Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jurisprudence attempting to end the terror of fatwa

One of the more exciting aspects of democracy is the judiciary, particularly when it questions the other branches of government. Prime Minister Hasina must immediately enforce the High Court's interpretation of the law, investigating extra-judicial punishments, its perpetrators, and most importantly, exposing government acquiescence to the punishments. Washington and London should support the High Court's assertion by pressuring Dhaka to carry out all of the investigations including those which would be damaging to prominent political figures. If Dhaka is unwilling to carry out these interpretations then a special investigation should be led by non-partisan experts who will report their findings without favor.

Yesterday, the High Court directed the government to investigate extra-judicial fatwa (religious edict) punishments, which include such punitive measures as lashing and stoning (much of which ends in death) and take action against those responsible. Moreover, the court also sought an answer to a rather pointed question, how and why has the government, and in particular the police forces, allowed these punishments to continue (Daily Star)?

The banning and prevention of fatwa by village salish (arbitration meeting) would bode well for Bangladesh's rule of law but it would serve an even greater purpose. The protection of a woman's fundamental human rights; even a cursory glance of the cases listed by the Daily Star, highlights the horrific ordeal that some women endure for debasing their religion, caning for reporting rape, publicly whipped for refusing sex with a relative.

As the High Court has plainly interpreted, this "religious" law is not the law of Bangladesh. Importantly, these fatwas are meant for much more than the individual women that it terrorizes; it is a scarcely veiled threat to all women in Bangladesh.

This may be a fine day for Bangladeshi jurisprudence. But only when PM Hasina wholeheartedly agrees to uphold the rights of women by arresting and prosecuting the issuers and complaint police and politicians, will Bangla Nation agree that it is a fine day for Bangladesh.

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