from 2012 to 2016. These included: 3,700 cases in 2012; 3,891 cases in 2013; 3,647 cases in 2014; 3,622 cases in 2015; and 3,648 cases in 2016.

In the Dhaka metro areas, five women and children repression prevention tribunals disposed of 2,057 cases out of 4,436 filed with different police stations from 2001 to 2016. As per court and prosecution sources, only 22 cases ended in convictions over the last five years which is about 1% rate of conviction. If conviction rate is about 1% in Dhaka metro areas, it is not hard to imagine the situation in rural areas.

Legal experts point out that because the legal process is so humiliating, the bulk of cases end in out of court settlements. A large majority of rape survivors shy away from pursuing cases because it is simply too embarrassing.

A total of 4,541 rape cases were filed with the One-Stop Crisis Centers (OCC) in eight districts of the country over the last 16 years. In 2001, Bangladesh government started the OCC under Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence against Women (MSPVAW) with the support of Government of Denmark, in country’s eight districts viz. Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Sylhet, Barisal, Khulna, Rangpur and Faridpur- to provide legal assistance to victims of repression against women and children.

According to the statistics, a total of 1,229 comprising 27% of the total 4,541 cases registered with OCC were settled till date. And 73% of the cases are still pending, bulk of the cases for more than a decade.

An official of the MSPVAW said that none of the government organs were properly functioning competently enough to provide justice for the rape victims. Similar is the reaction of the forensic medicine experts and the others in the police headquarters in Dhaka.

The reasons for negligible rate of conviction in rape cases are not hard to find.

Police insensitivity towards survivors

Large majority of rape survivors face insensitivity of the police officials when they go to police station to file a case. All police stations do not have round-the-clock women police on duty. It is invariably a male officer on duty and most rape survivors find it difficult to report details of their case to a male officer. Other issues apart, some male officials also ask questions that are absolutely embarrassing for the survivors to answer.

The police also often decline to register rape cases on grounds of place of occurrence not falling within the jurisdiction of their police station and ask the survivor to report the case to another police station.

Most often survivors are at the receiving end of taunts from the police officials.

Even if a case of rape is registered, the police fail to invoke the appropriate sections of the law. They mostly file a case of rape under wrong sections of the Penal Code instead of Section 375 and other relevant provisions, thereby weakening the case.

Shoddy investigation

The bulk of the survivors fail to get justice due to shoddy investigations by the police and other departments resulting in lack of adequate evidence to secure a conviction.

State prosecutor for the women and children repression prevention tribunal, Mahmuda Akhtar says that cases pile up as police are not able to produce witnesses in time. Proper medical reports are also not available at times.

Lack of family support

Most of the victims remain mum after the incident due to pressure from their families and the society. Some also face harassment while seeking justice.

Most of the time close relatives of the victim do not support them. A large majority of parents and close relative find it embarrassing to pursue a case of rape.

Loss of evidence due to delayed medical examinations

In most cases of rape, the medical examinations of the victims are delayed which damages the evidence. Bangladesh medico legal society President AM Selim Reza says that no one is concerned about this.

Investigation officers often fail or intentionally avoid conducting timely medical examination on the rape accused leading to loss of vital evidence.

Doctors often resort to the controversial and embarrassing ‘two-finger test’ on rape survivors.

In this test, a doctor inserts two fingers inside a woman’s vagina to test whether the hymen is intact or not. If not, then the medical test report says, ‘sexually active’, which the lawyer of the accused uses to accuse the victim of being immoral.

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