Girl flogged to death for “affair” at fourteen

February 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

A fourteen year old girl has died in Bangladesh after being lashed 100 times on the orders of a village cleric.

Mosammet Hena was beaten with a bamboo cane for allegedly having an affair with a married cousin. Four people have been arrested and another fourteen people who are accused of taking part in the lashing are being hunted by police.

That means at least twenty people were directly involved in this young girl’s murder – probably more. Her body was covered in bruises and bite marks.

Punishments in the name of fatwa were outlawed in Bangladesh since last year, but old habits can die hard. This case is a shocking, repellant example of how cruel a system can be – and the dangers of mob actions.  A complaint was made by the man’s wife, she was “sentenced” by “senior community members” – all men, I presume – and so justice was deemed to be done.

Even if you accept the ridiculous precedent that adultery is a crime worthy of flogging to death, what has happened to the man she is meant to have had an affair with? 

Delve a little into reports of her alleged crime and the case against her becomes even more ridiculous. The man’s wife said “she had seen Mosammet speaking to her husband near their home” according to reports. Hardly a conclusive case.

Less impossible to believe – a few reports say Mosammet was raped by the man, and this was a desperate attempt to quiet her. We will never know exactly what happened here, but in Bangladesh it was fairly common for rape victims to be flogged for being “complicit” in their assault – one well publicised horrific case that was focussed on includes a woman being flogged after she was raped and became pregnant – her rapist was pardoned.

Since Mosammet’s death lawyers have filed a case against the government at the court, and a team of investigators from a human rights organisation has travelled to the village.

Director of investigations there, Nur Khan Liton, said: “This is an absolutely horrific crime. It shows that despite court judgments banning punishments in the name of fatwa, an aggressively religious group who are capable of committing such barbaric crimes of torture against women are still present in our society.”

The Bangladesh High Court has now taken up the case. I hope they will make an example of this case, rise the profile of this young girl’s murder and try and use her sad death to save this happening again for another innocent woman.

The Pakistani rape victim who fought back

December 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

An interesting feature in the newspapers this week. Kainat Soomra, the Pakistani girl who was gang-raped and horrifically assualted at the age of 13, is still paying the price four years later.

Her family have had to move. Her brother has been killed. The stigma about rape is such that two of her sisters have lost their husbands or boyfriends through being associated with Kainat. This story is a stark reminder of how, in many communities, the rape victim is punished again, and again, and again. For something for which she was entirely blamless.

This case should make every woman feel humble. It’s easy to deplore this scenario and the circumstances which surround it. To shudder at any community that treats a woman’s life with such disregard, and seeks to punish her for being brave enough to stand up to her attackers – and let us remember she was only 13.

But to hear the recriminations this girl is going through for being so brave should make us feel humble, and full of admiration. Her story deserves to be read – it’s the least we can do.

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