The Bangladesh government has introduced the death penalty for rape after days of protests sparked by a string of sexual assaults in the country. It now joins India and Pakistan to allow death as a punishment for sexual offenses. Previously, the maximum punishment for rape was life imprisonment.
Demonstrations had broken out across the country after harrowing footage of a group of men stripping and attacking a woman went viral on social media. The clip sparked outrage in the South Asian country, where activists say only a tiny percentage of sexual assault victims see justice.
In 2020 alone, more than 1,000 rapes have been reported in Bangladesh, according to a human rights group in the country. A fifth of these were gang rapes.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was also facing an internal outcry within the ruling party’s ranks over her perceived inaction before her government approved the capital punishment proposal at a meeting in Dhaka.
Justice Minister Anisul Huq told AFP the law would be put into effect by the President on Tuesday.
National anger over the issue had been simmering since last month when members of the ruling party’s student wing were arrested and charged in a separate gang rape case.
Protesters in the capital city of Dhaka and elsewhere demanded stiffer punishments for rape, faster trials for rapists, and an end to what they see as a culture of impunity. Some also called for Hasina’s resignation, an unusual show of public defiance in a country where open criticism of the Premier had become increasingly rare.
Rallies continued on Monday in central Dhaka despite heavy monsoon rains, with hundreds of people condemning the recent arrest of student leaders by authorities attempting to suppress the protests.
Many have welcomed the government’s decision to introduce the death penalty, but gang rapes have continued to make headlines in recent days, and many believe that it will take more than the death penalty to fundamentally shift attitudes towards sexual violence in Bangladesh.
Not competent enough to sit idle and stare as the world goes by, Pallavi is optimistic to a fault and believes in building her world on her own rather than depending on others to make things right.