<%-- Page Title--%> Reflections <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 112 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

July 4, 2003

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Death to a Rapist Norm or Exception?

Aasha Mehreen Amin

Very few news items cheer us up these days. June 24th, Tuesday, was no different with the usual dose of murder, rape and political squabble of the day. Yet the headline that announced the death sentence to a rapist and life imprisonment to his cronies who abetted in the crime, does give us some hope that justice, though an endangered value, still exists in this country. Sadly however, the victim is not alive to see her attackers be sufficiently punished for subjecting her to the worst kind of torture for a woman to endure. Thirteen year old Fahima could not take the humiliation and hanged herself on a fan with a scarf -- a common 'escape' for such helpless victims of rape. Nevertheless, this exemplary punishment may deter the thousands of other such perverted criminals from such abominable acts and give girls like Fahima a chance to live.
On March 3, 2002, Fahima had gone to her brother Rafiq's shop to have chotpoti. Rafiq had run out of spices so he went back to his house to get some, leaving Fahima alone in the shop. This gave the perfect opportunity for Shumon, a local hoodlum of Tolarbagh, Mirpur to pounce upon Fahima, a long time target of his harassment. With the help of his two friends Nasir and Halim they forcibly took Fahima to an empty room of a house belonging to an individual named Keramot. There, with the assistance of his friends, Sumon raped Fahima. Meanwhile Fahima's parents, sisters and brother had gone looking for her and eventually found her while Shumon was assaulting her. The attackers tried to intimidate them and fled the scene. When Fahima was brought home she was in a traumatised state. She then locked herself in a room and hanged herself with her orna.
Devastated, Fahima's father Abdur Jabbar filed a case under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act at the Mirpur Thana. Sub-inspector Rowshon Ara after investigating was able to present the charge sheet to the court within fifteen days. But the hearing of the case was delayed for another ten months as the witnesses failed to turn up. Finally on May 18th with Fahima's father's statement, the hearing began under the Speedy Trial Tribunal and within 41 working days a verdict was given: Death sentence to the main culprit Shumon and life imprisonment plus a penalty of one lakh Taka, which if not paid, will mean another two years imprisonment.
When Fahima's mother heard the verdict, she broke down and said that she knew she would not get back her daughter but at least this would make sure that others like her would not have to lose their child. “The verdict gives an indication that there is something called justice in this country”. Strong words from a woman who has lost the most precious thing in her life --her child.
The worst part is that the ordeal is far from over. Apart from the agony of their loss, Fahima's family is being threatened by the attackers and their associates. The household's only earning member Rafiq, Fahima's brother, is constantly under threats. The family is scared to send the younger children to school for fear of repercussions by the defendants' associates. In addition, the lawyer representing the defendants has said that they will appeal to the higher court on the pretext that the case has some loopholes.
The court's approach to the case has been admirable. It has been compassionate to the victim, recognising that the crime was of the most heinous kind as it led to a minor taking her life and caused immeasurable pain for the parents who had to witness their child's humiliation. The court further stated that the verdict was meant to be exemplary so that other teenaged girls are not subject to such torture in the future.
Like Fahima countless others have perished at the hands of neighbourhood hoodlums. Only a few like Shumon have been given their due punishment. But the Speedy Trial Tribunal's efficiency gives us citizens who are often helpless bystanders, a bit of hope that crimes as brutal as rape followed by murder or sexual harassment that leads to the victim's suicide, will be rewarded with the highest level of punishment: death. For a change it is encouraging to know that state action can bring about quick, effective justice. For our sake let us hope the verdict will still hold when it reaches the higher courts.


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