In a time when violence against women in our society is getting rampant, taking speedy legal measures of only a few sensational cases should not be considered as a significant breakthrough in tackling the overall situation. The recent Nusrat Jahan Rafi murder case drew much public attention and police arrested most of the accused. We welcome this swift action and hope that the culprits would be handed exemplary punishment. But at the same time we also demand speedy trial of all cases related to rape and child abuse.
There are innumerable cases of violence against women and children which have not received public attention at all, but that does not necessarily mean that the merits of those cases are any less significant. But sadly, most of those cases are either stuck due to procedural delays in the legal system or legal measures have not been taken at all.The lead story in yesterday’s daily sun informs us that more than 1.6 lakh cases filed under Women and Children Repression Prevention Act are pending with different tribunals across the country. Many of the cases are pending for over 10 years though the Act requires disposal of the cases within 180 days of their filing.
WE remember Tonu and Mitu murder cases in which police made little headway. Similarly, there are reports of no progress even after four years of the Pahela Baishakh sexual assault case at Dhaka University.
How can the law have a deterrence effect against these despicable crimes if the legal service is not effective or the perpetrators are not booked at all? Extended trials and impunity of the offenders could be as traumatic for women as the harassment itself. The complex procedures and difficulties involved in getting justice also keep women away from approaching the police to register a case of sexual harassment.
The procedural delays in the legal system, however, are only one side of the problem. Social stigma, threats from culprits and police harassment also scare victims away from seeking legal help. Not to mention the ordeal of victims in rural areas for whom seeking justice is unimaginable. So, if the state fails to mete out commensurate punishments to the culprits of this growing menace of rape and child murder, such crimes will only increase by the day.
In order to effectively combat sexual harassment and violence against children and women, special tribunals should be set up to facilitate speedy and transparent trials of such cases. To ensure rule of law, criminals must be brought to justice no matter how powerful they are.