Crime & Justice

Quicker with justice: Bangladesh conducts express trials in rape cases

By Azad Majumder

Dhaka, Dec 10 (efe-epa).– The recent widespread outrage against the high level of sexual violence targeting women in Bangladesh has forced the authorities to conduct faster trials of rape cases in a country known for sluggish judiciary .

The courts have begun delivering quicker verdicts, some even in less than a week, which would earlier take years of stagnation.

Public prosecutor Mahmuda Akter was racing against time with her team, attending hearings of at least a dozen cases in a Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal in Dhaka on Dec 3.

In one such case, she successfully opposed the bail of Shah Alam Bepari, who allegedly raped his stepdaughter on Sep 14 last year in their Dhaka home.

Khadiza Begum, the mother of the 11-year-old victim, filed the complaint against her husband.

The case has progressed rapidly since the courts resumed operations in August following the pandemic interruption in late March, with three hearings in 35 days.

“We are trying to dispose of rape cases on a priority basis. Every day, we have several cases for hearings. Today, we also had 12 cases. Most of them are rape cases,” the public prosecutor told EFE.

Bangladesh courts moved fast to complete trials in rape cases after the country saw massive protests in October in the wake of several incidents of sexual abuse.

Protests began after a video showed a group of men sexually assaulting a woman in the southern district of Noakhali.

Following the protests, the government on Oct 12 amended a law introducing death for rape.

Some courts, in reaction to social pressure, speeded up judicial processes and also disposed of rape cases quicker than expected.

On Oct 19, a court in southern Bagerhat district sentenced a man to life for raping a seven-year-old, just a week after the trial began.

A month later, a court in the northeastern district of Kushtia delivered its verdict in just three working days on Nov 17 in what local media said the fastest disposal of a rape case in the country.

Prosecutor Anup Kumar Nandi said the court sentenced the head of a religious seminary, Abdul Quader, to life in prison for raping a female student on Oct 4.

“The court gave the verdict maintaining all procedures. The verdict came in three days from framing charges. It is a historic and landmark verdict,” Nandi told EFE.

Quader’s lawyer Arshad Ali claimed that the court did not give him enough time to defend his client.

Ali said the judiciary, in his case, did not follow the procedure laid down by the high court.

“There should have been a DNA test. But if the guidance is not followed what can we do, we cannot fight,” Ali said.

“The investigation was not proper. No DNA test, no chemical test of the victim’s clothes, the medical report said no recent rape. It was not in 72 hours. We got one day to cross-examine the witnesses,” he said.

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