The Women and Children Repression Prevention (amendment) Bill, 2020 was placed in Parliament last night with an aim to ensure the death penalty as the highest punishment for rape.
State Minister Fazilatun Nessa Indira, of the women and children affairs ministry, placed the bill, which was sent earlier to the respective Parliamentary Standing Committee for scrutiny.
The committee was asked to submit its report before the House within seven work days.
In the proposed law, the punishment for rape is death penalty or life imprisonment.
According to Article 9 (1) of the existing Women and Children Repression Prevention Act-2000, the punishment for rape is life imprisonment.
The proposed law was promulgated through the president’s ordinance on October 13 as the parliament was not in session and there were growing demands from people across the country to institute death penalty for rapists.
Law Minister Anisul Huq placed the ordinance in Parliament yesterday, the first sitting of the special session of parliament to mark Mujib Year — birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The ordinance was issued following waves of anti-rape demonstrations across Bangladesh after footage of five men stripping a woman naked and gang-raping her, and filming the video of the incident in Noakhali’s Begumganj upazila, went viral on social media in early October.
The incident occurred at Joykrishnapur village under Eklashpur union of the upazila on September 2.
At least 975 women were reportedly raped across the country in the last nine months and 161 of the incidents took place last month, according to rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra’s (ASK’s) October report.
Of them, 208 women were gang-raped, 43 murdered after rape and 12 rape victims died by suicide, the report added. Three women and nine men were killed while protesting assault incidents.
Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, meanwhile, said they recorded 129 rape incidents in September and 83 of the victims were minors.
Several organisations including Feminists Across Generations — an inter-generational feminist alliance — however said the death penalty was not a solution and demanded an end to “rape culture”.
According to Article 9 (3) of the existing law, if a woman falls victim to gang-rape and is injured or dies, the punishment is the death penalty or life imprisonment for each rapist.
As per the bill, changes were also proposed to two other sub-articles –11 (Ga) and 20 (7) –of the existing law.
Any simple injury for dowry will be a compoundable offence (the complainant can compromise to drop the charge against the accused), in accordance with sub-article 11 (Ga) of the proposed law.
As per sub-article 11 (Ga) of the existing law, one shall be sentenced for a maximum of three years and a minimum of one year’s rigorous imprisonment and handed a monetary penalty for making the “simple hurt” for dowry.
In Article 20 (7) of the bill, ‘the Children Act, 2013’ was incorporated in place of ‘Children Act, 1974’ yesterday in order to follow the latest law as much as possible during the trial of any crime committed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act-2000, in case any child commits or witnesses such a crime.
The trial of rape cases shall be completed by 180 days at Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals, according to the existing law.
Meanwhile, the House went into its first ever special session yesterday evening to mark the Mujib Borsho. This will also be the 10th session of the 11th Parliament. The House session started at 6:00pm with Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair.
At the beginning of the proceedings, the House unanimously adopted a condolence motion expressing profound shock for those who died between the last session of parliament prorogued on September 10 and the beginning of the present session.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury moved the condolence motion, which was adopted unanimously in the House.
This was the first time the Jatiya Sangsad went into any special session, sources at the parliament secretariat said.
The special session was scheduled to be held on March 22, but was postponed following the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier, the parliament went into a special sitting on two occasions — January 31 and June 18 in 1974 — but it was in session on both occasions, addressed by former Yugoslav President Marshal Josip Broz Tito and then Indian president VV Giri respectively.
Due to the pandemic, the media will not be allowed to cover the session directly, except on November 9, when the p[resident will deliver his speech in the House.
To mark Mujib Borsho, two large and colourfully decorated boats, the electoral symbol of the ruling Awami League, were floated at the parliament’s lake.