Violence against women and children has reached an alarming level amid the pandemic-led crisis, says Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB).
The organisation pointed to the social perspective, financial instability, visible incompetence, neglect, a biased attitude by law enforcement agencies, a protracted judicial process, and insecurity for the "pandemic-like spread" of gender-based violence.
In a media statement Wednesday, TIB said it is not possible to curb offences like rape due to a lack of exemplary punishment for the perpetrators in due time.
On the eve of the 16-day global campaign against violence against women and girls, TIB called for the strict and exemplary punishment of culprits who are directly or indirectly involved in those offences.
TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said the pandemic has exacerbated the health crisis as well as violence against women.
Referring to statistics of non-governmental organisations that provide legal assistance to abused women, he said violence incidents increased 70% in March-April this year as compared to last year.
According to TIB, 192 women were raped or suffered an attempted rape from January to August this year. In the first nine months of this year, 235 women were killed due to domestic violence.
Iftekharuzzaman said despite the enactment of the Women and Child Repression Prevention Act 2000 and the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2010, there are fewer convictions under those laws.
He said, "According to one of the nine state-run one-stop crisis centres, charges were framed in only 160 cases out of about 11,000 repression incidents. In the final verdict, only 1% of victims received justice for repression against them."
"In other words, justice was not ensured in 99% of repression cases, which is a very worrying picture for the effective enforcement and implementation of the law," he noted.
Stating that nearly 1,500 repression cases are currently pending due to a stay order of the High Court, the TIB executive director said the protracted judicial process prompts the risk of impunity.
"While ordinary victims are unaccustomed to legal procedures at local police stations or face harassment by police, continuing legal battles at the Supreme Court is beyond the imagination of the repressed victims," he added.
"Unfortunately, there is a perception that if we can prolong the trials by delaying them, people will forget about them as there will always be new events to talk about, and the punishment can be averted," he continued.
"Against the backdrop of such reality, the people should also play an effective role – apart from the government, private organisations and institutions. The social attitude towards women must be changed," said the executive director of TIB.