Local arbitration is often used as a weapon to oppress, violate, and humiliate people
It is welcome news that the country has witnessed a 54% decrease in reported cases of village arbitration, usually doled out in the form of fatwa or salish.
A long-standing practice in our rural areas, salish has always been highly problematic, because those pronouncing these verdicts -- usually local leaders, mullahs, and other influential individuals of the area -- simply do not have the legal authority to hold trials of citizens.
All citizens of Bangladesh have rights, including a right to due process and a fair trial, and therefore no one outside a proper law court has the authority to hold trials, pronounce verdicts, or execute sentences.
This does not diminish the religious significance of fatwa, which may be pronounced by religious scholars with understanding of the subject; however, such fatwas are separate from the legal domain.
The High Court has already declared extra-judicial punishment through local arbitration illegal, and a punishable offense under the law, and it is good to see from the fall in numbers that the High Court’s ruling is being respected.
Because the grim truth is, far from meting out justice, local arbitration is often used as a weapon to oppress, violate, and humiliate people, especially women.
Indeed, local influential individuals often take advantage of people’s ignorance of their own rights, as well as their religious sentiments, to carry out their own agendas by punishing people.
These punishments are entirely illegal and have no place in a civilized society.
While we have come a long way, there is still some way to go before the practice of local arbitration is fully ended; and for that, our law enforcement officers will have a crucial role to play.
Furthermore, people need to be educated on these matters so that they know exactly what their rights are.