DHAKA — A Muslim cleric has been arrested in northwest Bangladesh following the death of a woman who was publicly caned as punishment by an Islamic court for an extra-martial affair, police said Monday.
Sufia Begum, 50, was accused of having an affair with her stepson and was sentenced by a religious court in her village in Rajshahi district, the local police chief told AFP.
"Village elders tied 10 canes together and beat her legs," police chief Azizul Haq Sarker said. The woman who carried out the beating for the elders has also been arrested.
Begum was whipped 40 times on November 12, local media reported.
"She became seriously ill and was hospitalised after the caning, and she died last week," Sarker said, adding that police launched an investigation following a complaint from Begum's brother.
In conservative, rural parts of Muslim-majority Bangladesh, rights groups say it is common for women to be publicly whipped for "crimes" like adultery despite a High Court ban on such religious punishments.
In some documented cases, rape victims have been flogged for being a "participant" in their sexual assault.
In July, Bangladesh's High Court outlawed punishments handed down by religious edict, or fatwa, following a series of public interest litigation cases lodged by local human rights groups.
Some 90 percent of Bangladesh's 146 million people are Muslims and most live in rural areas.
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