Bangladesh on Monday, 12 October, announced that it will be introducing the death penalty for rape cases, following a string of widespread protests across the country over rising cases of crimes against women.
Speaking to the BBC, Law Minister Anisul Haq said that the ordinance will be passed soon, making it a law. The Bangladesh government said that anyone convicted of rape would be punished with death or "rigorous imprisonment" for life.
WHY IT MATTERS
In September 2020, a video of a woman being gang-raped in the country's Noakhali district went viral on social media. The video was released by the men who committed the crime, in order to blackmail the victim, reported The Guardian.
While eight people were arrested in connection with the incident, the disturbing incident set off a series of protests, especially in the capital Dhaka – with citizens seeking government response to handling rape and sexual assault. Protesters took to streets, calling for "no mercy to rapists."
Statistics gathered by human rights organisation Ain-o-Salish Kendra shows that between January and September 2020, at least 975 rape cases were reported in the country. Of them, 208 such incidents were recorded under gang rapes.
At least 40 women died from the incidents, the statistics revealed.
This move by the government has also sparked off debate on whether capital punishments actually deter rapes.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Taqbir Huda, research specialist at Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), said that strict punishment would lead to lower conviction rates.
“So, the more severe the punishment, the lower the rate of conviction is likely to be. The conviction rate for rape in Bangladesh is below 1 percent.”Taqbir Huda, research specialist at Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST)
Questions are also being raised over the implementation of the law as well.
In January 2020, Bangladesh court ordered the formation of a commission to address the rise in sexual assaults. The commission is yet to be formed, as on October 2020.
(With inputs from Al Jazeera, BBC & The Guardian)