Parliament: Rape survivor’s character cannot be questioned during trial

The Evidence (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was passed by a voice vote on Thursday

Parliament: Rape survivor’s character cannot be questioned during trial
File photo: Friends and classmates of the O level rape victim organize protest at Dhaka's Dhanmondi 27 Road on Saturday, January 9 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh Parliament on Thursday unanimously passed the much talked about “The Evidence (Amendment) Bill, 2022” which states that a rape survivor's character cannot be questioned during prosecution. 

Law Minister Anisul Huq placed the bill in the House, which was passed by a voice vote.

As per the law, during prosecution for an offence of rape or attempt to rape, no question can be asked to cross-examine the character or previous sexual behaviour of the rape survivor. But such questions can only be asked with the permission of the court if it is necessary.

Opposition Jatiya Party and BNP lawmakers thanked the government for placing the bill saying the humiliating provision for women as mentioned in the Evidence Act has been repealed.

Terming the bill “historic and time fitting,” the opposition lawmakers said the demand of rights activists has been fulfilled.

While placing the bill, the law minister said there is a tendency of raising questions about a rape survivor's character through obnoxious questions. A restriction has been imposed on it. No such question can be asked to the rape survivor without the permission of a court.

Rights activists have welcomed the government's move for amending The Evidence Act, 1872 as the so-called "immoral" character of survivors of sexual violence can no longer be brought into question, digital evidence can be produced in courts, and questions on the character of witnesses, in general, can be raised only with the permission of the court.

Activists have long argued that defence lawyers attacking survivors with demeaning and obscene questions during cross-examinations is a huge deterrent in the process of justice that has only contributed to normalizing sexual violence.

Legal experts and rights activists said they had long been demanding the inclusion of digital evidence in the act.

The passed law will give both the prosecution and defence the opportunity to produce digital evidence before the court. Such evidence is not taken into cognizance at present.

According to the proposed law, digital record or electronic record means any record or information generated, prepared, sent, received or stored in magnetic, electro-magnetic, optical or micro films, computer memory, computer-generated microfiche including audio, video, DVD, CCTV footage, drone data and records from cell phone, hardware, software or any other digital device as defined in Digital Security Act, 2018.

Besides, finger, palm and iris impressions, digital footprints, signatures, and certificates will also be admissible as evidence before a court.

Evidence, documents and other things were submitted online after the inception of digital or online trials of cases amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the existing law, many legal complications might appear if any aggrieved person files a petition with the higher court, challenging the verdict of the lower court in case of acceptance of digital evidence or documents.

In the law, a provision was kept for making a forensic examination of digital evidence.

If the court thinks it necessary or any party of the case doubts the authenticity of such evidence, those can go through a forensic examination.

The submission of false or manipulated evidence would be punished as per the laws concerned.

If anyone twists (tampers) evidence, the person will be dealt with as per Section 211 of the Penal Code or Section 57 of the Digital Security Act.