A welcome move
IN RESPONSE to a petition filed by the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association, the High Court on Tuesday ordered the government to explain in six weeks why the latter should not be directed to make a comprehensive review of its measures taken so far in compliance with the existing rules and legal framework intended to protect women and children from harassment by stalking, pornography and mobile texting. According to a New Age report on Wednesday, the court also asked the secretaries to the law, home and women affair ministries to come up with explanation as to why they should not be directed to frame rules on saving women and children from sexual offences in line with section 33 of the Repression on Women and Children (Prevention) Act 2000. Undoubtedly, the court’s move has raised hopes among people at large, especially those who are appalled by the alarming rise in sexual violence against women and girls in recent times. As the national rights organisation Odhikar’s annual report revealed, the country witnessed at least 805 cases of rape in 2012. Additionally, the organisation recorded 838 cases of dowry-related violence and 105 acid-throwing incidents. Meanwhile, according to another New Age report the same day, a student of Eden Government College in the capital is now fighting for her life in hospital after she came under acid attack at a city marriage registration office by her spurned lover and his accomplices in broad daylight on Tuesday.
It is needless to point out that women and girls are being increasingly subjected to violence in general and sexual offence in particular due to the lack of enforcement of the rules concerned in the first place. Like previous years, law enforcement agencies, including the police, essentially remained indifferent to seriously dealing with the cases involving sexual assault on women in 2012. So was the government when it concerned effective steps to make law enforcers live up to their stipulated duties. Worse even, the incumbents have continued to turn a blind eye to the directives issued by the High Court in May 2009 regarding sexual harassment on women and girls thus far. The government may easily be held in contempt of court because it is constitutionally bound to comply with the court’s order. One cannot rule out that such a move would make a difference at least in part.
Be that as it may, while the government needs to comply with the court order in point to the letter and in spirit, the court is expected to put a tab on compliance of its order in a sustained manner.
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