When the law minister on Thursday announced that the law would be reformed to provide for death penalty for rape, activists, researchers and lawyers pointed out that far more crucial changes need to be made with immediate effect.
To begin with, for example, "rape" itself is restrictively defined only as penile-vaginal penetration -- although rape in reality constitutes many types of violent actions.
"In 2000, even though we have brought the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act to modify the punishment for rape, what it did not touch upon is the substantive definition of rape," said Taslima Yasmin, assistant professor at Department of Law, University of Dhaka.
"For this definition, in section 2 of the Act, it is mentioned to apply the definition given in section 375 of The Penal Code 1860; and with that, we have continued the 150-year-old archaic definition of rape," she said.
Section 375 defines rape as sexual intercourse with a woman against her will, without her consent, and adds that penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape. That is the extent of the definition.
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Lawyers and activists say that the narrow definition of rape and some archaic provisions in laws relating to rape result in a low conviction rate, with a study last year estimating the rate to be three percent. Moreover, procedures -- such as the requirement of medical tests to find semen -- are also set up in a way that makes it hard to convict perpetrators and further adds to the trauma and scrutiny of survivors.