Violence against women: Crimes won’t fall unless perpetrators are tried

There were no questions about the relevance of the act enacted to prevent violence against women and children in 2000. This law includes criminal offences such as rape, torture and murder for dowry, abduction, sexual assault, instigating suicide, assault with inflammable substances, crippling children to use them for begging, and so on.

Several provisions have been issued for rapid settlement of such cases. But 22 years since the law was passed, it is a matter of concern that the victims are still deprived of justice and violence against women has not reduced.

Referring to the police headquarters, Prothom Alo reported on Tuesday that the number of cases under the Prevention of Women and Child Repression Act 2000 has increased every year since 2018. Amid two years of widespread Covid infection, the highest number of cases was 39 per cent in 2020 and 36 per cent in 2021. Compared to 2018, cases have increased by 5 per cent in 10 months of this year.

Compared to five years back, an average of 350 more cases are being registered under the Prevention of Violence against Women and Children Act now per month. Online platforms have become a major medium for hateful comments, cheating, sexual harassment and torture. Complaints of online harassment increased by 25 per cent at the end of this year compared to the beginning of the year. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs perform most of the tasks of creating a social context to prevent violence against women other than legal process. But currently the allocation in this sector is the lowest in the last six years.

According to the data of non-governmental organisation Ain o Shalish Kendra (ASK), 64 per cent of cases of violence against women and children are reports of rape. According to the Police Cyber Support Centre for Women (PCSW), 8,715 women have complained of fake ID, ID being hacked, blackmailing, harassment over mobile phone, spreading offensive content from January to November this year.

Reasons for the high number of pending cases of women and child abuse include failure to complete trial within 180 days, weakness and delay in investigation and delay in obtaining medical certificates and DNA reports (required in rape cases) during investigation.

After the start of the trial process, there is undue delay in obtaining the testimony of the physicians, the investigation officer and the various witnesses of the case. According to the information of the High Court, the number of pending cases from 1 April to 30 June in 99 Prevention of Women and Child Repression Tribunals is 1178,231. The highest- 180,25 cases are being tried in 9 tribunals of Dhaka.

ASK has suggested 11 points for speedy trial of cases on violence against women and children, including security of witnesses, establishment of victim support centres, one-stop crisis centres. Besides increasing allocation the government must be vigilante to ensure that the criminals do not escape through the loopholes of the law at any stage of the case.

If criminals get away with crime, how will violence against women and children stop?