Nelson Mandela was absolutely right in his saying--The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children.
Though Bangladesh had achieved successes in many sectors like becoming the second most gender equal country in Asia and the first in South Asia or turning into a middle-income developing country, it has not been able to ensure the safety of its female children.
From January to September 2019, approximately 786 incidents of child rape took place, according to Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum. Verdicts in 22 child rape cases have been announced till September 2019.
The Penal Code1860 defines rape and mentions punishments for rapists. Besides, section 9 of the Prevention of Oppression Against Women and Children Act, 2000 also describes the punishments to rapists. It says whoever commits rape with a woman or child shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for life and fine. It is notable that if any man does sexual intercourse with a woman under sixteen years of age with or without her consent will be considered as rape.
Moreover, if in the consequence of rape or by any act after rape by that person, the woman or child die later on then the man shall be punished with death or rigorous life imprisonment and also with fine not exceeding one lakh taka.
Regarding gang rape, it says if more than a man rape a woman or child and the woman or child dies or injured in consequences of the rape, each of the members of the gang shall be punished with death or rigorous imprisonment for life and fine not exceeding one lakh taka.
Hence, it can be said that the minimum punishment for child rape is rigorous life imprisonment with fine. This punishment is given to criminals so that it can deter a potential child rapist or abuser from committing the heinous crime.
Whenever a child rapist get punished we feel happy, we convince ourselves that the society gets rid of that monster. But, is it really so? How can we forget the dreadful incident of Sadia Sultana Trisha, a fourth grader in Gaibandha, who died in 2002 by jumping into a pond after she was chased by Mehedi Hasan Modern and his two accomplices?
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court sentenced them to 14 years of rigorous imprisonment for committing murder.
After serving 14 years in prison, Modernalong with his accomplice again raped a sixth grader girl in Gaibandha in October.
Now two question arise here. Firstly, whether our laws and punishment provisions are enough to stop an offender from repeating the same offence?
Secondly, whether reformative approach has been appropriately implemented or not.
We often use the term Pedophilia. Usually people think it as a mental disorder that lead a person to rape a child. However, this perception is not accurate. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R) of the American Psychiatric Association, the essential feature of this disorder is recurrent intense sexual urges and sexual fantasies, involving sexual activity with a child. Here it has been classified as one of the psycho-sexual disorders. The persons who do such things are different from sexual abusers as according to Webster's New World Dictionary a child molester is simply an individual who engages in illegal sexual activity with children.
So, a pedophile is one whose sexual fantasies are only focused on children.
Therefore, it cannot be wrong to say that child rapists have psycho-sexual disorders. That is why beside harsh and appropriate punishments, the criminal justice system should also ensure the psychological treatments to these types of offenders.
In the Special Provisions Act to Deal with Child Sex Abuse Offenders 2009 of Maldives, it has been clearly mentioned that the state shall monitor and manage child sex offenders in a continuous process even after serving severe punishments.
It is high time to take reformative measures alongside giving punishments to stop repetitions of rape incidents in our country.
Monira Nazmi Jahan