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Bangladesh court orders govt to tackle rise in rapes

Bangladeshi women wearing masks stage a silent protest against rape in Dhaka. -Reuters

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s government will set up a commission to investigate a sharp rise in the number of rapes, the deputy attorney general said on Monday, after the country’s top court ordered it to act. Deputy Attorney General Abdullah Al Mahmud said it was clear that the number of rapes had risen as he promised to abide by the court’s directive, delivered on Sunday.

No official figures are yet available for 2019, but human rights organization Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) estimates that the number of rapes doubled to about 1,500 last year. It based the estimate on media reports and the complaints it handled.

“You can’t deny that the number of rapes has increased,” Mahmud told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We have taken this directive on a positive note and the government won’t just sit idly. It will try its best to tackle this problem.” Women’s rights groups have also said the incidence of sexual violence is rising, blaming a failure to implement the law that has led to a culture of impunity for such crimes.

In addition, many victims never report the crime for fear of being ostracized by their families and wider communities, they say. The High Court’s ruling was in response to a private petition filed by a lawyer in response to the rape this month of a student at Dhaka’s top university that sparked protests. The lawyer, Khandoker Kawsar, said he wanted the government to form a commission to identify the drivers and tackle the issue.

The court said the commission should be created within a month and should submit a set of recommendations to tackle the problem within six months. “This has become a scary issue, There are times when I am scared to send my own children to school,” said Nina Goswami, a director at ASK, calling the court’s intervention “a timely initiative”. – Reuters

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