Women and Children Nirjatan Domon Tribunal:-

1.Under this Act for the trial of offences there will be a Tribunal in each district and if needed, the Government can make more than one Tribunals; these Tribunals shall be known as the Nari O Shishu Nirjatan Domon Tribunal.

2.There will be a judge in the Tribunal and the Government will appoint the above judge of the Tribunal from the District and Sessions judges of the Government.

3.The Government if required will appoint any District and Sessions Judge as additional Judge of the said Tribunals.

4.In this Act, District Judge and Sessions Judge will be named as Additional District Judge and Additional Sessions Judge.

Nari O Shishu Domon Ain of 2003, Section 28 Appeal: By taking order from the Tribunal, the accused party can appeal to the High Court Division within 60 days of the judgment or detention. During investigation of the case, if the Tribunal is of the opinion that any woman or child needs to be kept in safe custody, it may order that such woman or child be taken out of the prison and kept in safe custody home designated by the government or in consideration by the Tribunal be handed over to any organisation or person in this regard under section 31 of the Act of 2000. For privacy of the victims section 14 provides a restriction on the media from identifying the woman and child victims of violence. It provides a punishment of maximum two years and one lakh taka or both for non-compliance of the section. This provision is needed for the protection of the victim from the clutches of the violators and again if it is not publicised the case is sometimes not accounted for.

Different kinds of violence and the law

Offences against women have taken modern aggravated forms, which were more or less absent in the past, as for example acid throwing or murder for dowry. Crimes against women have risen after independence. The causes for the increase are similar to the increase of dowry; in many cases, dowry itself is the cause. Women in Bangladesh are facing not only aggravated forms of conventional crimes but also new types of crimes.

Dowry: The dowry system is not recognised in the religion or the law of the Muslim societies but has spread into it. Conversely, Islamic law provides dower to enhance the status of women. Why should Muslim women, who are supposed to be protected by dower, become victims of dowry? While recent scholars have admitted the fact that dowry has spread to the Muslim communities, they have largely ignored the position of Muslim women within this discourse.

Dowry deaths are a common phenomenon in South Asia. These deaths of women are usually caused by the same persons who are legally and socially enjoined to protect them, i.e. their husband or in-laws.

The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1980 prohibits the taking or giving of dowry. The Repression Against Women and Children Prevention Act of 2000 Defines Dowry as: Money, goods or other property given or promised directly or indirectly by the brides side to the groom or his father, mother or any other person from the bridegrooms side at the time of marriage as consideration or condition of the marriage and any such money, goods or property demanded from the bride or the bride’s side by the groom, his father or mother or any person from the groom’s side [Section 2(j)] .

The Repression of Women and Children Prevention Act of 2000 Section 11 States:

If any woman’s husband or husband’s father, mother, guardian, relation or any person acting for the husband, causes the death of that woman for dowry or attempts to cause death or injures such woman for dowry or attempts to cause such injury the husband or husband’s father, guardian, relation or any person shall:

a.For causing death be punishable by death penalty or for attempt to cause death by life imprisonment and in both cases shall be liable to pay additional fine:

b.For causing injury shall be punishable by rigorous life imprisonment or for attempt to cause injury be punishable by rigorous imprisonment up to the term of maximum fourteen years but not less that five years and In both cases be liable to additional fine.[1]

Rape/Sexual Assault: Rape is probably one of the most common forms of violence against women in Bangladesh to date. Usually money and muscle are the reasons why the crime goes unpunished.

In most of the investigations conducted by Odhikar, the victim’s family was too poor and ignorant of the law to seek legal recourse. In one case, the victim’s father, a rickshaw puller, told Odhikar that he did not know the lawyer’s name, but knew what he looked like. In another case, the lawyer has been demanding payments for every court appearance while asking the court for more time. Rape in Bangladesh is a punishable offence. As Section 376 of the Penal Code states: “Whoever commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, unless the woman raped is own wife is not under twelve years of age in which case he shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either descriptions for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine…” Rape is also committed by law enforcement officials. All these cases are not reported due to intimidation by the perpetrators and also due to the fear of social stigma. Of all the cases of rape in police custody brought to light so far, very few of the offenders have been held accountable. One reason for this could be the fact that members of the police carry out investigations regarding crimes allegedly committed by their own colleagues.  Thirteen women were raped by members of the law enforcement agencies in the year 2000, the youngest being a girl of six who was raped by a police constable in Panchagar.

Women and Children Repression Prevention Act of 2000 deal with the offence of rape and provides severe penalties. Section 9 deals with punishment for rape, gang rape as well as injury or death caused as a result of rape. For the offence of rape, the perpetrator will be sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment with additional fine. For death caused by rape or incidental to rape, the accused may be sentenced to death or rigorous imprisonment and will be required to pay fine up to the limit of taka one lakh. In the case of death or injury caused as a consequence of gang rape, each of the perpetrators will be sentenced to death or rigorous imprisonment with the requirement of additional fine up to the limit of taka one lakh. In the case of attempt to cause injury or death after rape, the accused will be punished with the sentence of life imprisonment with fine. For attempt to rape, the penalty fixed by the Act is rigorous imprisonment or seven to ten years with additional fine.

On June 16th, 2003, an amendment bill of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000 was placed in Parliament to clarify definitions of certain offences and reducing punishment to stop the abuse of law. The bill was passed by the Parliament on 13th July, 2003. Under the new Act, the definition of a child has been raised from 14 years to 16 years. Moreover, where a woman commits suicide for fear of losing her chastity due to the wilful act of a person, then that person will be accused as a provocateur and will be punished for the offence with imprisonment of five to ten years.

Most remarkable amendment is regarding the destiny of a child born out of rape. Under the amendment, a child born out of rape will be kept under the care of the mother and will be known after his/her mother or father or both. Beside the State will be responsible for the child until s/he attains the age of 21 years and, in case of a girl, until she gets married. The State will realise the money for bringing up the child from the rapist. The Act provided that the opinion of the rape victim has to be taken if the need for camera trial arises or if the victim has to be taken under safe custody.

Section 13 States: Irrespective of anything contained in any other act, if any child is born as consequence of rape-

  1. The rapist will be responsible for the maintenance of the child
  2. After the birth of the child, the tribunal shall determine who will be the custodian of the child and the amount to be paid by the rapist to such custodian for the purpose of maintenance of the child.
  3. Unless such child is disabled such sum shall be payable in case of a son until the age of 21 years and in the case of a daughter until her marriage and in case of a disabled child until such child becomes capable of maintaining himself or herself.

Section 376 of the Penal Code mandates two years imprisonment, or fine, or both, for the rape of a woman by her husband. Section 342, however, requires that a woman undergo a medical examination immediately after rape, which in practice minimizes the possibility of a conviction being made.

The Women and Children Repression Prevention Act of 2003 (Nari O Shishu Nirjatan Domon Ain of 2003) The Act uses and defines the terms sexual abuse and sexual harassment for the first time. Section 10 states that if any male, in order to satisfy his carnal desires, touches the sexual or any other organs of any woman or child with any organ of his body or with any other object, his action will amount to sexual abuse or abuses the modesty of any woman or makes any indecent gesture, his act shall be deemed to be sexual harassment and for this such male will be punished by rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend up to ten years but shall not be less than three years and shall additionally also be liable to fine.

Confusion may be created in cases where the same offence is dealt with in several existing laws. Acid crimes come under the Acid Crimes Prevention Act 2002, but the provisions of the Penal Code 1860 as well as the Woman and Child Repression Prevention Act of 2000 regarding the same offence has not been omitted and this may create confusion as to which Court or Tribunal or which law the case should be instituted under. Even though as special law these take priority, and the laws themselves state this, the confusion persists and ought to have been clarified. The same problem may arise in the case of rape which is covered by both the Code and the Act of 2000.

Acid Violence and the Acid Crimes Prevention Tribunal: In Bangladesh acid violence is a dreadful and vindictive form of crime which is committed mostly against women. It is a major subject of national concern and is being reported frequently by media throughout the year. Acid violence is a terror which must not be adhered in any civilised society. Before independence acid violence was almost unknown in Bangladesh. Section 4 of the Acid Crime Act, 2002 prescribes death penalty or rigorous imprisonment for life including fine taka not more than one lakh if any body causes death or makes an attempt to cause death to any child or woman by using any burning substance, e.g., acid. import, production, storage, sale or usage of acid without a license is a punishable offence. But the mechanisms prevalent to regulate importation, preparation and sale of the acid used in these attacks are inadequate. However, the Acid control Act, 2002, provides for the formation of a national council to control the selling use, production, import, transportation and storing of acid.

The Acid Crimes Prevention Act 2002 contains provisions regarding trial procedures, investigation of offences and negligence of investigating officers, medical examination and so forth. The Acid Crimes Prevention Act 2002 sets up an Acid Crimes Prevention Tribunal and all offences under the Act are to be tried by this Tribunal. Appeals against any order, judgment or punishment imposed by the Tribunal must be made to the High Court within 60 days. Section 28 also contains the provision for safe custody for any person during the continuance of the trial and specifies that such custody shall be outside the prison and by order of the Tribunal.

Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence Against Women:

There is a multi-sectoral project on violence against women which includes five ministries including the Women and Children Affairs (MOWCA) which works with the objective to eradicate or at best reduce crime against women. The major activities include the establishment of six One Stop Crisis Centers (OCC) for victims of violence that will provide medical, legal and social services; upgrading of forensic facilities with DNA profiling; information campaigns; training plans for police, lawyers, judiciary and medical personnel.

The Objectives of this programme are: improved public services such as health, police assistance, criminal justice and social services (counselling, rehabilitation) for the women victims of violence, increased public awareness on all forms of VAW, etc.

Activity OCC-BNWLA joint legal support program: This is a flow description how BNWLA works at the activity level under the OCC program. The activities of the BNWLA Lawyers can be categorised as follows: Once a patient get admitted under the OCC centre the lawyers of BNWLA take the history of the survivors and the incident, which are being registered instantly. Consulting with the duty doctor about the severity of the incident and injury the respective lawyers talk to the police officer in duty. On the basis of the information collected from the responsible officials the Lawyers decide to file a GD or FIR with the consent of the survivors. This the lawyers went for a legal counselling to let the survivors understand that she may get legal support.

Ensuring legal support: After filing the case the lawyer collect a copy of the FIR and Vokalatnama having sign from the survivors and in the office they have to prepare the order sheet and enter into the register. If the judgment comes against the Survivors, then according to the process the lawyers appeal against the judgment to Higher Court.

Violence agonist women is increasing and indicates generally that the amount of different crimes against women is so high that the time has come to introduce measures to eradicate them. Clearly, the need of the hour is to protect women from violence through the law. The whole issue of violence against women did not project the flaws in the criminal justice system or what else we require, to make the system effective giving proper justice to women as justice delayed is justice denied.

The Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): The strongest instruments of change in society are the laws that it is governed by. There are existing laws in the country, which guarantee many rights for women. But many of them are archaic and need immediate reform or amendment. Discriminatory laws need to be abolished and replaced with more progressive ones. New laws have to be formulated to reflect Bangladesh’s concurrence with international laws such as the Universal Declaration of Rights and CEDAW. While religion and culture have to be respected, violations of basic human rights in the name of religion or tradition must be categorically condemned and shunned by the laws of the land. Most importantly laws that govern both public and personal spheres must be compatible to the Constitutional laws and be equally applicable to all citizens irrespective of sex, religion or the community they belong to.

The Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted on December 19, 1979 and came into force as a treaty on September 3, 1981 following its ratification by twenty countries. Ratification obligates governments to pursue a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and to report on progress in that effort to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination. Article 1 of the Convention defines discrimination as:
‘Any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex, which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on the basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.’

Under Article 2, states are required to domestically enforce CEDAW, adopt appropriate legislation and other measures to prohibit all discrimination against women, modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute such discrimination.

Other articles of the Convention deal with many of the pressing issues that concern women such as women’s right to determine their own and their children’s nationality and removal of discrimination in education, employment, healthcare, social and economic benefits.
Part IV of CEDAW calls for equality before the law and equality within marriage and family law. Articles under this component for example guarantees the same legal capacity as men to contract, administer property, appear in courts or before tribunals; freedom of movement the right to choose where they will live; equal rights and responsibilities of women with men in marriage; the right to choose when they will have children, to choose their family name or occupation; and equal rights and responsibilities regarding ownership, management and disposition of property.

The good news is that more than half of the world community has ratified CEDAW. The bad news is that a large number of countries– 168 states–have submitted reservations. Seventeen of these countries have a majority Muslim population and includes Bangladesh.
Bangladesh continues to maintain reservations Articles 2 and 13(a). In September 2000, Bangladesh became the first country to ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW which ensures the implementation of the tools to eradicate discrimination. Maintaining such reservation to the very pledge to eradicate such discrimination is therefore contradictory and makes the sincerity of the state to remove gender discrimination, questionable.

[1] Professor Dr. Taslima Monsoor,  Justice delayed is justice denied , Women and violence in Bangladesh.