The death of Hena

By Ruth Limkin

When you’re a 14 year old girl, and an Australian, you are unlikely to ever be the victim of a fatwa issued against you from a Sharia court. When you’re 14 years old, and from Bangladesh, there seems little protection from it.

Hena, 14, was accused of sleeping with a married man although some reports indicate that she had been raped by the man, rather than being a willing accomplice.

Not only was Hena beaten up by male relatives of the married man, but the next day the local Sharia Court of clerics and elders handed down her punishment, which they set at 100 lashes.

While the court’s judgement was being executed, “the girl collapsed midway after being lashed 70 times publicly with a bamboo cane and had to be rushed to hospital where she died hours later.”

In response, the BBC reported, “a group of people held a rally on Wednesday in the town of Shariatpur in protest against those who gave the fatwa and demanded action against them.” The protests caused the Bangladesh High Court to ask the government to ‘please explain’ why such a thing could happen and lead to arrests of some of those involved in this terrible crime.

I’m glad that people rallied against what had happened to Hena.

But that won’t bring her back, and 14 year old girls don’t deserve to die like that.

I read reports about what had happened to her, and about her public flogging. As I thought about the fact that a cane lashed her skin 70 times in a public whipping, I wondered what would have happened if anyone had spoken up after the 3rd lash. Or the 30th.

Surely, even in a public flogging, if enough people ran to help, if enough people intervened – surely, it could have been stopped.

But it only stopped when she collapsed. And the protest happened later.

What if we spoke up when we saw injustice happening, rather than venting our anger afterwards?

I wonder if we could change the course of history – even for just one person.

*****

ruth@ruthlimkin.com

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