Judge tells the victim to decide carefully

Prothom Alo illustration

The Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-7 was crammed with people even before 10:00 am on Tuesday. The trial started after the judge took seat at around 10:45 am.

A teenage girl was seen sitting with a woman in the veranda in front of the court. The girl was called up by judge Sabera Sultana Khanam at around 11:15 am. The woman with the girl is his elder sister.

Later, it was discerned from the case statement that the teenage girl was raped by an elderly local shopkeeper two years ago. The victim gave birth to a baby girl last year. The accused has been imprisoned for the last two years. In such a context, both the parties want to reach a negotiation.

During the hearing the lawyer of the defendant raised the issue of social recognition of the newborn. Both sides told the court that they are agreed about the marriage.

At that time the judge asked the victim, “Do you want to marry the accused?” But the victim remained silent.

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The judge then asked the girl again, “Look behind you. Do you want to marry that elderly person with a gray beard?”

The girl, instead of looking towards the accused, looked towards her sister. At that point, some women present in the court said, “How is it possible to marry such a man!”

The judge went on saying addressing the victim, “Don’t look at your sister. You have to say it for yourself. Go home and decide for yourself whether you want to marry an accused. Your entire future is lying ahead. You are still young and you have a child. What would the baby say when grown up if you marry such a person? Countless babies were born to the victims of rape during the liberation war. Did those women marry those rapist Pakistanis?”

At one point, addressing the sister of the victim, lawyers of the defendant and the plaintiff, judge Sabera Sultana Khanam said, “The entire future of the girl is lying ahead. You should try to find a way to make the girl established in the future. Please don’t marry off the girl to a rapist. It would be an inspiration for other girls if this girl can get established in life.”

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Speaking to Prothom Alo following the hearing, special public prosecutor of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-7, Afroza Farhana Ahmed said, “It is a very sensitive case. The girl was only 12 years old at the time of the incident.”

Asked what would be the stance of the state if the plaintiff wants to negotiate, “The state usually doesn’t want is negotiations in such cases of child torture. The public prosecutors will oppose the attempts to negotiate in that case.

The assistant public prosecutor of the tribunal Mohammad Liakat Ali told Prothom Alo, “I said it even during the hearing today the accused has confessed of raping the girl several times while recording deposition under section 164. There will be no negotiation.”

Special public prosecutor Afroza Farhana Ahmed said a police official has adopted the newborn baby of the victim.

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According to the case statement, the victim lives with her family in the Matikata area of the capital. She was a fifth grader during the incident. Accused Anwarul Haque, 55, had a grocery shop near the house of the victim. He was on good terms with the victim’s family as they used to buy the groceries from his shop. The victim used to go to a local coaching centre from in front of Anwarul’s shop.

On the day of the incident on 1 April 2022, the accused bought the victims some gifts and at one point raped the girl inside his shop. Later, the accused raped the victim several other times by intimidating her. The victim didn’t even tell her sister about it out of fear.

However, at one point, the girl was taken to a local health care centre as the girl started having different health complications. After the medical check-up, the physician said the girl was pregnant. After that, the victim disclosed everything. Some seven months after the incident, the victim’s elder sister lodged a rape case accusing Anwarul Haque under the section 9 (1) of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act.

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Speaking to Prothom Alo, lawyer of the defendant Md Ismail Bhiyan said accused Anwarul Haque has a wife and adult son and daughter. They are fighting the case on behalf of the accused. The accused has been imprisoned for the last two years. Both families want negotiations.

“Considering all these we pleaded for a negotiation in this case,” he said.

There have been several incidents of marriage between the rapists and the victims on court order. Such an incident happened at the Jhinaidah district and Session Judge Court on 11 February 2021. A rapist named Nazmul Hasan was released on bail after being imprisoned for a year on condition of marrying the victim. After that, the victim had to marry the accused upon his release from the prison.

In another incident, a sub-inspector (SI) of police named Abdul Jalil was sent to jail for raping a widow. The judge of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal in Panchagarh released him on bail on condition of marrying the victim. Even the first wife of the accused was present during the marriage.

Human rights activists have always been vocal against this system. They say marriage with the rapist is the reflection of quite a disrespectful attitude towards the women. And the marriage, which took place to ensure bail, doesn’t last long. Rather, it makes the lives of the victims more miserable.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) executive director Farukh Faisal said, “Such an undignified system is being imposed on the women as they are not treated equally in a patriarchal society. The rapists marry the victims in the name of saving the hounour of the women and girl children. However, neither the victim, nor the accused are happy with the marriage usually. As a result, the marriage doesn’t last long.”

He said, “It is the duty of the court to punish rapists. The court just cannot decide who the victim will marry.”

*This report appeared on the online version of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu