Questions as Weapons

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Bangladesh will ban questions regarding the “immoral character” of rape victims after a landmark decision that follows years of campaigning by women’s rights groups against the humiliating and traumatizing interrogations of survivors, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday.

Officials said that the government plans to amend the Evidence Act – a 19th-century relic from the British colonial era – and that lawmakers are expected to formalize the decision by June.

The government’s move comes after a decades-long fight by advocates to repeal the controversial law. Last year, a coalition of human rights organizations petitioned Bangladesh’s top court to strike it down.

Legal analysts explained that the legislation has been routinely used to discredit the court testimony of rape victims during cross-examinations. Many activists warned that the law has made it difficult to secure guilty verdicts and made survivors hesitant to press charges.

Government officials and women’s rights groups hailed the move as “another step toward the empowerment of women.”

Still, advocates cautioned that the number of rapes has increased in recent years, partly because of legal loopholes and a culture of impunity for violence against women.

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