to a Rapist Norm or Exception?
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