Bangladesh weighs death penalty for rapists as protests flare

Gang rapes account for more than a fifth of the nearly 1,000 rapes reported between January and September

Bangladesh weighs death penalty for rapists as protests flare

Students and activists take part in an ongoing protest demanding justice for an alleged gang rape of a woman in Noakhali, southern district of Bangladesh, amid COVID-19 outbreak in Dhaka, Bangladesh, October 9, 2020. REUTERS

Dhaka, October 10

Protests rocked Bangladesh on Saturday as hundreds of people took to the streets to demand justice after a series of rapes and sexual assaults that have spurred the government to seek capital punishment for offenders.

Such incidents have surged in Bangladesh in recent years, with gang rapes accounting for more than a fifth of the nearly 1,000 attacks reported between January and September, says human rights group Ain-o-Salish Kendra.

“Hang the rapists,” shouted protesters gathered in the capital Dhaka and elsewhere, hundreds of students among them.

Students and activists take part in an ongoing protest demanding justice for alleged gang rape of a woman in Noakhali, southern district of Bangladesh, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on October 9, 2020. REUTERS 

Many carried placards bearing messages such as “No mercy to rapists” and “Please tell me, am I next?” This week’s protests have prompted the government to consider introducing the death penalty for offenders, with the cabinet set to receive a proposal for urgent amendments on Monday.

“We are making the proposal on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s orders,” Law Minister Anisul Huq told Reuters, adding: “We want to make sure those who are guilty get the highest punishment.”

Saturday’s demonstrations were sparked by a video of a group of men stripping and attacking a woman for almost half an hour in the south-eastern district of Noakhali.

An investigation by an autonomous state body, the National Human Rights Commission, found the woman in the video had been raped repeatedly and terrorised with weapons by one of the group over the last year.

Students and activists take part in an ongoing protest demanding justice for alleged gang rape of a woman in Noakhali, southern district of Bangladesh on October 9, 2020. REUTERS 

Also fuelling outcry was the gang rape of a woman in a hostel in the northern district of Sylhet that led to the arrests of several members of the student wing of the ruling party.

On Saturday, Huq, the law minister, vowed legal action against the criminals regardless of their political ties, saying he aimed for their punishment without “unnecessary” delays.

Many more rapes go unreported because women fear being stigmatised. Rights activists blame the increasing rapes on a lack of awareness, a culture of impunity and protection of suspects by influential individuals for political reasons.

Even when survivors file a complaint, the prosecution is very rare and takes years to complete.

The United Nations and rights groups have called for urgent reform of the criminal justice system to ensure perpetrators are held responsible. Reuters

Top Stories

India, US ink key defence pact BECA

India, US ink key defence pact BECA

Say bilateral ties extend beyond China threat | Pompeo pays ...

Punjab Bills will harm farmers’ interests, claims Agri Ministry

Punjab Bills will harm farmers’ interests, claims Agri Ministry

‘To hinder private investment in farm sector’

Hathras: Allahabad High Court to monitor case

Hathras: Allahabad High Court to monitor case

CRPF to provide security to victim’s kin, witnesses

Cities

View All