HC rulings on women’s rights fall on deaf ears

Authorities seem reluctant to implement High Court directives issued on various occasions to protect women’s rights and end sexual harassment.

Failure to adhere to guidelines on women’s rights includes, among others, formation of complaint committees to end sexual harassment in workplaces and educational institutions, completion of trial of rape cases within 180 days, a ban on the two-finger test of rape victims, an end to unnecessary caesarean sections and the establishment of a breastfeeding corner in public places.

Human rights lawyer, ZI Khan Panna, said a tendency has developed among government authorities to disobey Supreme Court orders as no sanctions are handed down for non-compliance with its orders. .

“Government and other authorities are bound to implement every Supreme Court directive as it is binding on all, in accordance with Article 111 of the constitution,” Panna told New Age.

Referring to Article 112 of the constitution, Panna said, “All the authorities, executive and judicial, of the Republic must act in favor of the Supreme Court.”

“We were tracking judgments and directives, whether they were implemented or not,” Panna said.

He added that new petitions have been filed in the event of non-compliance with the judgments.

Barrister Sara Hossain told New Age there was no progress in implementing High Court guidelines given in three judgments on how to deal with rape cases, victims and witnesses and to complete the trial in 180 days.

Eighteen guidelines were issued in the first judgment rendered on February 18, 2016 by the bench of Judge Farah Mahbub and Judge Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo in a written motion filed by Naripakkha.

The guidelines include the immediate registration of cases of rape or sexual assault by police stations, regardless of their jurisdiction, the opening of a dedicated website allowing victims to register complaints online and the setting establishment of a national 10921 call center for wider dissemination of information on violence against women and children.

The guidelines also provide for the assignment of a female police officer to each police station to handle such cases, the recording of victim statements in the presence of their lawyers or friends or social workers or probation officers, the accompaniment of victims to the hospital for medical examinations without any delay.

The 18 guidelines also provide for the establishment of victim support centers, mandatory DNA testing for victims, penalties for investigators who do not collect medical reports or who delay taking victims to hospital, the completion of the investigations as soon as possible and the creation of an office in each city to provide the necessary security, medical care, psychological support and protection to the victims.

Naripakkha member Kamrun Nahar said New Age women’s rights activists continued to go door-to-door to press for implementation of the guidelines.

“A rule should be included in the code of conduct for public officials to hold them accountable if they fail to comply with a court direction,” she added.

The Government and all Women and Children Punishment (Prevention) Courts flouted seven directives issued by the High Court Bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice JBM Hassan on 5th December 2016, asking the judges to complete the trial cases of rape and violence against women and children within the 180 days provided by law.

No judge in the 54 courts in five years has complied with the guidelines which also required court judges to submit reports to the Supreme Court’s Registrar General explaining their failure to complete the trial in 180 days.

Under High Court guidelines, the government is requiring the formation of a District Oversight Committee with an additional District Magistrate, an additional Superintendent of Police for administration, the Civil Physician’s Representative and the Court Solicitor to ensure the presence of witnesses and their safety during the trial.

The public prosecutor will be the coordinator of the oversight committee and will submit the monthly report to the Supreme Court and the ministries of interior and law explaining the activities of the committee, the High Court said in its verdict.

The court said the oversight committees would be responsible for the state’s failure to produce a witness in court on the scheduled dates.

The court also said oversight commissions would observe whether or not witnesses were summoned promptly.

The court said that the court will recommend ministerial action against official witnesses like the magistrate, police, doctor and other experts if they fail to appear in court without satisfactory reason and order the payment of their wages if such action was deemed necessary. .

Human rights lawyers also told the court that the government flouted the third HC verdict issued on July 18, 2019, ordering the government to immediately formulate a law to protect witnesses.

He also called on the government to prevent arbitration in rape cases.

On October 21, 2020, the court asked the government to submit a report in three months on the progress of the implementation of its directives given in the three judgments.

The court had issued the order after hearing a public interest litigation online filed by Ain O Salish Kendra secretary Nur Khan Liton.

But no report has yet been submitted, ZI Khan Panna said on Saturday.

The High Court, in an April 16, 2018 verdict, banned the use of “two-finger tests” on rape victims by doctors to determine whether or not a woman or girl had been raped.

A bench of Judge Gobinda Chandra Tagore and Judge AKM Shahidul Huq handed down the historic verdict on the grounds that the two-finger tests were not ‘scientific’.

The court also prohibited the bimanual examination of children or young girls to determine if they had been raped.

The court issued the verdict after hearing a motion for writ filed jointly by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Ain O Salish Kendra, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, BRAC Director Faustian Pereira, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Naripokkho and Citizens Ruchira Tabassum Naved and Mobarak Hossain Khan.

The petitioners’ attorney, Sharmin Akter, told New Age on Saturday that the controversial two-finger tests were still being used to determine the virginity of women and girls in violation of the verdict and a circular banning the unscientific method.

The High Court in a 2009 verdict ordered the authorities of all governmental, non-governmental and private organizations to form the Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee in Educational Institutions and Workplaces.

Due to the non-compliance with the guidelines in 12 years, the High Court in a new judgment of January 9, 2021, asked 40 interviewees, including four secretaries, to explain in four weeks why their non-compliance with the guidelines issued by the court in 2009 for the formation of the Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee would not be declared illegal.

Although the secretary of the cabinet division, the secretaries of the ministries of public administration, law and women and children’s affairs were asked to submit separate reports to the court within three months, the defendants did not yet submitted the report, Sharmin Akter, who moved the new petition, told New Age on Saturday.

A bench of Judge Farah Mahbub and Judge SM Maniruzzaman issued the new directive and rule after hearing a writ petition filed by the rights group Ain o Salish Kendra on October 21, 2021.

The verdict on the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace came after hearing a public interest litigation petition filed jointly by Jahangirnagar University Professor of Anthropology, Ainoon Nahar, the National Association of Bangladeshi Women Lawyers, Bangladesh Institute of Social Studies, Bangladesh Labor Foundation, Awaj and Karmajibi Foundation. Nari.