Women and children are the most vulnerable in the country’s prevailing system of criminal justice, according to a Prothom Alo investigation. The major reason that women do not get justice is the discriminatory and negligent patriarchal mindset. Despite development all around, this mindset remains firmly embedded in the society. In general, women are looked down upon with condescension in society.
Prothom Alo’s investigations have brought to light the extensive insecurity and helplessness of women in the country. There is provision for carrying out trial of crimes against women and children within 180 days and the highest sentence in this regard is death, but the manner in which the trials are conducted is nothing but a farce. It is not possible to carry out any trial in 180 days and in most cases, the accused is left off with a light sentence. In general, sentences are implemented in 15 per cent of the criminal cases in the country. But when it comes to six serious crimes against women in Dhaka alone, the sentences are implemented in only 3 per cent of the cases. Outside of the capital city is it is most likely to be even less.
The investigation team looked into 7864 cases of the past 15 years in the women’s repression tribunal and found gross negligence of the cases. There is need for reforms in the law and other sectors to rectify the situation. But under the prevailing circumstances, it will not be easy to bring about tangible changes that will make a difference. The government can form a special cell of the relevant ministry to keep updated about the cases related to repression against women and children.
The police responsibility does not end with submitted a charge sheet. They must bring forward the witnesses. In around 55 per cent of the cases, the accused have been left off the hook due to lack of witnesses and evidence. There needs to be a witness cell to record the IDs of the witnesses, their mobile phones, e-mails and other contacts, with due confidentiality. They must be given due travel allowance to turn up on the day of the hearing.
The High Court can effectively supervise and control a system to ensure that cases are settled within a specified time and to ensure the accountability of the police in bringing the witnesses to court. Article 109 of the constitution has given the court this authority.
The public prosecutors are now appointed on political consideration for a mere Tk 500 daily allowance. Their efficiency and competence is questionable. The public prosecutors should be appointed from among competence lawyers through a transparent process with proper remuneration and a regular and permanent attorney service must be established. We look forward to an end to the government’s blind appointment of public prosecutors on political consideration and also for the High Court to be more sensitive and active regarding the tribunal.
Above all, an environment sensitive and respectful towards women and children must be created in the police stations, hospitals and the court. They should not be harassed. They should receive justice. This calls for attention from the highest level of the state.