A 14 year old girl was whipped to death by clerics for allegedly having an illicit relationship with a married man triggering massive protests across Bangladesh. The clerics ordered 14 year old Mosammet Hena to be whipped by 100 lashes in a Fatwah or a religious court at a village in the outskirts of the capital on Tuesday for allegedly carrying on with a married man.
The girl collapsed midway after being lashed 70 times publicly with a bamboo cane and had to be rushed to hospital where she died hours later. The 40 year old man with whom Hena was having an affair was also sentenced to 100 lashes. But the man fled to escape the punishment. The street fury prompted the high court to demand an explanation from the government for failure to save the girl, despite a court ruling banning religious courts from taking action in such cases.
A two member high court bench took a ‘suo motu’ notice of the punishment meted out by the religious court and asked the district police chief and two other administrative officials to explain within 15 days why they “failed” to protect the girl. The bench comprising Justices Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain also asked them what action had been taken against the culprits who ordered the lashings. Another high court bench comprising Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice Nazrul Islam Talukder, in a nearly identical suo motu order on Wednesday, asked law enforcement agencies to submit a report within three weeks explaining what steps were taken to comply with its earlier order to stop “extra judicial killings” in the name of fatwas.
Fatwas are illegal in Bangladesh, a Muslim majority nation. The bench also ordered the information ministry to run a media campaign to create awareness among people against extra judicial punishments by religious courts. Media reports and officials, however, suggested that the girl was a rape victim but the influential village leaders and clerics instead of taking action against the rapist ordered Hena to be lashed 100 times for “illicit relations”. This was the second such incident of Islamic courts handing out extra judicial penalties since October last year. Following the court intervention, police claimed they had arrested four clerics.