Women and children repression: Where plea of justice falls on deaf ears

An investigation report published on Prothom Alo on 8 March 2018, after analysing 7,864 cases from five tribunals of Dhaka district in the past 15 years, showed that the accused have been convicted only in three per cent of the cases while in 97 per cent of the cases they stayed out of conviction.

Is the picture of women repression cases something different after six years? The report from 25 April highlighted the picture of women repression and trial of cases across the country.

According to police headquarters information, the number of cases filed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act in 2023 is about 20,000 including 18,941 cases filed with the police stations.

Apart from that, some pictures of women repression can also be found from the one-stop crisis centres (OCCs) at 14 medical college hospitals that are run under the ‘Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence Against Women (4th phase)’ of the ministry of women and children affairs.

According to OCC data, more than 62,000 women and children have received assistance from there in cases of physical and sexual abuse as well as burn incidents in the last 23 years.

However, only 19,441 of these cases have been officially registered. Out of them, there have been verdicts in just three per cent of the cases and the conviction has been carried out in less than one per cent of the cases. That means, not all the cases of women repression are officially registered. Sometimes cases aren’t filed on social grounds. Besides, filing a case doesn’t ensure justice either.

Overall, women who became victim of repression and their families have no choice but to spend their time amid extreme helplessness and uncertainties. A total of 155,438 cases are undergoing trial at 99 women and children repression prevention tribunals. Out of them, the number of cases going on for more than five years is 34,000.

Separate tribunals were formed for women repression cases so that they get a speedy trial. Yet, why do the cases keep stretching for years at end?  

According to Taslima Yasmin, an associate professor at the law department of Dhaka University, the trial of case gets prolonged for three reasons. Firstly, it takes time to get the medical certificate and the DNA report (obligatory in rape cases) after the victim files a case.

As a result, there is delay in starting the investigation and framing the charge sheet. Secondly, bringing in witnesses turns into a challenge once the trial has been started. And thirdly, the public prosecutors often get appointed on political consideration, she added.

It is noticed in Fahmida murder case, committed on 6 July 2008 and reported in Prothom Alo that the Dhaka district and sessions judge court sentenced two people including main accused Tozammel Hossain to life imprisonment on 7 July 2014, after six years of the incident.

Ten years have elapsed since the verdict but, the case hasn’t been finally disposed yet. The two accused are already out of prison on bail. A lot of women repression cases await disposal year after year like this. It cannot be denied that if the trial process gets prolonged, the case evidences often get lost. The defendant’s side mounts pressure and scares the plaintiff’s side in different ways. Especially, if the plaintiff side is not financially well off, it becomes completely impossible for them to follow up on the case.

In that case the state has to come forward. But, to what extent the state actually helps the victims? In majority of the cases the plea of justice falls on deaf ears. After all if the offenders don’t get convicted, how will women repression be stopped?

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