It’s a welcome move, not a solution, say Rights activists
Human rights activists have cautiously welcomed the Supreme Court's decision to assign female magistrates to record statements of rape victims.
They also urged police to maintain the same process while recording statements of rape victims under section 161 of the CrPC.
They stressed more on female-friendly attitude of judicial and investigating institutes while dealing with the cases of sexual harassment against women and children.
"I support this step of the Supreme Court. But this will not be enough if female-friendly women magistrates are given the tasks of recording statements of the victims," Human rights activist Khusi Kabir told the Daily Observer.
She said, "The same process should be maintained by police while investigating such cases. There is an obligation to question a female victim in presence of a female police as well as her counsel. But police frequently ignore it."
In this regard she mentioned the case of Nusrat Jahan Rafi. The administrative order from the apex court came after Moazzem Hossain, the former Officer in Charge (OC) of Sonagazi Model Police Station in Feni, was found to have been harassing a female victim, Nusrat Jahan Rafi, in the name of interrogating her.
Nusrat, a female student of a madrasa succumbed to her burn injury after the assailants set fire on her as she refused to withdraw sexual abuse charges against the principal of the Sonagazi Madrasa.
Rather than recording her allegations, the OC interrogated the victim sans presence of any female officer.
He humiliated her in the name of interrogation, video-recorded the event and also made it viral on social sites. The Ex-OC was suspended and was sued under Digital Security Act amidst countrywide protest over the incident.
According to the case details, Nusrat went to Sonagazi Model Police Station to file a case against Sonagazi Islamia Fazil (Degree) Madrasa Principal Sirajuddaula on March 27 for sexually assaulting her the day before.
Moazzem recorded a video of her statement without her consent while asking her offensive and insulting questions.
The video then emerged on various social media platforms, including Facebook and YouTube. It was alleged that Moazzem had spread the video on social media.
Moazzem, whose voice was heard in the video, had also appeared unconcerned to Nusrat's complaints and said the sexual assault incident was not something serious.
He also asked Nusrat to go home and assured her of taking steps in accordance with her written complaint.
Fatama Sultana Suvra, Associate Professor of Jagannath University, who has the experience of carrying out extensive research works on the cases of sexual harassments, told the Daily Observer that only appointment of female magistrates cannot ensure proper handling of such cases.
"The orientation and attitudes of the people, who are investigating or giving judgements in such cases, are important factors. A female magistrate with patriarchal mindset may do the same as a male judicial officer does. So the institutions need to be female friendly."
Referring to the judgment in the case 'State vs Sri Pintu Pal,' filed in 2010 under the Women and Child Repression Prevention Act 2000, she said the accused was acquitted as the complainant was a domestic help and considered to be of "easy virtue".
The judgment reads, "The victim is a woman of easy virtue. So her dignity is low and her evidence cannot be believed."
Suvra said, "The judge in the verdict held that no implicit reliance can be placed on the testimony of the prosecutrix who is a woman of easy virtue. If the judicial institution holds such kind of attitude, assigning female magistrates will not come to any help for the female victims."
The SC on Monday issued a circular asking chief judicial magistrates and chief metropolitan magistrates to assign female judicial officials for recording testimonies of female and child victims of rape and sexual harassment from now on.