1 Apr 2011

Entrenched patriarchy and illegal use of Sharia law in Bangladesh led to raped girl being lashed to death for adultery

CNN - March 29, 2011

Only 14, Bangladeshi girl charged with adultery was lashed to death

By Farid Ahmed and Moni Basu, CNN

Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN) -- Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl.

Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public.

Hena dropped after 70.

Bloodied and bruised, she was taken to hospital, where she died a week later.

Amazingly, an initial autopsy report cited no injuries and deemed her death a suicide. Hena's family insisted her body be exhumed. They wanted the world to know what really happened to their daughter.

Sharia: illegal but still practiced

Hena's family hailed from rural Shariatpur, crisscrossed by murky rivers that lend waters to rice paddies and lush vegetable fields.

Hena was the youngest of five children born to Darbesh Khan, a day laborer, and his wife, Aklima Begum. They shared a hut made from corrugated tin and decaying wood and led a simple life that was suddenly marred a year ago with the return of Hena's cousin Mahbub Khan.

Mahbub Khan came back to Shariatpur from a stint working in Malaysia. His son was Hena's age and the two were in seventh grade together.

Khan eyed Hena and began harassing her on her way to school and back, said Hena's father. He complained to the elders who run the village about his nephew, three times Hena's age.

The elders admonished Mahbub Khan and ordered him to pay $1,000 in fines to Hena's family. But Mahbub was Darbesh's older brother's son and Darbesh was asked to let the matter fade.

Many months later on a winter night, as Hena's sister Alya told it, Hena was walking from her room to an outdoor toilet when Mahbub Khan gagged her with cloth, forced her behind nearby shrubbery and beat and raped her.

Hena struggled to escape, Alya told CNN. Mahbub Khan's wife heard Hena's muffled screams and when she found Hena with her husband, she dragged the teenage girl back to her hut, beat her and trampled her on the floor.

The next day, the village elders met to discuss the case at Mahbub Khan's house, Alya said. The imam pronounced his fatwa. Khan and Hena were found guilty of an illicit relationship. Her punishment under sharia or Islamic law was 101 lashes; his 201.

Mahbub Khan managed to escape after the first few lashes.

Darbesh Khan and Aklima Begum had no choice but to mind the imam's order. They watched as the whip broke the skin of their youngest child and she fell unconscious to the ground.

"What happened to Hena is unfortunate and we all have to be ashamed that we couldn't save her life," said Sultana Kamal, who heads the rights organization Ain o Shalish Kendro.

Bangladesh is considered a democratic and moderate Muslim country, and national law forbids the practice of sharia. But activist and journalist Shoaib Choudhury, who documents such cases, said sharia is still very much in use in villages and towns aided by the lack of education and strong judicial systems.

The Supreme Court also outlawed fatwas a decade ago, but human rights monitors have documented more than 500 cases of women in those 10 years who were punished through a religious ruling. And few who have issued such rulings have been charged.

Last month, the court asked the government to explain what it had done to stop extrajudicial penalty based on fatwa. It ordered the dissemination of information to all mosques and madrassas, or religious schools, that sharia is illegal in Bangladesh.

"The government needs to enact a specific law to deal with such perpetrators responsible for extrajudicial penalty in the name of Islam," Kamal told CNN.

The United Nations estimates that almost half of Bangladeshi women suffer from domestic violence and many also commonly endure rape, beatings, acid attacks and even death because of the country's entrenched patriarchal system.

Hena might have quietly become another one of those statistics had it not been for the outcry and media attention that followed her death on January 31.

'Not even old enough to be married'

Monday, the doctors responsible for Hena's first autopsy faced prosecution for what a court called a "false post-mortem report to hide the real cause of Hena's death."

Public outrage sparked by that autopsy report prompted the high court to order the exhumation of Hena's body in February. A second autopsy performed at Dhaka Medical College Hospital revealed Hena had died of internal bleeding and her body bore the marks of severe injuries.

Police are now conducting an investigation and have arrested several people, including Mahbub Khan, in connection with Hena's death.

"I've nothing to demand but justice," said Darbesh Khan, leading a reporter to the place where his daughter was abducted the night she was raped.

He stood in silence and took a deep breath. She wasn't even old enough to be married, he said, testament to Hena's tenderness in a part of the world where many girls are married before adulthood. "She was so small."

Hena's mother, Aklima, stared vacantly as she spoke of her daughter's last hours. She could barely get out her words. "She was innocent," Aklima said, recalling Hena's last words.

Police were guarding Hena's family earlier this month. Darbesh and Aklima feared reprisal for having spoken out against the imam and the village elders.

They had meted out the most severe punishment for their youngest daughter. They could put nothing past them.

Journalist Farid Ahmed reported from Shariatpur, Bangladesh, and CNN's Moni Basu reported from Atlanta.

This article was found at:


Muslim cleric, villagers arrested in whipping death of Bangladeshi girl, police and doctors investigated for cover-up

Honour killings may be culturally driven, but the cultures that practice it are all religious

Canadian social worker exposes the religious and cultural assumptions at the root of honour killings

Inside the mind of an honor killer - man who slit daughter's throat 28 times says he is a good father

Canadian government offers money to community groups to fight honour-motivated violence against women and children

New Canadian immigration guide says multiculturalism no excuse for barbaric practices like honour crimes, forced marriages, genital mutilation

`Honor Killings’ Rife In Islamic World

Afghan teen in US for surgery after Taliban husband cut off her nose must also recover emotionally from lifetime of brutal abuse

Afghanistan's child 'brides' face life of violence, some suicides by fire are actually disguised murders

UN estimates 5000 women and girls murdered annually in so-called 'honour killings'

Shameful 'honour' murders crimewave spreads globally, advocates say numbers much higher than official figures

Honour killings may be culturally driven, but the cultures that practice it are all religious

Can public shame and dishonour bring an end to the sexual terrorism of honour killings?

Turkish teen buried alive by relatives in gruesome 'honour' killing

Five women beaten and buried alive in Pakistan 'honour killing'

Jordanian girl strangled slowly for family's honour

British father who murdered 15 year old daughter in 'honour killing' jailed for life, wife fears reprisals for testifying against him

Honour killings' and related abuse on the rise in the UK, but much remains undetected and hidden

Canadian parents and son charged with 4 murders, police investigate probable 'honour killing' motive

Family of teen Muslim invited men to rape her

Afghanistan's child 'brides' face life of violence, some suicides by fire are actually disguised murders

UN report says child brides, forced marriage, slavery, extreme violence against women widespread in Afghanistan

Taleban 'kill love affair couple'

Video of Taliban Flogging Rattles Pakistan

The Stop Killing and Stoning Women Campaign denounces the flogging of a woman in Pakistan

Stoning victim 'begged for mercy'


  1. Honor Killings Claimed 900 Lives In Pakistan In 2011

    Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty March 22, 2012

    At least 943 women and girls were murdered across Pakistan last year for allegedly defaming their family's honor, according to a report by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

    The figure includes the deaths of 93 minors and seven Christian and two Hindu women.

    Most of the women killed were accused of having "illicit relations," some 200 of marrying without permission.

    Most of the women were killed by their brothers or husbands.

    Some victims were raped or gang-raped before being killed.

    The HRCP reported 791 honor killings in 2010.

    Despite the rising number of reported killings, the HRCP praised parliament for passing laws enhancing women's rights.


  2. Sudanese woman sentenced to stoning death over adultery claims,

    Intisar Sharif Abdallah tried without access to lawyer and is being detained with four-month-old baby, prompting outcry

    by David Smith in Johannesburg, The Guardian UK May 31, 2012

    A young mother found guilty of adultery in Sudan has been sentenced to death by stoning, prompting an outcry from human rights campaigners.

    Intisar Sharif Abdallah was tried without access to a lawyer and is being detained with her four-month-old baby, according to Amnesty International.

    Amnesty puts Abdallah's age at 20; Human Rights Watch says she may be under 18.

    Her family is appealing against the execution and it is unclear when it will be carried out.

    Abdallah admitted to the charges only after her brother reportedly beat her. The conviction was based solely rests on this testimony. The man held with her reportedly denied the charges and was released.

    Abdallah is said to be shackled by the legs and in psychological distress, unable to understand the nature of her sentence. Her other children are being cared for by family, who are of filing an appeal in Ombada. Jean-Baptiste Gallopin of Amnesty's Sudan team said: "The case is emblematic of the failure of the Sudanese judicial system. Intisar Sharif Abdallah was tried without access to a lawyer or a translator, despite the fact that Arabic is not her native language. She was convicted solely based on a testimony she gave under duress. She's being detained with her four-month old son, in a state of deep psychological distress. We call on the Sudanese authorities to stop the execution, overturn her stoning sentence and release her immediately and unconditionally.

    "Stoning is a method of execution designed to increase the suffering of the victim, which means it is an extreme and cruel form of torture. International human rights law specifically prohibits death sentences resulting from unfair trial, as well as the execution of new mothers. In addition, we urge the government to have the best interest of Intisar's child as their main consideration during the judicial process."

    Amnesty has urged its supporters to write to the Sudanese government and plead for the sentence to be quashed and for Abdallah to be set free.

    The sentence was also criticised by Human Rights Watch. Daniel Bekele, its Africa director, said: "No one should be stoned to death and imposing this punishment on someone who may be a child is especially shocking. Sudan should immediately reform discriminatory laws and abolish the death penalty and all corporal punishments that violate the international treaty obligations it has promised to respect."

    Sudan is one of seven countries where death by stoning is a punishment. Judges in the country have imposed the sentence on several women in recent years, but courts have overturned them all on appeal. The vast majority of adultery cases and stoning sentences have been imposed on women.

    "Sudan should uphold international and African standards," Bekele said. "It should ban death by stoning and other corporal punishment, and revise laws that discriminate against women and girls."

    The Sudanese embassy in the UK criticised Amnesty's attitude towards the country. Spokesman Khalid al-Mubarak said: "It is not interested in the welfare of our women because it never mentions the positive side. Our women have achieved equal pay for equal work. They occupy top jobs as ministers and members of the high court."


  3. A new letter about Iran Stoning case and her imprisoned lawyer

    by Maryam Namazie, Nothing Is Sacred - Free Thought Blogs February 1, 2013

    Today, the International Committee against Stoning received the following urgent appeal from Tabriz prison about Iran stoning case Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and her lawyer Javid Houtan Kian who languish in the Iranian prison under severe security control.

    “Here’s the notorious prison of Tabriz. I am taking a dangerous risk by writing this letter to the International Committee Against Stoning.

    Mrs Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani who is convicted to death by stoning is kept in this prison along with her lawyer Houtan Kian.

    Mr Houtan Kian is kept in the methadone section which is for drug addicts, of which 70 are HIV-infected prisoners, along with 450 prisoners. In spite of the HIV-infected prisoners being known to the prison-chief, doctors, and health officials, they are not receiving the minimum health care. Furthermore you can observe all kinds of different infections and diseases at the methadone ward, and to any newcomer it is reminiscent of the Middle-Age dens and torture chambers.

    Drugs are sold openly here inside the prison and well known by the intelligence service who stand by watch all this indifferently and at times even themselves are involved in organising the sale of drugs to the prisoners.

    Mrs Ashtiani is kept within the women’s ward. Due to the international protest, her stoning was stopped and has not yet been implemented. However, Mrs Ashtiani’s psychological condition is deteriorating due to her being completely under constant observation. Every movement and the smallest gesture, as well every visit by relatives from outside are closely monitored, not only by the ordinary prison authorities but also by the Security Service Officials/VEVAK. She is under severe security measures,and has very limited contact with her children. The Islamic State here in Iran tries to show that any contact with the outside world for disclosing her situation is faced with the hardest possible punishments.

    continued in next comment...

  4. Mrs Ashtiani and her Lawyer Mr Houtan Kian are completely separated and isolated from the rest of the prisoners and are banned from any interaction with other inmates, to prevent them from exchanging letters and messages to each other. Mr Houtan Kian has recently just been allowed to exchange some courtesy words with other prisoners.

    There’s no section for political prisoners here in Tabriz prison, unlike Evin prison in Tehran. Many political prisoners here are kept in a ward officially called “occupational therapy” where the inmates are abused for forced labor, and they have spread the rest of them all over the prison among ordinary prisoners. This is a very high security prison, so all of our correspondences either by letters or phone are closely monitored and censored. Any visit received from outside by the political prisoners, labor leaders, students and human rights- as well children’s rights activists here, are under close observation, monitoring what we say and do, and we can thus hardly reach out.

    Mrs. Ahadi, by this letter I am asking you on behalf of us to plead to the world, the international media and world leaders to take immediate action demanding our release while contributing towards the improvement of our situation and the guaranteeing of our safety.

    Please let the world know that the Islamic State in Iran has kept Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani along with her lawyer Houtan Kian, imprisoned and under brutal control, not even allowing them to smile.

    I am once again pleading to the world to take action for the safety and release of Mrs Mohammadi-Ashtiani, her lawyer Mr. Houtan Kian, as well all of us who are living under such terribly inhuman and unbearable conditions.
    Sincerely, Unknown from Tabriz prison”

    The International Committee Against Stoning deeply appreciates the efforts and initiative taken by the inmates of Tabriz prison who have, in spite of all difficulties, risked their lives to correspond with us. The public is invited to take action to hasten the release of Mrs. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and her lawyer, Mr. Houtan Kian, and all the political prisoners in Tabriz and elsewhere in Iran.

    The International Committee Against Stoning is demanding the immediate release of Houtan Kian and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

    The International Committee Against Stoning 1 February 2013


  5. Maldives failed “at every level” to protect minor charged with fornication from years of abuse

    By Neil Merrett | Minivan News Maldives March 23rd, 2013

    Additional reporting by JJ Robinson.

    Council heads and senior civil society figures have slammed the judiciary, state authorities and welfare groups over their systemic failure to protect a 15 year-old girl convicted of fornication and sentenced to flogging, despite her history of alleged sexual abuse dating back to 2009.

    While the case has only recently received global media coverage, local councilors and woman rights groups told Minivan News that authorities failed for years to address “public uproar” over the child’s alleged abuse.

    The girl from the island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll is currently in the care of the Ministry of Gender and Family. She was identified as a victim of child abuse last year after the body of a dead baby was discovered buried in the outdoor shower area of her family home.

    Her stepfather was later charged child sexual abuse, possession of pornographic materials and committing premeditated murder, while her mother also faces charges for concealing the alleged sexual offences.

    However, during the course of investigations into the case, officials told Minivan News that the state had no choice but to press fornication charges against the minor after she confessed to having what she claimed was consensual sex with an unidentified man. She now faces 100 lashes in public when she turns 18 – a sentence the President’s Office this week said it would try to avert amid growing international censure and debate over corporal punishment and reform of the country’s Sharia-based judicial system.

    The case has led to intense global media scrutiny and an online campaign by petition website Avaaz.org, which gathered almost a million signatures in two days – more than the number of tourists who visited the country last year.

    With Maldivian authorities and child protection bodies now in the global spotlight, Aneesa Ahmed, Chairperson for the Hope for Women NGO, said councilors from Shaviyani Atoll had been expressing concerns to authorities about the girl’s safety for several years.

    Aneesa said the inaction of a wide variety of institutions in response to these concerns reflected the state’s failure “at every level” to try and protect from abuse.

    “All institutions, including the counsellor – if she had one while being interrogated by police – failed, because I am told her case was reported as early as 2009,” she added.

    Speaking on Thursday (March 21), Atoll Council President Moosa Fathy said police had conducted numerous investigations into the girl’s situation since 2009 in response to concerns raised by councillors on Feydhoo.

    However, Fathy said the girl had ultimately been left in the custody of her mother and stepfather even after she was found to pregnant. He blamed the “limited facilities” available to house and protect the girl, as well as a lack of budget, management and staff to shelter vulnerable young people.

    “The police thoroughly investigated the matter, but the response of many organisations simply was not good enough,” Fathy said. “Even now the problem has not been solved.”

    Fathy said that rather than blaming a single state or civil society organisation for the girl’s ongoing abuse, every institution charged with the girl’s care had to take responsibility for the matter.

    “This girl needed special care. There are special shelters where she would have been safe, but I understand there is not enough budget or staff and general administrative mechanisms to run such programs,” he said.

    Fathy said he had been raising concerns about the girl’s welfare for the last two years, and said he had also tried unsuccessfully to meet with former Gender Minister Dhiyana Saeed while she was still in her post to discuss the case.

    continued in next comment...

  6. Island uproar

    Sources on Feydhooo have meanwhile told Minivan News that concerns had been raised by islanders since 2009 that the girl had potentially been the victim of sexual abuse not just by her stepfather, but a number of other unidentified men on the island.

    However, the island council claimed the victim’s unwillingness to tell authorities about her alleged abuse meant she remained living with her mother and stepfather.

    Island Councillor Ibrahim Naushaad told Minivan News that upon discovering the child was pregnant last year, police and the Gender Ministry failed to remove the girl to a shelter.

    “The police and gender ministry didn’t take responsibility or provide counselling to the girl,” he said. “The police and ministry investigated, but we don’t know what she said to them.”

    Naushaad said the minor presently remained under the care of the Gender Ministry as she was unable to be returned to Feydhooo, as her biological father was being severely disabled and unable to support or look after his daughter.

    “Same thing could happen again”

    Naushaad alleged that several men on the island who were also believed to have had sex with the minor remained unidentified, leaving her at risk of further abuse should she return to the island.

    “The Human Rights and Gender Ministry asked if they could send her back to the island, but I have explained that her father would be unable to look after her and keep an eye on her,” he said. “If they send her back here, the same thing could happen again.”

    According to Naushaad, the minor was questioned by police on at least four separate occasions, but he said she had been unwilling to state whether she had faced sexual abuse from her family or other men on the island.

    Sources on the island said that the perception was that the minor, along with her mother and stepfather, were believed to have been “lying” to police investigators.

    Naushaad told Minivan News there remained concern among islanders that the girl had now been charged by the country’s court with fornication, after being found guilty of having sex with an unidentified partner.

    “They did not identify who this man was and that is why we have concerns about what they are doing. This is not good,” he said.

    Naushaad claimed the council done everything it could to try and take responsibility for the matter by continually raising concerns with authorities since back in 2009.

    Legal review

    After the minor was first charged with fornication in January, the government pledged to review the use of flogging as a punishment and legal practices it claimed, in certain cases, criminalise victims of sexual abuse.

    While there is no timetable for reforms to be put in place, President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad expressed hope on that punishments such as flogging would be debated and one day repealed.

    “I’m sure when we debate [punishing suspects for fornication with lashes], we will find an acceptable solution for all parties,” he said.

    The Maldives constitution does not allow any law contradicting the tenets of Islam, and the legal system defaults to Sharia law in areas not covered by common law.

    The last statistics available from the Department of Judicial Administration on flogging sentences show that 90 percent of the people found guilty of “Zina” – fornication – and sentenced to flogging in 2011 were female.

    A total of 129 fornication cases were filed in 2011 and 104 people sentenced, out of which 93 were female. This included 10 underage girls (below 18), 79 women between age 18-40 and and four women above 40 years.

    Of the 11 males who were sentenced, only one was a minor, with the others aged between 25-40.

    continued in next comment...

  7. Compared to 2010, the overall sentences in fornication increased by 23 percent in 2011, but the number of males sentenced for flogging decreased by 15 percent while the women increased by 30 percent.

    According to Maldivian law, a person found guilty of fornication is subjected to 100 lashes and sentenced to one year of house arrest or banishment while a minor’s flogging is postponed until she or he reaches 18.

    History of selective enforcement

    Masood noted that the Maldives had a tradition of turning away from practices such as the death sentence and forms of corporal punishment, even where these were proscribed in Sharia.

    According to Masood, punishments such as removing the hand of a suspect in the case of theft had not been used since the 1960s.

    He maintained that there was a history of reviewing the country’s relationship with Sharia law in the past and that a similar process could be had with the debate about flogging.

    However, Masood said that all authorities involved in proposed legal reforms would have to tread “a very fine line” in order to tackle long standing “traditions” and beliefs in the country.

    “Reforms must be undertaken, but this must be done gradually considering we are dealing with a process embedded in society,” he said. “A certain amount of compromise may be needed.”

    Masood said the state was committed to preventing the minor from facing her sentence, while also looking at the potential for reversing the use of flogging as a traditional punishment.

    “The little girl will not be flogged for another two years, so we must look at what can be done [in the meantime],” he said.

    However the conservative religious Adhaalath Party – the members of which largely dominate the Maldives’ Ministry of Islamic Affairs – has already publicly warned that “no one has the right to criticise any penalties specified in Islam.”

    Quoting verses from the Quran, a statement from the party said that no citizen should be allowed to express ideas and opinions about a verdict made in accordance with the religion in a court of law in a 100-percent Muslim country.

    continued in next comment...

  8. The Adhaalath Party further cautioned that criticising issues such as the girl’s flogging sentence would “encourage enemies of Islam, create confusion among the general public and open up opportunities for people who aim to stop the practice of similar penalties commanded in Islam.

    “The purpose of penalties like these in Islamic Sharia is to maintain order in society and to save it from sinful acts. It is not at all an act of violence. We must turn a deaf ear to the international organisations which are calling to abolish these penalties, labeling them degrading and inhumane acts or torture,” the statement read.

    The Prosecutor General’s (PG’s) Office has confirmed to Minivan News that it was not presently involved with any discussions over possible legal reforms of charges like fornication. Such a mandate lay with Attorney General Azinma Shukoor, the PG’s office said.

    Shukoor, who was also recently appointed the current Acting Minister of Gender, Family and Human Rights, was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


    related articles on the Minivan Maldives website:

    “Horror in paradise”: Avaaz launches campaign to target Maldives’ tourism reputation over flogging sentences


    Government appoints attorney general as acting human rights minister


    State Minister for Home Affairs slams President Waheed over govt’s criticism of flogging sentence


    “So horrific that it’s hard to believe”: Amnesty International launches petition to overturn “disgraceful” flogging sentence


    15 year-old rape victim deserves flogging for separate crime of fornication: Adhaalath Party


    Rape victims punished, failed by Maldives justice system


    Under-age rape victim convicted of fornication, sentenced to 100 lashes