Bangladesh: Protect Women against Fatwa Violence
Monday, July 25, 2011 12:55 PM

July 6, 2011- Human Rights Watch reports that the Bangladesh government should take urgent measures to ensure that religious fatwas and traditional dispute methods do not result in extrajudicial punishments.  The government is yet to act on repeated orders of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court, beginning in July 2010, to stop illegal punishments such as whipping, lashing, or public humiliations.


The High Court division of the Supreme Court issued a judgment on July 8, 2010, criticizing the Bangladesh government for not protecting its citizens, especially women, from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.

Since the ruling, the Court has repeatedly directed the government to investigate and prosecute those responsible, take preventative measures, and instructed the Ministry of Local Government to inform all law enforcement and local government officials that extrajudicial punishments are criminal offenses. The Court has issued two additional orders on February 2, 2011 and May 12, 2011 reiterating that “no punishment, including physical violence and / or mental torture in any form can be imposed or inflicted on anybody in pursuance of fatwa.” 


Despite the ruling, local activists have reported that the government has issued no public messages against extrajudicial punishments. The issue became particularly urgent when a shalish- traditional dispute resolution method- in the Dhaka division ordered 100 lashes in January 2011 for Hena Akhter, an adolescent girl, for an alleged affair, though by most accounts she had reported being sexually abused instead. She collapsed during the lashing and ultimately died. Since her death, the local media has reported at least three suicides of girls following similar punishments.


“These private punishments significantly harm women’s and girls’ lives and health.  Instead of intervening and taking active measures to prevent these abuses, the Bangladesh authorities have been mute bystanders,” said Asia Women’s Rights Researcher at Human Rights Watch, Aruna Kashyap.




Complied from: Bangladesh: Protect Women Against ‘Fatwa’ Violence, Women’s UN Report Network, (6 July 2011).