In yet another tragic punishment related to Sharia law in Bangladesh, four people including a Muslim cleric have been arrested in connection with the death of a 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl named Hena Begum who died in a hospital six days after being subjected to 80 lashes. The girl had apparently been accused of having an affair with a married man, and the punishment was laid out by a village court. According to reports, she was also beaten by the married man’s family members the day before the sentence was passed.
Begum’s family blamed the Sharia court for the excessively harsh punishment. “What sort of justice is this? My daughter has been beaten to death in the name of justice. If it had been a proper court then my daughter would not have died,” said her father, Dorbesh Khan. He wants those involved with the death to be punished.
Officials are still waiting for the post-mortem report before they can say conclusively that the girl’s death was caused by the beating. But they are also looking for a staggering 14 additional people in connection with the sentence, showing just how much of the community was complicit in the punishment, which is violent and extreme by anyone’s standards.
It’s also the second instance of such a death that I’ve seen in the past month or so. In December, an older Bangladeshi woman died after being beaten for having an affair with her stepson, despite the fact that fatwas, or religious rulings set forth by village councils, were banned by the Bangladeshi government last year.
In a country where 90% of the population is Muslim, Sharia law carries an understandable amount of weight. But it’s also disturbing that this is the second fatality after the government cracked down on such punishments, which suggests that the practice is still continuing, although women may not always die.
There seems to be growing outrage about these practices, however. The family of the woman who died in December were outspoken about the horror of her death, and this young woman’s family seems to be similarly willing to demand action against the people who caused her death. There was a rally to protest the beating last week, and hopefully this second appalling death will galvanize the Bangladeshi government to take these edicts more seriously. It’s one thing to allow people to practice religion as they wish, but another when religiously-based rulings allow murder with impunity.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.