The verdict in the Raintree Hotel rape case, pronounced by a Dhaka tribunal acquitting all five accused, has triggered widespread criticism among different strata of society. In the verdict of the case filed by two private university students, Judge Mosammat Kamrunnahar observed that the girls' accusations were not credible because they had "previous experience of sexual intercourse."
The observations of the judge, who has already been suspended from her judicial duties, angered human rights activists, prompting them to demand the repeal of Section 155 (4) of the Evidence Act that allows questioning the character of rape victims.
The Business Standard could reach one of the two victims. Here is how she narrated the present state of her mind:
I was talking to you the day the verdict was passed. You said you would not go to court. You had already assumed what the verdict was going to be. What was the basis of your assumption?
The offenders have a lot of money and they are so powerful that we could not present any evidence in court. Out of the 47 witnesses in the case, 22 testified, but none of them testified on our behalf. So, I could easily realise that the verdict was going to be in their favour. I thought it would not be right to go to court due to concerns about insecurity.
How did this incident at Raintree Hotel affect your life?
I am facing problems in finding a job. I have been jobless for a long time and I do not know if my parents will ever be able to marry me off. No one who knows this incident wants to give me space. In the eyes of our society, it is as if I am the culprit; and after this verdict, life has become more difficult. I have to answer to my parents why I had gone to court if I could not prove my accusation.
The judge observed that you knowingly went to the Raintree Hotel. There was no incident of rape. What is your comment?
I have my comments in my eyes, but I do not have the language to express it. Unfortunately no one saw what my eyes saw. I do not think it is a crime to accept a birthday party invitation. I have said before that I had no idea about the location of the party. I gave my consent to go thinking it was a usual birthday party, and my consent was taken somewhat forcibly. It would have been rude to refuse it if someone sends a car to pick you up. If I had known earlier that the venue was a hotel, I would not have agreed at all, even if a car was sent to pick me up.
Was it very difficult to attend the trial proceedings for long four years as the accused were influential and rich? What kind of obstacles did you face?
I have already explained it. In a word, I have led, and am still leading, a life like a thief, to avoid appearing in front of the accused face to face.
Will you appeal against the tribunal's verdict? Do you have anything to say to the victims of similar offences?
I have left the decision to my family. If they provide support, I will appeal; otherwise, I will quit here. Right now, I actually have nothing to say that can inspire or motivate the women who are victims of such offences... in fact, everyone now knows more or less about the justice system of this country. Instead of justice for the victim, her character will be assassinated if she files a rape case. I would rather ask the victims to seek justice from God, no one else will give them justice.
What is the reason behind the delay in filing the case? Why did you mention Piasha as a relative?
Because of Piasha's support, I filed the case after so many days, already knowing that there would be no benefit. She said that she would testify for us and provide all kinds of help. Piasha herself told us to mention her as a relative.
What message did the judge give to society through her verdict? Do you think women would be reluctant to go to the police station or court with allegations of rape?
I do not think that anyone else would dare to go to court seeking justice. This verdict means that the law can also be sold for money.
The court has acquitted Nayeem Ashraf. Do you still want his trial?
It would be foolish to seek justice anymore. There is no one to speak for us, I do not want justice anymore. We no longer have the ability to listen to the bad words spoken about us. But I want to ask one question – where is our security as the accused have been acquitted? Have we lost the right to security after failing to prove the allegation?