Justice On Trial

Every website I go to there’s an article or a commentary about Steubenville. Many of my facebook friends have posted links to various pieces that cover everything from politics, to admonishing the victim, to sympathy for the perps; yet none of them are addressing the “real problem”. Sure the teenage boys are assholes who deserved to be punished, but their sentences are light and much of the mainstream’s commentary seems to missing the bigger picture. Also, it is missing entire other cases. Why is Steubenville getting so much publicity when cases like this one are happening everyday in cities halfway around the world from small-town Ohio.

Case in point: Hena Akhter. What’s that? You’ve never heard of her you said. Well, I suppose that’s understandable given that is from Shariatpur, Bangladesh. Granted, you’ve probably never heard of Shariatpur either. It is a city (or district) in Bangladesh of just over 1 000 000 people, and was the scene of a horrific crime in early 2011. The victim? 14 year old Hena Akhter. Her crime? Adultery. Call me Canadian, but I cannot even fathom have a 14 year old virgin girl can even be accused of being an adulterer. Apparently it went down like this. Hena was living her five siblings – she was the youngest – when her much older, married cousin – Mahbub Khan – came back to the village to live. He grew very fond of Hena and started pursuing her. Her father and the elders filed a petition and Khan was fined $1, 000. I guess this fueled his desire, because one day, several months later, he waited for her after school, grabbed her, dragged her behind a bush and beat and raped her. She was 14, she was approximately 42. Did I mention that Khan’s wife happened upon them and ended up dragging Hena away while beating and stomping her.

But it gets worse. You see, in the judge’s mind, it was Hena who was at fault. She was charged with adultery and sentenced to 101 lashes. I find any form of whipping grotesque, but this is particularly disturbing given what followed. Now, it is important to realize that Khan also got sentenced – to 201 lashes – but he managed to “escape” after only a few beatings. What happened to Hena you ask? She passed out after the 70th lash and was rushed to hospital. She remained in intensive care for a week before passing away. But her story does end there.

In her initial autopsy, the doctor ruled there was no sign of injury, bruising or beating. Her death was deemed a suicide. Her family insisted on an exhumation and eventually the judge of the high court ordered a 2nd evaluation. The findings: internal bleeding caused by massive injuries. The four doctors – Golam Sarwar, Nirmal Chandra Das, Hosne Ara, and Rajesh Mazumder, were investigated for falsifying their report. It should also be noted that Khan’s and Akhter’s punishment was issued via a fatwa, which had been made illegal 6 months prior to the Hena’s rape. Now, I’m not the sort of person who believes an eye-for-an-eye will solve everything, but perhaps a fatwa should be issued against the doctors? At least put them on trial for negligent homicide. Along with Khan, his wife the Imam who ordered the lashing, and the villagers who carried it out. They all contributed to the death of a helpless young girl. Oh that’s right, the charges against the doctors were stayed. And Khan escaped after a few lashes. Perhaps the Human Rights Tribunal or the International Criminal Court is looking for some new work. If all else fails, let’s kidnap them, cut out their tongues, and let the women of Bangladesh stone them to death – which by the way is the punishment of adultery according to the old testament. Let’s get their home addresses off Google Earth. Hackers, I’m gonna need your help with this one.

So how does this relate to Steubenville? An innocent life was taken advantage of. And the victim got blamed for something she had no control over. Yet one is known to the world, the other not so much. The media will be talking about Steubenville for days, weeks, and possibly months. Yet Hena Akhter was largely ignored. Where is the justice in that? We shouldn’t have to pick and choose which crimes to talk about and which not to. We shouldn’t have to be part of a world where crimes such as these even exist. But we do, and we need to address them. Hena is just one of a countless number of victims. Our society is obsessed with rape, and perhaps that is the biggest problem of all.

The worst thing a society can do is remain silent.


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