Bangladesh: Protection Ordered for Rape Victim
Friday, January 29, 2010 1:20 PM

28 January 2010

The High Court of Bangladesh has issued an order of protection to a 16 year old girl who was previously lashed 101 times after becoming pregnant as a result of rape. While the 20-year-old rapist was pardoned, a fatwa, or Islamic ruling, was issued by the village elders declaring that the girl be flogged for immoral behavior. Only five months earlier, however, the High Court, acting upon similar incidences, ordered authorities to investigate incidents of extra-judicial punishments and take action against those responsible.

The 16-year-old girl did not disclose the rape and was subsequently married to a man in a nearby village. After medical reports indicated that she was several months into her pregnancy, her husband divorced her and she returned to the family home. On January 17, after undergoing an abortion, she was flogged 101 times by eight men, including two mosque imams and the village head elder. Reports indicate that the girl collapsed and fainted during the assault, which occurred in her family yard. The village elders also ordered the father to pay a fine of 1,000 taka (approximately $15) and declared that the family would be ostracized if they failed to pay.

Upon the reporting of this incident, a lawyer filed a petition at the High Court in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The court ordered the district authorities to provide protection to the girl and produce her in court on February 7. It also required an explanation from the government officials as to why those who participated in the flogging remained unpunished.

Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, program officer for the Asian Human Rights Commission said that despite court orders, so-called “village justice” is a common problem in Bangladesh and not only among Muslim communities. He blamed the absence of the rule of law and the highly inept and corrupt legal institutions that fail to protect the rights of the ordinary citizens of Bangladesh. Ashrafuzzaman believes that most of these incidents are a way for the village leaders to impose their power onto the community, oftentimes abusing the shari’a provisions to punish the most vulnerable, particularly women. The most recent report on human rights in Bangladesh published by the U.S. Department of State, stated that while a 2001 court ruling banned fatwas, village elders continued to issue them.

Bangladesh is not the only country where rape victims receive punishment. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are among countries where lashing, forced marriage, and exclusion from a community are especially prevalent. Despite such violent human rights abuses, all three countries are currently members of the 47-nation United Nations Human Rights Council.

Compiled from: Patrick Goodenough, Bangladesh Court Orders Protection for Muslim Girl Who Was Punished for Being Raped, (27 January 2010).