Hard to get justice
Less than 2 percent of all rape cases filed in the last five years ended with convictions, largely because criminals force victims to settle or the complicated and humiliating process of getting justice encourages the victims to back out.
The data for Dhaka metropolitan areas paints an even grimmer picture. Just 1.06 percent cases saw convictions in the last 15 years, according court and prosecution sources.
In every phase of getting justice — investigation, medical test and trial — victims have to prove that they were raped.
Often, victims not knowing what they need to do immediately after being violated result in a poor medical report, which weakens their case.
Police ignorance and negligence in their duties, and failure of prosecution were also key reasons for the extremely poor conviction rate, said experts and rights activists working on the issue.
According to a database of a monitoring cell of the police headquarters,
18,668 rape cases were filed across the country between 2012 and 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. Only 22 cases saw convictions, according to court and prosecution sources.
Salma Ali, executive director of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA), told The Daily Star that victims and their families go for out-of-court settlements in most cases.
Those seeking justice lose their will to fight the legal battle as the process, from investigation to trial, is humiliating for the victims since in every phase — police investigation, two-finger test and cross examination — they have to prove that they had been raped.
“These torment them more than what they had suffered during the rape itself,” the legal expert said.
They feel discouraged due to the absence of a proper environment, lengthy trials and accused dodging arrest.
She said in many cases the accused are influential people and the victims and their families get scared and are forced to settle or withdraw cases. “In many cases, the accused “purchase” witness, police and even prosecutors,” she claimed.
Her claims could be backed up by a few examples.
Rape case number 379/13 filed on March 28, 2003, with Sutrapur Police Station is one such example. Investigation officer of the case Sub-Inspector Abdul Jalil submitted the charge sheet on July 12, 2003, and charges were framed on September 15 that year.
Fourteen years later, the case is still under trial with Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-3 because the complainant has not shown up in court in the last 12 years.
According to the law, the tribunal has to dispose of a case in 180 working days. The law, however, does not say what would happen if a case was not dispose of within that timeframe, said Additional Public Prosecutor Abdus Sattar Dulal.
Last year, a rape case was filed against an individual with Cantonment Police Station in the capital (case number 137/16). The person was accused of raping a 13-year-old house help.
A lawyer said the accused using his influence and money “obtained a marriage certificate” that says the victim was an adult. And now the case is about to be disposed of without conviction, the lawyer said.
Saila Sayeed Bristy, litigation coordinator of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, said when domestic helps were the victims, it becomes more difficult to ensure justice as they are easily “managed” by the accused and usually they do not show up in courts.
She said medical reports in many cases do not show presence of recent injury marks or spermatozoa as the victims, due to ignorance, do not take proper steps immediately after they are violated.
Saila said if medical tests do not reveal presence of recent injury marks and intercourse then it becomes very difficult to ensure punishment of the rapists.
Prof Kamrul Hasan Sardar, head of forensic medicine department of Shaheed Tajuddin Medical College in Gazipur, said, “Since spermatozoa remain alive in female genital for up to 72 hours, it is possible to find evidence within that time, provided the victim had not had a bath or washed the area concerned.”
He said it was possible to find other marks of injuries on the victim’s body in 15 days.
In the case of the recent “Banani rape incident”, a victim went to file a case over a month after the alleged incident. She claimed that the influential and rich accused had threatened her with dire consequences if she filed a case. Banani police then “wasted” two more days for “preliminary investigation”.
It is difficult for a victim to get justice even after doing everything accordingly. Section 155 (4) of the Evidence Act allows men accused of rape to question the character of the victim, legal experts said.
The section says, “… when a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix [the rape victim] was of generally immoral character.”
Taking advantage of this provision, defence counsels ask victims indecent questions, embarrassing and humiliating the victim and her family in court, they said.
Mohammad Forkan Miah, Special Public Prosecutor of Woman and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-4 claimed that the accused often get bail due to the faults of the police.
He told The Daily Star that police often fail to bring in witnesses and sometimes there are mistakes in medical reports and the police probe.
Farida Yeasmin, deputy commissioner (DC) of women protection of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), refuted the claim.
Dadon Fakir, officer-in-charge of Pallabi Police Station, claimed that they often face difficulties with rape cases as only 2 percent of all the complaints filed are actually rape cases. The rest are consensual relationships with a bad break up, he said.
The females usually file a case because they had been “deceived, rejected, marriage promises made to them had not been kept or they had not gotten financial benefits”, he said.