They pressed for 12-point demands, including amending the Penal Code by changing the discriminatory definition of rape to make it more inclusive.
The protesters united under the banner ‘Shekol Bhangar Padojatra’ (march to break the shackles) with torches, anti-rape banners, festoons and placards. The march started from Shahbagh at 11:59pm where women from all walks of life took part.
A good number of men were seen taking part in the protest as well.
They shouted slogans condemning the surge in rapes across the country.
The first of the protesters’ demands is ensuring exemplary punishment to offenders in all pending rape and sexual violence cases as soon as possible.
They also demanded Section 155(4) of the Evidence Act 1872 – which says: when a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character – should be repealed, and the DNA Act 2014 should be made effective regarding evidence.
Their other demands include ensuring the security of women and children; ending victim-blaming; taking steps against those involved in harassing victims; bringing necessary reforms in the education system from the primary level by introducing sex education; and a hotline for rural women to help stop sexual violence.
They also sought the repealing of all laws and traditions that are discriminatory towards women; forming women repression prevention cells at educational institutions and government and non-government organisations and making them functional; an end to offensive remarks against women online or offline in the pretext of religious statements; and finishing child rape case trials within 90 days through speedy tribunals.
Anti-rape demonstrations erupted across Bangladesh after video footage of five men stripping a housewife and torturing her in Noakhali’s Begumganj went viral on the internet.
Before that, the gang rape of a woman at Sylhet’s MC College Hostel sparked countrywide protest.
Local human rights organisation Ain-o-Salish Kendra (ASK) has reported nearly 1,000 rape cases, more than 200 of them gang rapes, in the first nine months of this year.
The President on Tuesday promulgated an ordinance allowing the death penalty as the highest punishment for rape instead of life term imprisonment.