27 January 2010

Adding Injury to Injury

From the front page of the Sunday, 24 January 2010, issue of the Daily Star (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

By Sheikh Md Shahidul Islam, B’baria
Eight months after being raped, a 16-year-old at Khargor of Kasba upazila in Brahmanbaria had to receive 101 lashes as “punishment”.

A village arbitration found her guilty and issued the 101 lashes fatwa (religious edict) but amazingly left alleged rapist Enamul Mia, 20, untouched.

The arbitration also fined the victim’s father Tk 1,000 and issued another fatwa that her family would be forced into isolation if he failed to pay up.

Village matbar (local leader) Delwar Hossain alias Ullashi executed the durra (lashes) on January 17.

Family sources said Enamul Mia of Gabbari used to eve-tease [sexually harass] the girl on her way to Sathgram Advocate Haroon-or-Rashid High School. He raped her April last year. Fearing the shame, the girl did not disclose the incident.

The girl’s family had married her off to a man of neighbouring Ghatiara village but after a month into the marriage medical test discovered she was seven months pregnant.

She was divorced and she had to live at her father’s place after an abortion. Following her return, a group of so-called matbars led by Manik Mia declared that her family is to be isolated until punished.

On January 17, the influential group arranged the arbitration at the yard of the victim.

At one stage of the inhuman torture, the girl collapsed and fainted. She regained her sense after two hours.

Ullashi presided over the arbitration while Wahid Mia, Basu Mia, Manik Mia, Shahjahan Mia, Dulal Mia, Maulana Md Kawser Mia, Imam of Gupinathpur Baro Mosque, Maulana Md Ishaque Mia, Imam of Khargor Jame Mosque, and a few others played key roles.

“Enamul has spoiled my life. I want justice,” said the girl as tears rolled down from her eyes.

Talking to The Daily Star, neighbours spoke in favour of the girl and blamed Enamul. They did not dare to say anything against the so-called village arbitration.

The girl’s father said members of the influential group are now keeping a watch on them so that they could not move or seek legal action.

Wahid Mia said they executed the 101 lashes on the girl following the religious edict and they did not call Enamul during the arbitration as he belongs to another village.

A team of human rights activists led by advocate Mili Chowdhury visited the spot.

Their organisation will help the victim file separate cases against the culprits, Mili said.

Kasba Police Station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Md Jahirul Islam Khan said they would take appropriate action if the victim files a case in this regard.

Three women were whipped as a result of fatwas in the district during the last six months.
A certain M. Hossain commented on this story the same day:
I love Islam but I would never support the non-Islamic activities of unauthorized Mullahs & Matbar in this poor village in Bangladesh. The Rapist Enamul must be given capital punishment for raping a 16-year-old girl. The people, who gave the fatwa against the victim, must be given exemplary punishment. They must be given rigorous imprisonment (RI). The father & the girl must be provided with due compensations and be rehabilitated in normal life and the government must stop it now & forever.
The Daily Star editorialized the next day:
Court order on extrajudicial penalties disregarded

JUSTICE has been made a farce of once again. In a shocking repetition of misuse of fatwa, a rape victim was at the receiving end of a hundred and one lashes; the punishment was fixed through local arbitration participated by some village elders in a village in Kashba upazilla. And the rapist is roaming scot-free.

The incident is shocking not only for the gruesome brutality meted out to the 16 year old girl, but also because of the attitude of the law enforcing agency who did not act promptly enough to prevent the whipping or take cognisance of the incident later. It is very clear that the High Court directive to the police, issued in August 2009, to investigate all extrajudicial punishments, has not been fully implemented. Had that been the case the perpetrators would have been brought to justice and made examples of, and this would have acted as a deterrent to others.

The recent incident is disturbing on two counts. It demonstrates once again that helpless women, who are victims of rape and other forms of torture, not only cannot seek redress of law, they and their parents are further subjected to physical and mental torture including social ostracisation, as in the recent case in Kashba.

The other disturbing aspect is the role of the police. We cannot comprehend the statement the OC of Kashba PS that he would take appropriate action if the victim filed a case in this regard. He is in clear breach of the High Court directives in this regard. It is even more disturbing because three women have been victims of lashing as result of fatwa in this very district during the current month.

One cannot speak too strongly against this kind of aberrations that is being used to perpetrate violence against women. This practice must stop immediately. We join with the conscious segment of the society in calling upon the government to take steps to stop the parallel system of justice that misuse the name of religion. While the highest court has taken cognisance of the matter the police have not been quite up to the task earnestly as yet.

We suggest that the perpetrators of torture on the hapless girl be proceeded against immediately, and the OC, who is waiting for the victim to lodge a formal complaint to take action, act without delay.
“jamal” commented on this editorial:
I cannot believe this is happening in 2010 in our country, it’s as if we have not made any progress and remain barbarians of old times. The police should be brought to task, everyone knows that they refuse to take cases when they feel like it which is probably what happened here.)
Further comment would be superfluous.

(H/t Jennifer McCreight)

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