Amid outcry over sexual violence in Bangladesh, judge wraps up rape trial in a week

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Bagerhat, Oct 19: A judge in Bagerhat has scheduled his verdict on a rape case within a week into the beginning of the trial in a rare effort to deliver speedy justice for sexual violence towards women and girls.

District and Sessions Judge Md Nure Alam of Bagerhat Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal on Sunday set Monday for ruling after hearing arguments of the prosecution and the defence.

The victim, a 7-year-old girl, lives with her uncle at the Asrayan Project for the landless people in Makorkon village of Mongla Upazila following the death of her father.

A neighbour, Abdul Mannan Sarder, allegedly raped her after luring her into his home by offering biscuit on Oct 3.

The police arrested Mannan after the uncle started a case the same night.

The investigation officer, Sub-Inspector Biswajit Mukherjee of Mongla Police Station, charged Mannan in court on Oct 11.

The judge framed the charges the next day, kicking off the trial, according to the tribunal’s clerk Gopal Chandra Paul.

On Oct 13, the tribunal recorded the statements of 16 witnesses and heard depositions of the doctor who conducted tests on the girl, the judicial magistrate, policewomen, and the investigation officer the following day.

The defence witnesses testified in the tribunal on Oct 15.

The Women and Children Repression (Prevention) Act states that the trial in a rape case can be concluded within 15 working days if the accused is arrested immediately, said Ranajit Kumar Mandal, the assistant public prosecutor of the tribunal.

He also hopes the delivery of the verdict within a week from the beginning of a trial.

The development comes when protests have spread across Bangladesh demanding swift trial and exemplary punishment of rapists.

Rocked by a string of incidents of sexual violence against women for which the protesters blame “a culture of impunity”, the government has introduced death penalty for rape.

The deadline for the submission of investigation reports in rape cases is one month, while the tribunals have 180 days to dispose of a case. But the timeframe is seldom followed in most cases.

The incidents of rape and other sexual violence against women rock the country regularly, but exemplary punishment is not common.

Most of the cases get forgotten due to the delay in trials. A lack of proper medical tests of the victims, fears of reprisal and social stigma, and interference by influential people make it difficult to get justice.