by William Gomes,
Rahima Akter, a 26-year-old destitute woman, is groaning with pain at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, after she was being whipped mercilessly in public based on an Islamic fatwa over claim of paternity of her child Ramzan in a remote village Noagon in Daudkandi, Bangladesh.
Rahima's Mother Rasheda Begum told Asia News that Rahima had developed a relation with Abdul Karim of the same village, and gave birth to the child; they moved from door to door for arbitration on the claim of paternity of the child, but without any result.
Around 8 p.m. on May 22, a 6-member Fatwa committee, led Maulana Abul Kashem started the arbitration in the local Noagon Ayesha Sidikka Nurani Hafizia Madrasa (Islamic School), jam-packed with around 200-400 peoples people; the arbitration continued until midnight. Mr. Karim, the alleged father of the child, denied paternity by touching the Koran in front of the committee.
Then Maulana Abul Kashem, who led the fatwa committee, then asked to Rahima said to say truth by touching Koran, she did. But, the Maulana called her as a liar. Rahima then demanded DNA testing of Karim.
Ignoring the request, Maulana Kashem issued a fatwa that Rahima should be whipped 100 times, according to Islamic law for fornication, as she was a single mother. The fatwa committee, said Rohima's mother, asked her father Abdul Matin to tie her hands, and they whipped her in front of her father. The Mullas beat her father, too.
"I was standing there as a very helpless mother in the midst of Mullas and full of people," said Rahima's mother, "wondering that who will come to help us, no one came to help us, all stood by the side of the Mullas."
Rahima lost her consciousness after 39 lashes, and her father took her home. "After my daughter got back to sense, she could not sleep at night," said Rahima's Mother.
On May 23 morning, they took her to Daudkandi Thana Health Complex.
After a case filed with the police, Maulana Abul Kashem's supporters threatening Rahima's family to withdraw the case.
Dr. Mohammed Sarfaraz Hossain Khan, who treated Rahima Akter at Daudkandi Thana Health Complex, told Asia News that Rahima came to the hospital in a very bad pain; she was not even able to seat, he lower part of the body, specially the buttock, had very bad swelling. "I was shocked at treating the brutality," said Dr. Khan.
Rahima was then sent to the One Stop Crisis Centre (OCC) of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) on May 26 for DNA testing.
The coordinator of OCC confirmed that Rahima Akter, her Father Abdul Matin and son Ramzan were in OCC, and no outsider were allowed to meet them for security reason.
Jahanara, Abdul Karim's Mother, told Asia News, "Allah Knows that Rahima is a liar and the Mullas treated her according to Sariah."
"My son Abdul Karim is married and have three grown up sons, Emon (8), Ekram (6), Mahi (2)," she added.
Hafez Hafizullah of the Noagon Ayesha Sidikka Nurani Hafizia Madrasa told Asia News that, Rahima was whipped according to the Islamic Sahria, and as a Muslim she should accept the ruling.
Barrister Shafiq Ahmed, Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, told Asia News that there no acceptability of "Fatwa"; it is fully illegal in course of law; and on this issue of Rahima Akter, a case has been filed with the police, and the perpetrators will be brought under the law.
"Three out of the six accused were arrested upon a case filed by Abdul Matin the father of the victim," Daudkandi police chief Moshiur Rahman told Asia News.
The arrestees are Moulana Abul Kashem, 55, Abdul Karim, 35, and Shah Alam, 50.
"The police are trying to catch the other accused in the case," Rahman said.
Ms. Khushi Kabir, Coordinator of Nijera Kori, a local human rights organization helping the poor family with legal aid told Asia news, "There is no specific law on the issue fatwa (religious edict) and defining the paternity, the government should take proper initiative to come out of the crisis immediately by introducing new law."
She said that the case of Rahima is another sordid example of a young woman being subjected to gross injustice by the village headmen assuming the role of arbitrators.
Prominent Human rights activist and a barrister Ms. Sarah Hossain said to Asia News, "The reason behind this brutal event are two folded: social discrimination against woman, and the lack of implementation of relevant laws to prevent violence against woman."
"For last 15 years, we are campaigning against "Fatwa"," she said, adding, "10 years ago the High Court of Bangladesh has given verdict against "Fatwa" and declared "Fatwa" illegal. But it's a sad thing that until now the verdict of the High Court has not fully implemented."
"I demand an impartial investigation and financial remedy and security of Rahima and her family," she said.
"I affirm my strong position against this brutality."