Wellbeing of Woman: A Complete Postmortem on Legal Framework to Eliminate Violence and Disrespect  

:: People’s Time Online ::

“My husband strangles me and takes me into the backyard. Then he tells me, “You’re going to die now.” Husband’s one hand on my throat and pulls back the other one to slap my face. Even with his fist in the air, husband angrily looks to my eyes and says, “You want to die.” ….

It is a nutshell testimony of a 30 year old victim of violence

In Bangladesh, discrimination & violence have occupied various forms. The discriminatory grounds may be on religion, ethnicity and financial status. Ironically, discrimination is comparatively more noticeable when it tells upon women in our present macho society. Women are kind of silent victims and predatory to rape, acid violence, trafficking and other domestic violence. This discrimination takes place in public life and within the family. Owing to women’s low economic status, they are frequently termed as ‘poorest of the poor.’

Existing legal framework in our country seems somewhat effective in combating dominance and violence against women because of exceptions and loopholes. Especially in rural areas where the enforcement of law and order is least strict, the Romeo type lovers may take revenge by rape or acid violence, to spoil future of a girl. Even the police counts it as more of a social issue and not a legal one. Unusual delay in court procedures and trial proceedings allow accused persons out on bail to intimidate victims and tamper with evidence. Corruption in the law enforcing agencies is a critical obstacle too. For this, vast majority of violence against women occurs within the homes. Women fall victim to domestic violence every year because of dowry demands by their husbands and in-laws.

Rape is yet a taboo issue. It brings shame not only to the victim, but also to her family. Unfortunately the woman, but not the man, is perceived to be of bad character. What happens afterwards? If the matter is not placed before court, a rural mediation or salishi (Panchayet) commences with the village elite sitting judge and pass an illusory decision labelling the victim a loose women. She would be either whipped, beaten with shoes or even stoned; or the family of the victim are ostracised by the rest of the community. Amazingly, the victim is made to relive the shameful event, in sickening detail, in front of a male Magistrate and a room full of (mostly) male lawyers and criminals, despite a legal provision for in camera trials for victims of rape.  Additionally, women are threatened by organised gangs of traffickers. They take crushing poverty advantage of their victims and lure them away with prospects of job opportunities. Bangladeshi girls from the villages are trafficked for about one thousand US dollars and sold to the sex industry. Trafficking victims are mostly lured by false promises like promise of better life/jobs, and marriage proposal or fake marriage, forceful kidnapping and outright trade or sale done by people known to the victims such as relatives.

Nonetheless, let us consider our legal regulations. Although The Penal Code, 1860 does not specifically define ‘sexual assault’, it contains provisions that protect women from various forms of violence. Offences related to abduction of women, acid throwing, rape, kidnapping or attempt to cause death or grievous injury because of dowry are called specific crimes of serious nature. Penal Code prescribes capital punishment for acid throwing, abduction, kidnapping and rape.

Our government promulgated a set of laws reflecting the provisions of the Penal Code with some necessary modifications, as follow-

Dowry Prohibition Act 1980 and its amendment in 1986 make dowry practice an offence punishable by fine and imprisonment.

Prevention of Women and Child Repression Act 2000 provides for efficient way of dealing with cases of violence such as rape, acid attacks, forced prostitution and trafficking.

The Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act 1933 provides for detention of women under 18 years of age if found in a place where prostitution is being carried out.

The Family Court Ordinance 1985 entails exclusive jurisdiction of the court on matters relating to marriage, dowry, maintenance and guardianship, and custody of children.

The Cruelty to Women (Deterrent Punishment) Ordinance 1983 provides the penalty of life imprisonment for kidnapping, abduction, trafficking in women, dowry cruelty and rape.

Trafficking in Women and Children Act 1993 provides a maximum penalty of up to three years for forced prostitution and its abetment.

Enactment of law to restrict import and sale of acid in open market and death penalty for acid attack offences. And, a law has recently been enacted to address the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The issue of violence was reviewed extensively in the Fourth World Conference and was highlighted in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995). As per international commitments, our government has adopted its National Plan of Action. We also signed the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children. It also created a permanent Law Commission to review all laws related to protection of women’s rights. The competent Ministry has undertaken multi sector projects including setting up One-Stop Crisis Centers (OSCC) in Dhaka and Rajshahi to help acid-throwing and rape victims secure quick Formal Investigation Record (FIR). In addition, some police stations have “Special Cell” for Women. Shelter homes for abused and tortured women have also been established, though far too inadequate to meet the needs.

What so ever, to eliminate violence against women in Bangladesh, one needs to challenge the vested ‘rights’ and ‘roles’ of men and the social control mechanisms. So, greater public awareness is utmost precondition to enable solutions. Along with a more gender- sensitive socialization process, legal remedies have to be in place. Training of police, judicial and law enforcement officers on gender sensitivity and domestic violence is crucial. Facilities for the counseling of victims and their families need to be enhanced. Last but not the least, fostering moral values of male counterparts would be highly effective. Total implementation of these footsteps can uphold the prestige and priority of women.

 

People’s Time/AJ

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