Published:  12:51 AM, 25 November 2021

Everyone should abide by the law

We congratulate the chief justice for his prompt action in suspending the criminal case trial powers of Mosammat Kamrunnahar, judge of Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal 7. Our congratulations are also due to the law minister, who deserves all praises for quickly rising to the occasion and reacting publicly and vociferously against Judge Kamrunnahar's observations. Such action by the law minister, followed by that of the chief justice, have together greatly enhanced the prestige of and strengthened our deeply held respect for our higher judiciary.

Judge Kamrunnahar's conduct and her views on women have raised some very disturbing questions in our mind. What if the judge had not revealed her mind the way she did, and only pronounced the accused "not guilty" ostensibly because the case was weak, but actually because she thought the women were "willing"—a conclusion she could only come to out of prejudice and not out of facts.

So the challenge before our judicial system is: How do we know the mindset of a judge before appointing him or her to that special tribunal? If he or she believes that a woman who goes to a hotel late in the evening at the invitation of a friend, swims and socializes with other guests, including men, can be raped because she seemed "willing," that is not a mindset which can ever do justice to a female victim. We dare not hazard a guess as to what she and other judges like her think of women who travel on business, stay in hotels, meet business partners, travel to factories together, etc.

The point we are making here is that, just because someone is fully qualified to be a judge, does not mean that they should automatically be placed in a Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal, because pronouncing on gender-based violence against women, especially rape, requires a sensitivity and a nuanced understanding of the sufferings of the victims that a mere bookish knowledge of the law does not automatically bring into play.

We humbly suggest that before assigning a judge to that specialized court, especially one set up to impart justice to victims of sexual crimes and gender-based violence, they should undergo suitable training on gender equality, gender violence, all contemporary national and international laws on gender, elements as to what constitutes equal rights in every aspect of social, economic and political life of a woman, etc.

We congratulate the law minister for another step he recently took. He declared that in future no arrest would be made in any case under the Digital Security Act (DSA) without completing prior investigation. It was reported that he would talk to the home minister about it. We hope that he has already done so, and urge him to make the matter official and public through a formal notification.

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