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  • Paras Sharma

Bangladesh Takes a Stern Stance towards Rapists, Can the Death Penalty serve as a deterrent?


Shaurya Shukla, UG Student, Chanakya National Law University, Patna and Shashwat Mishra, UG Student, School of Law, UPES, Dehradun


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“Rape”, this single word when heard creates an influx of negative emotions in the minds of listeners. Recently, Bangladesh decided to increase the maximum punishment of rape and sexual assault to the Death penalty, the first part of the article discusses the same. The death Penalty also violates some basic human rights which are guaranteed under several international conventions, all these rights and duties will be discussed in the second part of the article. Bangladesh took this decision with the aim to deter rape crimes but, can it really deter rape crimes? This article aims to answer this question in its third part. Finally, the article will expound on the need of the hour in the current situation.


The Bangladesh Cabinet on the 12th of October 2020 approved instating the Death penalty as the maximum punishment for the people convicted of rape and sexual assault. Life imprisonment was the previous highest punishment for rape crimes. Recently, a video featuring a group of men sexually assaulting, stripping, and attacking a woman went viral in Bangladesh and this video created a furor in the state as it fueled a big protest regarding women-safety. A report formulated by a Bangladesh government’s commission states that 975 women were raped from January to September of this year.

Bangladesh is also facing the problem of a low conviction rate for rapists. In 2013, UNO conducted a survey in which it was found that 88% of the rural respondents and 95% of the urban respondents, who admitted to committing rape faced no legal consequences. This low conviction rate also increases the confidence quotient of rapists and leads them to commit such heinous crimes. Amid such a low conviction rate, Will an increase in the punishment act as a tool of deterrence for convicts? This is the basic question which our research aspires to cover. Our research will also discuss the death penalty under the umbrella of International law and the authors will try to provide a mechanism that can create deterrence in the mind of rapists.

Death Penalty vis-a-vis International law

If we look at the death penalty from the perspective of international law. It can be easily ascertained that the death penalty transgresses some basic human rights of an individual. Both right to life and the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment are protected under Articles 3 and 5 of UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) respectively. Second Protocol to the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) also aims at the abolition of the death penalty. Some states in the US such as Louisiana and Florida, have awarded the death penalty to convicts in cases of rape and sexual assault but the additional protocol of the American Convention on Human Rights provides that the death penalty should be abolished. UDHR is not a binding treaty but both ICCPR and American Convention on Human Rights are binding conventions and they should be respected and followed by each of the ratifying signatories.

Does the Death Penalty create deterrence in the minds of rapists?

The mainstream question which arises after Bangladesh’s decision is: Can the death penalty act as an effective deterrent tool for rapists? Till now any research has not proved that the death penalty can be a constructive solution to curb the problem of rape and sexual abuse. The USA, Japan, and Pakistan have the death penalty as the maximum punishment for rape and sexual abuse while on the other hand countries like Albania, Serbia and Lebanon are against the death penalty for rape. In 2018, more than 7 lakh people were raped and threatened in the USA, which is just double from 2017. Reports say that in 2020 the number of rape incidents recorded per 100000 citizens was 1289 in Japan and the rape incidents recorded in Pakistan for the year 2018 were 11% more than the incidents recorded in the year 2017. On the other hand, In 2020 Albania, Serbia and Lebanon recorded only 24, 72, and 19 rape cases respectively. Comparing the countries which have the death penalty as punishment for rape to the countries which don’t account for the death penalty, we can firmly say that the rape and sexual abuse ratio of pro-death penalty countries is way more than the countries who are against the death penalty.

The decision of the Bangladesh cabinet has several drawbacks. If the maximum punishment of rape is increased to the death penalty then there are several chances that the accused will not let the victim survive hence it will resultantly create an increase in violence. The tougher criminal laws can surely be detrimental for the weaker section of society who cannot even afford an advocate to appeal for them in court. It can be used as a political tool in some countries to punish political opponents. Increasing the punishment also increases the pressure on the victim if the accused is one of the family members of the victim. Instead of creating any sort of deterrence, increasing maximum punishment will create hardships for the victim.

The Need Of The Hour:-

Conclusively, the authors want to address the need of the hour. The creation of deterrence will be of no use if the conviction rate is not increased. The demands of the Death penalty, lynching, and castration of the convict will be futile if the accused is not even scared of being caught. Governments should focus on increasing conviction and encourage speedy trails. Also, we should understand, why we as a society are producing rapists as no one is a born rapist. Governments should inculcate sex education in the curriculum of schools. Making sex education compulsory in High School Level and educating as to what constitutes abuse to high school students would clear doubts and unnecessary views about the anatomy of the Human body.

Sex education includes knowledge about reproductive health, sexual intercourse, menstruation, STD, and risk of pregnancy. There are many countries in the world that provide comprehensive and compulsory sex educations in schools. Sex education in Africa has focused on stemming the growing AIDS epidemic. Indonesia, Mongolia, and South Korea too, have a systematic policy framework for teaching about sex within schools. Young people are naturally curious about sex and sexuality and they should be provided with adequate education to receive information about sexuality, growth of the human body, and changes according to age. Denying the youngsters, the correct scientific information would lead them to acquire half-backed and incorrect knowledge from other sources including the internet, friends, movies, etc. which will create misconceptions and doubts. Such misconceptions and doubts are the foundation of many horrific incidents of rape. The need of the hour is to ensure a speedy trial, a slightly proportionate conviction rate, and to make sex education a part of the High school curriculum.


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