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05 March 2024

Cleric held after Bangla teen whipped to death


Bangladeshi police arrested four people including a Muslim cleric on Wednesday after a teenage girl, who was accused of having an extra-marital affair with her cousin, was whipped to death.

Fifteen-year-old Hena Begum died in hospital on Monday after a village court in the southern Bangladesh district of Shariatpur sentenced her to 100 lashes, said local police chief AKM Shahidur Rahman.

"We have arrested one of the clerics (who sat on the village court) and three villagers including the wife of the man who Hena Begum had an illicit relationship with," Rahman told AFP.

According to Rahman, the teenage girl was "beaten mercilessly" by the family of the married man, who was also Hena's cousin, after the affair was discovered.

The teenager was then handed to the village court, which publicly whipped her until she passed out and was taken to hospital, where she died seven days later, he said.

In conservative rural parts of Muslim-majority Bangladesh, rights groups say it is common for women to be publicly whipped for "crimes" such as adultery despite a ban on such religious punishments.

In some documented cases, rape victims have been flogged for being a "participant" in their sexual assault.

Last July, Bangladesh's High Court outlawed punishments handed down by religious edict, or fatwa, following a series of public interest litigation cases lodged by local human rights groups. But the ruling has had little effect, rights groups say, pointing to a case in December where a woman died after being whipped 40 times after she was accused of sleeping with her stepson by a similar village court.

Some 90 per cent of Bangladesh's 146 million people are Muslims and most live in rural areas.