Hena was 14 years old when she was whipped to death in a town outside Bangladesh’s capital city, Dhaka. Her crime: being raped by her 40 year-old cousin.
I first read about Hena’s story in an article in the Bangladeshi newspaper, The Daily Star. Since my time in the country in the US Peace Corps, I’ve followed the Bangladeshi news regularly. But this story, I just couldn’t let go.
When I did some digging I found out that Hena’s story wasn’t as rare as I’d hoped. This is where the Kickstarter campaign comes in...
Following the earlier string of reporting on this issue, on August 7, 2010, the High Court of Bangladesh banned all forms of extra-judicial punishment. Yet, it was five months after this ruling that Hena died as a result of a punishment imposed on her in village arbitration.
Although Hena was the victim of the crime, she too was called to village arbitration following the sexual assault. She was sentenced to 101 lashes, prescribed by local, religious leaders. The young girl fell unconscious after just 60 of the 101 lashes were executed, and later died in the hospital. Following her death, the High Court ordered the government to run a campaign to publicize the illegality of fatwas, or extra-judicial punishments. Despite these rulings and the widely publicized harmful impacts of fatwas, this form of non-state justice continues in rural Bangladesh.
The process for female survivors to achieve justice through village arbitration is often a disempowering one as traditional practices are based on patriarchal beliefs about gender roles and not state laws guaranteeing protection from assault and equal treatment under the law.
An understanding of the relationship between gender and justice in village arbitration can help explain why despite reports of severely imposed punishments, villagers continue to seek access to village arbitration over the conventional court and justice system of the state. My reporting will investigate what news articles and human rights reports have not examined when considering the impact of this type of justice on women, namely, the role and impact of village power dynamics (i.e. who has the power and how do they use it).
Greatly! With support from generous Kickstarter donors (like you!), I’ll be able to write and share this story. Your funding will allow me to:
- travel to Bangladesh for one month and live in one of the rural communities where village arbitration is common
- conduct personal interviews (captured in audio and text) to hear the stories of survivors, survivor advocates, religious leaders, and socio-economic leaders to gain an understanding of: how justice is understood locally, the relationship between justice and local power dynamics, how women are ultimately affected.
-contributions above the goal will allow me to produce podcasts of stories on my blog at http://flawedjustice.wordpress.com/
Beside my eternal and heartfelt gratitude, check out my list of rewards on the sidebar!
Access to justice for survivors of gender-based violence is a globally- underreported topic. Raising awareness of this issue with global audiences will help bring attention and urgency to discussions on reform. In addition to garnering global attention, I will also work with local NGOs like Nijera Kori to safely publicize our findings to advocate for further change inside Bangladesh. In many ways, the mechanisms for justice in Bangladesh and the policies and strategies for reform can inform other settings and contexts about safe access to justice.
I have the connections to make the story happen: I have already been working with a Bangladeshi community-based organization, called Nijera Kori, who has committed to assisting me in gaining access to village arbitrations. This key connection will help me write a series of articles and produce podcasts, and ultimately, to shop for a publisher.
I know the context: While obtaining my Master’s from New York University, I focused on international law and human rights with a particular focus on Bangladesh, a country where I previously lived and worked while in the U.S. Peace Corps. Having advanced fluency in Bengali and having previously completed research in Bangladeshi refugee camps, I am posed to take full advantage of Kickstarter funding. In addition, I've also been certified as a Rape Crisis Advocate, and have supported survivors through their emergency room stay. Because reporting on gender-based violence is a highly sensitive issue, I will ensure survivors' identity is respected and protected, using pseudonyms for names and other potentially identifying information.
I’ve published pieces on Bangladesh: I’ve developed relationships with various editors and have written articles for Glimpse Magazine, Forced Migration Review, The Irawaddy, The Huffington Post, Perspectives on Global Issues, Queens Courier, Yahoo News, Ode Magazine, Monday Developments Magazine and the Journal of Muslim Mental Health, which will help in the publication process.
This is a story that deserves to be told, to deepen our understanding of justice, to help the pursuit of real justice, and to amplify the voices of survivors. Please help me tell it.
Please contact me if you have any questions.
Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects – it allows creators to complete projects with direct support from people like you! However, Kickstarter funding is all-or-nothing. If the project falls short of the fundraising goal by our deadline, you will not be charged and… the project won’t happen. Please don’t let that happen!!
Here’s how it works:
· To pledge to a project, just click the green “Back This Project” button.
· You will be asked to enter your pledge amount and select a reward.
· Then, you’ll confirm payment through Amazon.com
· Spread the good word- tell others, tell your friends! Help make this happen!
Visit the project blog to learn more and get updates on village justice in Bangladesh: http://flawedjustice.wordpress.com/
Risks and challenges
Although I have lived, worked, and researched in Bangladesh before, there are always challenges involved in working in a foreign environment and coordinating a research project as just one person. In writing this type of story, for example, I have to ensure I have adequate and appropriate translation of any local village dialects and also make sure survivors sharing their story have facilitated access to services that can help them recover and heal from acts of violence. Further, as the lone researcher on this project, it will be essential for me to lean on my partnership with Nijera Kori to make sure I am well-received in the village and that I am not placed in danger in writing about this sensitive topic. Having previously travelled alone and conducted research in Bangladesh, I am well-prepared to respond and adjust to challenges as they arise.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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