Online Violence against Women, Laws and Implication in Bangladesh

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Bangladesh legislated an ‘Information Communications Technology Act’ in 2006 to combat cybercrime and online harassments. The provisions of this Act are quite insufficient to undertake legal measures appropriately as it does not address gender-based violence online in a clear and effective manner. Similarly, the ‘Telecommunication Act 2001’ does not address the gender-based violence that occurs via the use of telecom networks or the internet. The Pornography Control Act is not properly used to combat cyber violence because of the institutional corruption and powerful allies with the ruling politics. The influential remains safe always if the victims are poor. Also, Bangladesh has formed a ‘Cybercrime Tribunal’ that addresses cyber violence. However, according to most accounts, around 90 percent of the instances of online violence are not reported by the victims. This is why all the laws regarding cyber violence are given below for the victim and some recommendation for government also

1 Bangladesh Penal Code 1860 (BPC)   Section 509 makes it an offence for anyone using words, gestures or other actions which insult the modesty of a woman, with the intention that these will be heard or seen by the woman, or lead to an invasion of her privacy. The maximum punishment is one year in jail, or a fine, or both.Section 500 penalises defaming any person. The maximum penalty is two years in jail, a fine, or both.Section 504 penalises insulting another intending to provoke them into breaching the public peace or committing an offence. The maximum penalty is 2 years in jail, a fine, or both.
2 Information, Communication and Technology Act Amendment), 2013   Section 57 states that “if any person deliberately publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the website or any other electronic (form any material which is fake and obscene and if anyone sees, hears, or reads it having regard to all relevant circumstance, its effect is such as to influence the reader to become dishonest or corrupt, or causes to deteriorate or creates possibilities to deteriorate law and order, prejudice the image of the State or person, or causes to hurt or may hurt religious belief or instigate against any person or organization, then this activity will be regarded as an offence.” The minimum penalty is imprisonment for seven years, and the maximum is imprisonment for 14 years and a fine up to Taka one crore.
3 Pornography Control Act, 2012   Section 8 (i) penalises manufacturing pornography or agreeing to supply participants for the purpose of producing pornography, or forcing any person to participate in such production. The maximum penalty is seven years in jail and a fine of Taka two lakhs.Section 8 (ii) penalises harming a person’s social status, blackmailing or inflicting emotional abuse on a person by means of pornography. The maximum penalty is five years in jail and a fine of Taka two lakhs.  
4 Nari O Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain?° (Amendment) 2003 (Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act) Section 10 penalises ‘sexual oppression’ including among others, any “indecent gesture’.Section 14 penalizes the publication of the identity in the media of a victim of any offence under this Act. The penalty is up to two years in jail, ora fine of Taka one lakh, or both.Section 9A penalises causing or abetting suicide of a woman. The penalty is a minimum five years and maximum ten years in jail, and a fine.  
5 Bangladesh Telecommunication Act, 2001 Section 69 penalises sending any obscene or indecent message by a maximum of six months in jail, or a maximum fine of 50,000 taka, or bothSection 70 penalises any person cause annoyance or inconvenience to another through telephone calls. The maximum penalty is Taka 25,000 taka and, in default of payment of the fine, jail for up to three months.  
6 Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance 1976 6 Section 76 penalises insulting or annoying any , woman by using indecent language, sounds, 22 gestures, or remarks in any street or public place. The maximum penalty is one year in jail, a fine, or both.
7     The Children Act, 2013 Clause No 3.6.6 prohibits showing pictures of 24 women and children who are victims of rape or adultery. Clause no 5.1.3 prohibits circulation of information which is confidential or defamatory to any person.
1 BNWLA v. Government of Bangladesh In this landmark judgment, the High Court laid down guidelines to address sexual harassment in workplace and educational institutions in both the public and private sectors. It defined sexual harassment as “showing pornography, indecent gestures, teasing through abusive language, stalking, demands and requests for sexual favors, and sexually coloured verbal representations’. It also required every public and private workplace and educational institution to establish a complaints committee to receive and investigate such complaints, and to take preventive measures against sexual harassment.
1 National Broadcasting Policy 2014   Section 81 strictly prohibits publication of any news  | report, photo or information that is contrary to the 7 best interests of children in conflict with law or in contact with law in any kind of media, print, electronic or the internet. The maximum sentence is one year’s prison or a fine or, for institutions, suspension of registration for up to two months or a fine up to Taka two lakhs.

Laws in Practice

Timeline Timeline Cyber Crime Tribunal Cases Cases where women victims are involved
28.03.2013 To 10.02.2016 In total 520 cases were filed Section 57 of ICT ACT 14 (2014)    50 (2015)    26 (2016)   Total                                        90

There is limited research or data on how existing laws are being used to address cyber violence against women and girls. In relation to the ICT Act, an RTI application received a response that out of a total of 520 cases filed under section 57 over three years, only 90 cases had been filed by women between March 2013 and February 2016.

There are many reasons for this apparent trend of impunity. These include the reluctance of victims to seek or pursue legal protection, given the lack of awareness of the law, lengthy and cumbersome legal proceedings, and threats from the perpetrator, or fear of social stigma. The lack of public awareness or information regarding available legal remedies and mechanisms, and lack of digital literacy are other significant causes. Significantly, in cases of cyber violence, the perpetrator can remain anonymous or take action remotely, making it particularly difficult for law enforcing agencies to track or locate him/her.

Recommendation for the government

Serial Recommendations for Legislative Reform
1 Information, Communication and Technology Act 2006, Section 57: This section needs immediate repeal. Section 57 of the Act penalises certain forms of online expression, and has been criticised by many organizations and individuals as over-broad and in violation of the constitutional right to freedom of expression. It does not in any event provide adequate protection to women and girls in cases of cyber violence.
  Draft Digital Security Bill 2016
2  In the Draft Bill, the following terms need to be included to ensure justice for women and girls: cyberbullying, cyber harassment and cyber stalking and hate speech.The draft needs to include provisions clarifying how to identify the place of occurrence.Provision regarding compensation for victims may be included. There is a need for broader national consultation on the provisions in particular to prevent abuse of the right to freedom of expression.
  New law on “Protection of Victims and Witnesses”
3 The Law Commission of Bangladesh has submitted two reports to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs on the issue of protection of witnesses and victims, first in 2006 (‘Final Report on a proposed law relating to protection of victims and witnesses of crimes involving grave offences’ (Report No 74)) and then in 2011 (Report No 108). In the first report, the Commission proposed adopting a Victim and Witness Protection Act. If adopted this would address many significant issues, and acknowledge the importance of support mechanisms that address the physical, psychological, and economic wellbeing of victims and witnesses.  
  Other Recommendations
  Enact or amend laws and policies to ensure clear definition of cyber violence against women and girls and to provide for effective remedies. Relevant Institution: Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs (Law and Justice Division).  
  Introduce training and orientation programmers on cyber laws, cyber awareness and cyber security and on freedom of expression for government officials and justice sector actors (i.e. judges, lawyers, police, and legal service providers). Relevant Institution: Supreme Court of Bangladesh; Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs (Law and Justice Division); Bangladesh Bar Council; NLASO.
  Develop a guideline for law enforcing agencies on how to use cyber-crime related laws and to ensure relevant safeguards on the rights to personal liberty and freedom of expression are respected. Relevant Ministry: Ministry of Home Affairs
  Enhance relationships with other countries and corporations to deal with transnational cases. Relevant Ministries: Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs; Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  Develop communications materials in simple language/with infographics/online to raise public awareness of cyber violence and available remedies and services. Relevant authority: Directorate of Information and Communication Technology, Government of Bangladesh, Access to Information Programme


21The Bangladesh Telecommunication Act, 2001. Available at

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance, 1976. Section 76. Available at

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance, 1976. Section 76. Available at

Children Act, 2013. Available at

Supreme Court of Bangladesh (2008). Writ Petition No. 5916 of 2008; 2011 BLD (HCD) 31. Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) versus Government of Bangladesh and Others. Available at

Bangladesh National Broadcasting Policy, 2014. Available at

Response from the ICT Ministry to application dated 31 January 2016 by BLAST under the Right to Information Act 2009 seeking information on the number and nature of cases filed under Section 57 of the ICT Act. On file with BLAST.

The FutureLaw Initiative (2017). “The Digital Security Act, 2016 (Draft): A Sneak Peek”. Available at


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