Advocating for the repeal of a character evidence provision in Bangladesh’s rape trials

by TrustLaw
Tuesday, 4 August 2015 11:41 GMT

Perpetrators of rape in Bangladesh continue to go unpunished. A UN study on male violence, which surveyed perpetrators of rape, found that 95% of urban respondents and 88% of rural respondents in Bangladesh reported facing no legal consequences for raping a woman or girl.

“The unresponsiveness of governmental institutions to address rape through the law combined with social stigma surrounding rape victims prevents many victims from reporting violations”, said Ishita Dutta, Research Consultant of Bangladesh Legal Aid & Services Trust (BLAST)

The introduction of character evidence in rape trials is humiliating for victims and has no legal merit. However, statements about the victim’s character made by the defense are often taken into serious consideration by the courts.

Through Trustlaw, BLAST was connected with Norton Rose Fulbright and five other law firms to conduct cross-border research in seven countries to support BLAST’s advocacy for the removal of a Bangladeshi legislative provision which permits the use of character evidence in rape trials. Lawyers also conducted research on any rape shield laws in existence within these countries.

“We needed assistance in researching whether character evidence provisions specific to rape trials were present in other jurisdictions and whether any of these provisions had been reformed. We felt by providing examples of how other jurisdictions had reformed the law to end the usage of character evidence in rape trials; the relevant authorities in Bangladesh would have a better understanding of how to repeal the provision in Bangladesh”, said Ishita.

In May, BLAST presented the report to the Law Commission of Bangladesh and the Honorable Chief Justice as advocacy research to promote the repeal of the controversial provision.

“Repealing the character evidence provision and enacting rape shield laws will ensure the right of access to justice for rape survivors”, Ishita explained.

Read more here.


This project has been nominated for the 2015 TrustLaw Impact Award. Learn more about the TrustLaw Awards.

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