has released a story revealing that in January, Hena Akhter, a young Bangladeshi girl, was accused of having an affair with a married man, for which she received the punishment of 101 lashes according to a fatwa, or religious ruling, issued under sharia law. She collapsed after 70 lashes, and died in the hospital a week later.
Hena, the youngest of five children in a family of rural Shariatpur, was beaten and raped by her cousin, Mahbub Khan. Previously, Hena’s father had complained to village elders that Khan, his eldest brother’s son, was harassing Hena, but little was done to remedy the situation.
Several months later her father voiced concern, according to Hena’s sister, Alya, Hena was walking to an outdoor restroom during the night when Khan gagged her, beat her, and raped her.
The next day, a fatwa was decreed accusing both of adultery and calling for the punishments of 101 lashes for Hena and 201 for Khan. While Khan escaped his punishment, Hena’s parents were helpless to do anything but watch as their youngest daughter was severely beaten.
Although national law in Bangladesh has prohibited the practice of sharia and the Supreme Court has condemned the issuance of fatwas, activists and human rights monitors say that there are still hundreds of cases of women punished through such rulings. The practice is especially prevalent in rural areas that lack strong educational and judicial systems, where those who issue religious rulings are rarely held accountable.
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