Bangladesh President Md Abdul Hamid on Tuesday signed an ordinance approving the death penalty for rapists, amid nationwide protests after a series of recent sexual assaults in the country.
“The President assented the Cabinet decision and issued an ordinance on Women and Children Repression Prevention Act,” a presidential palace spokesman told PTI.
On Monday, the Cabinet approved an increase in the maximum punishment in rape cases to death from life imprisonment.
The Law Ministry in a statement said that from now on the “death penalty” instead of “lifetime rigorous imprisonment” would be the maximum punishment for rape. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that the government has introduced capital punishment in rape cases in an effort to prevent the “brutality” of rapists.
“A man when he is a rapist turns into an animal. They become so brutal; that is why women suffer so much these days. Hence we amended the law,” she said while speaking at an event here on Tuesday.
“Besides the life-term imprisonment, we have elevated the maximum punishment for rape to death and approved it in the cabinet. As the parliament is not in session right now, we’re issuing an ordinance,” she said.
Bangladesh was rocked over the weekend by an unprecedented level of protest after footage of a brutal gang assault on a woman went viral on social media. Demonstrators carried signs reading “Hang the rapists” and “No mercy to rapists”.
The changes to the law were demanded by thousands of demonstrators across the Muslim-majority nation calling for more stringent punishments for the perpetrators of sexual assaults.
Police arrested eight suspects after the video of the assault went viral more than a month after the attack occurred at the victim’s home in Noakhali.
In a separate case, another woman was allegedly gang-raped last week in a hostel in the northern district of Sylhet, leading to the arrest of several members of the student wing of the ruling party. Protesters in the capital Dhaka and elsewhere have demanded stiffer punishments for rape, faster trials for rapists and an end to what they see as a culture of impunity.
According to rights group Ain O Salish Kendra or ASK, at least 889 women have been raped in Bangladesh between January and August 2020.
Rights activists believe the numbers are much higher because many of the victims do not complain to the police.