Bangladesh Court Prohibits Religious Punishments

Bangladesh’s highest court has banned punishments handed down by fatwa, or religious edict, after a series of cases in which Muslim women were beaten or caned for religious offenses.

The July 8 ruling by two judges of the court, including a Hindu, resulted from petitions filed by human rights groups and lawyers in the nation that is nearly 90 percent Muslim.

According to the Religion News Service, the petitioners said women were publicly whipped for “crimes” of adultery, having a child out of wedlock or even talking to people of other faiths. In some cases, advocates said rape victims were reportedly flogged for being a “participant” in their assault.

Deputy Attorney General Akram Hossain Chowdhury told journalists in Dhaka that the ruling means “extra-judicial” punishments issued in the form of a fatwa are “illegal and without lawful authority.”

The court’s ruling also imposes jail terms for clerics or any members of village courts who order such punishment by invoking Islamic sharia law.