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Bangladesh approves death penalty for rapists after protests

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Bangladesh is to pass the death penalty law for rape cases after days of protests across the country. The country’s high level of sexual violence against women sparked outrage.

Law Minister Anisul Huq told the BBC that the president would pass the law on Tuesday.

What incidents sparked the outrage?

Last week, a gang assault on 37-year-old woman went viral on social media. Following that, Bangladesh’s National Human Rights Commission carried out an investigation. The commission found that the incident took place in the south-eastern district of Noakhali. The victim had been raped repeatedly over time and terrorized.

Authorities arrested eight men after the video.

Also last week but a separate case, a woman was gang-raped in a hostel in the northern district of Sylhet. The case led to the arrest of some members from the student wing of the ruling party.

Students from University of Dhaka at demonstration over rape cases. Photo source: Amran Hossain

Students from the University of Dhaka at a demonstration over rape cases. Photo source: Amran Hossain

The rape cases last week caused a mass protest over the weekend. Protestors carried signs reading “Hang the rapists” and “No mercy to rapists”. Protestors even set up mock gallows in the capital Dhaka.

In response to the mass demonstration, the government decided to make changes to the law. Since parliament was not in sitting, it would easily pass the law.

At least 1,000 reported rape cases this year

Demonstrators held signs at a protest against sexual violence towards women. Photo source: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP via Getty Images

Demonstrators held signs at a protest against sexual violence towards women. Photo source: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP via Getty Images

A human rights group in Bangladesh revealed that this year had more than 1,000 reported rape cases. One-fifth of the collected data was gang rapes. The case of a 37-year-old victim was the reason it brought to the mass protests. The government had no choice but to take action to enforce the law. Meanwhile, the UN stated that the gang rape happened in Noakhali showed “state of social, behavioural and structural misogyny” in the country.

The government’s decision to pass the law gained many supports. However, some say death penalty alone is not enough to shift attitudes towards sexual violence in Bangladesh.

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