In Bangladesh, a country in South Asia, women become the property of their husbands after marriage. This idea is based on deeply-rooted cultural traditions, which limit opportunities for women and girls to be properly educated and to live as autonomous people.
In recent months, violence against women who attempt to pursue higher education has been devastatingly high. In June, an unemployed man gouged out his wife’s eyes because he could not stand the thought of her pursuing higher education.
In July, the husband of a young woman cut off most of her right hand after she decided to go to college.
Rafiquel Islam, a 30-year-old migrant worker, attacked his 21-year-old wife, Hawa Akhter, after she “disobeyed” his wishes for her to not attend school. Islam cut off all of the fingers on his wife’s dominant hand.
“After he came back to Bangladesh, he wanted to have a discussion with me. Suddenly, he blindfolded me and tied my hands. He also taped my mouth, saying that he would give me some surprise gifts. But, instead he cut off my fingers,” recalls Akhter.
After Islam disfigured Akhter, he hid her fingers in a dustpan so that the doctors could not find them. Akhter’s fingers could have been reattached within six hours, but Islam refused to disclose their location. By the time they were recovered, it was too late.
Islam confessed to the crime and was arrested in Dhaka. Police have determined that it was a predetermined attack. Charges will be pressed, but human rights groups are demanding a more severe punishment for his crime: life in prison.
“He was jealous because while he only had a grade eight standard education, she was off to college to pursue higher studies,” said Mohammed Saluddin, the Bangladesh police chief.
Islam had warned his wife of “severe consequences” if she were to go to college without his permission, but Akhter never could have imagined that the consequence would be losing the ability to use her right hand.
“I have now started practicing writing with my left hand. I want to see how far I can go. I never imagined that my fingers would be chopped off like this because of my studies,” Akhter says.
Akhter’s strong, hopeful spirit and courageous determination to continue pursuing her education after this tragic experience is beautiful and inspiring. She is currently recovering at her parents’ house, with no intention of ever living or being together with her husband again.
The disturbing reality for most women in Bangladesh is that they must ask permission from the men in their lives to do just about anything on their own. Hopefully tragic incidents like this will help spur a revolution that will give Bangladeshi women the rights they deserve, as well as inflict harsher punishments on the men who treat women as if they are less than human.
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