Sharia Justice: Where Rape Victims Are Punished and Killed

by THE EDITOR February 7, 2011
 
The photograph above is of a fourteen-year old girl called Hena. It was taken shortly before she died. She was a victim of rape. However, it was not the rape that caused her death, but Islamic sharia law. Hena was the daughter of a farmer, Darbesh Kha, and lived in a village in the district of Shariatpur in southern Bangladesh.
 
Initially, it was reported that Hena was raped by her cousin Mahbub on the night of Sunday January 30 this year. She had gone outside her home at night to relieve herself when she was attacked. She screamed for help and Shilpa Begum, the wife of her assailant, came to the scene. Instead of returning her to her family, Shilpa Begum and her brothers beat her up. Hena’s father, accompanied by his relatives, then rescued her.
 
The local mosque in Chamta village issued a fatwa, ordering that Hena, though a victim of rape, should be given a sentence of a hundred lashes. The rapist was given a sentence of two hundred lashes, but he negotiated this down to a hundred. He was also ordered to pay the mosque 50,000 Bangladesh Taka (US $702). After receiving at least 60 lashes, Hena fell unconscious, and then was taken to a hospital, where she later died on the night of Monday, January 31.
 
Hena’s father filed charges with the local police, naming 18 people in the accusation. Four people were arrested, including Mohbub’s wife, and Mofiz Uddin, the imam of the Chamta village mosque, though the maximum remand was for four days. Apparently, a local union leader has been offering Hena’s father 70,000 Taka ($982) to remove the charges.
 
Such cases are not unique, and as is customary after such incidents, the local branch of the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission made a human chain outside the offices of the District Commissioner.
 
Certain details in the story are vague. Hena was said to have been sentenced to 200 lashes, and the fine for Mohbub, the rapist, was only 10,000 Taka.
 
Today, the Bangladesh Daily Star reports that Hena had stayed for six days in hospital before she died. She had been admitted on January 25. Her family had felt shame due to the allegation of “illegal intercourse” that had led to the lashings, so they told the hospital that she had suffered injuries in a fall.
 
Hena was removed from the hospital before she had recovered from her injuries, apparently because the family was being placed under pressure by the local Sharia Committee and the union leader who  had tried to “pay off” Hena’s father.
 
Mohbub, the rapist, is still on the run, along with others who are named on the charge-sheet. The fugitives include Monimala, who administered the lashes to the teenager. The four individuals who were remanded in custody have already confessed to their part in the fatal whipping.
 
The problem is made worse by the fact that the hospital’s post-mortem made no mention of the injuries from the lashes given to her. Nurses and doctors claim they saw these, and the people who washed Hena’s body before burial spoke of seeing prominent wounds.
 
In a follow-up to this case, the High Court has ordered that Hena’s body be exhumed. It also  ordered doctors and nurses who dealt with Hena and who contributed to the current autopsy report to appear before the court on February 10.
 
Just over a year ago, a similar case was highlighted by Western media. A 16-year old girl was raped by a 20-year old male in her village. She did not report the rape out of shame. However, she became pregnant, and when this was discovered, the girl was sentenced by a village council of Muslim elders to receive 101 lashes. The sentence was carried out eight months after the rape. The young man who had raped her and made her pregnant was forgiven, and at no stage received any retribution. The girl had aborted the child a month before her punishment. In the same district (Brahmanbaria) there had been three other cases of girls being lashed for “illegal intercourse” (zina) in the preceding six months.
 
In one of those instances, in October 2009, a woman called Bashira Khatun refused the advances of her husband’s uncle, who then went to the local sharia authorities and claimed that she had committed adultery. Bashira was sentenced to 101 lashes, which were administered by the man who had tried to rape her and who had then accused her of zina. She fell unconscious after 20 lashes, and her accuser continued to whip her unconscious body.
 
On December 14, 2010, in Rajshahi district, a 45-year old woman was lashed 40 times after being accused of having illicit sexual intercourse with her stepson. The local imam and head of a madrassa had been involved in deciding the punishment which led to the woman’s death.
 
In June last year, a 17-year old girl was accused of having an affair. In order to get her to confess, the village arbitration council, in her village in Brahmanbaria district had administered torture. After this, she was given 101 lashes.
 
There is absolutely no legal basis for such extrajudicial fatwa punishments in Bangladesh, according to a ruling made in July 2010. However,  in issues of sharia, some Muslims feel that all manmade laws are irrelevant.
 
Sometimes, woman sue those who have inflicted lashes upon them in fatwa cases, but to do this, the woman must risk the shame that would fall upon her for being linked to allegations of religiously-prohibited intercourse.
 
For the most part, women are the victims of such fatwas. Sometimes the perpetrators of these extrajudicial fatwas are jailed, though this is rare.
 
Sharia law is backward. It is brutal, it discriminates against women, it is undemocratic and in America, it is unconstitutional. All moves to introduce sharia into the West should be vehemently opposed. Anyone who migrates to a Western country should be made fully aware that the rule of democratically established law is inviolate. If someone thinks that they would rather be governed by sharia law, or worse – where they wish to inflict sharia laws upon others - there are plenty of backward countries where sharia is already in place.
 
Anyone who believes that giving a woman any number of lashes, for any action, is not fit to live in a civilized society.
 
The Editor, Family Security Matters.
 

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