Bangladesh's Death Penalty for Rape Isn't Enough: Advocates

Rights groups say system doesn't support victims or hold rapists accountable
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2020 11:00 AM CDT
Bangladesh's Death Penalty for Rape Isn't Enough: Advocates
Protesters of violence against women demonstrate outside Parliament in Dhaka, Bangladesh, earlier this month.   (AP Photo/ Mahmud Hossain Opu)

From now on, rapists could face the death penalty in Bangladesh. The government is making the change in the face of public outrage over a series of well-publicized attacks on women, the New York Times reports, though human rights groups said the change in the law won't solve the problem. Sweeping systemic change is needed, they said, including addressing a lack of support for victims. As it is, a Human Rights Watch official said, women lack access to legal aid, medical care, safe shelter, witness protection programs and counseling. Bangladesh has "a broken criminal justice system where survivors are unable to even approach the police with confidence, forget expect a successful prosecution," she said. An Amnesty International researcher said that whatever the law, "in the vast majority of these cases, the justice system fails to hold the perpetrators responsible."

Protests, which included mock gallows, were sparked by a Facebook video of men attacking a 37-year-old woman in the southwest part of the country. An Amnesty International statement said the "truly disturbing footage demonstrates the shocking violence that Bangladeshi women are routinely being subjected to." Eight men were arrested after the video received attention, per the BBC. On Thursday, a court issued its first death sentences for rape. Five men were convicted of attacking a 12-year-old in 2012, per Al Jazeera. But conviction rates are low, said those who don't think executions will make a difference. "The government should instead do the hard work to bring protection mechanisms and remove institutional barriers to justice," the Human Rights Watch official said. A 21-year-old student is encouraged but agrees. "Such harsh punishment will create fear among offenders," she said. "But the more important thing is the strong implementation of law and the quick settling of cases. This needs to be ensured." (A student who reported sexual harassment was set on fire.)

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