The High Court (HC) has adjourned the hearing of a writ petition that challenged section 155 (4) and section 146 (3) of the Evidence Act, 1872.
Three rights organisations, Bangladesh Legal Aid & Services Trust (BLAST), Ain o Shalish Kendra (ASK) and Naripokkho, filed the petition on Nov 14, challenging the legality of two sections of the act that allow questioning the 'character' of rape victims.
The existing sections of the act allow defence lawyers to question (without prior permission of the court) women and girls, who are rape case complainants, about their character and prior sexual history with the accused and non-accused persons.
The HC adjourned the matter following the submission, by the Attorney General of Bangladesh, of a draft bill that has already been prepared by the law ministry proposing repealing section 155(4) of the Evidence Act.
The court also passed an order for the matter to be listed for hearing again on January 4, 2022, and for the government to submit a progress report by then regarding the progress with respect to repeal of section 155(4) of the Evidence Act, 1872.
The HC bench of Justice M. Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md. Mostafizur Rahman passed the order on Tuesday.
Senior Advocate Z. I. Khan Panna, Sara Hossain and Aynunnahar Siddiqa, appeared for the petitioners, with SM Rezaul Karim, Sharmin Akter and Shahinuzzaman while Attorney General AM Amin Uddin appeared for the state.
Barrister Sara Hossain on behalf of BLAST noted ‘Laws grossly discriminate against women and girls and allow questioning of their character and sexual history have no place in the 21st century. To ensure rape survivors rights to justice, character evidence laws need to be repealed immediately.’
Ms Shireen Huq on behalf of Naripokkho notes ‘That the respondent has assured the court that a draft repealing Section 155 (4) is ready should be a matter of great satisfaction. However, this draft has been ready for some time. Yet we have not seen any sign of action on the part of the Ministry. The repeal of section 155 (4) is long overdue. We are hoping for positive results.’
Nina Goswami on behalf of Ain o Shalish Kendra notes "I believe the amendment of the Evidence Act will bring an end to the practice of questioning about the character of rape survivors and also the practice of victim-blaming. I wish the success of the legal movement in protecting the human rights of women ''.