Police in Bangladesh have detained a man who allegedly hacked off his wife’s hand with a machete after she refused to give up her college studies. He is said to have blindfolded and gagged her before cutting off most of her right hand.
In a case that has sent shockwaves across a country where violence against women is not uncommon, police arrested 25-year-old Rafiqul Islam, who had recently returned to the country after working in the United Arab Emirates. He is said to have confessed to the crime.
“I was waiting for a surprise from my expatriate husband with my eyes closed. But, instead, he cut off my hand,” local media reported the man’s wife, college student Hawa Akhter Jui, as saying. “He also tried to sever my other hand. He would have succeeded had not his sister and brother-in-law rescued me by breaking in the door of the room.”
Mrs Akhter, 21, is a second year student at a government college in the town of Narsingdi, about 30 miles north of Dhaka, the country’s capital. With her husband away working, she was living with her parents. Her husband had apparently warned her during several telephone conversations that there would be severe consequences if she continued studying.
When he returned to Bangladesh, he called her and said he had gifts to give her and asked her to come to his family home. Instead, he then took her to a room, locked the door and covered her eyes and mouth before chopping off her hand. “He said he is putting an end to my studies forever,” the young woman told the Daily Star newspaper.
The student was taken to hospital after her in-laws apparently broke into the room and stopped Mr Islam from going any further. Doctors have told her that her hand cannot be reattached as it had been detached for too long and many cells died. Apparently, Mr Islam had initially refused to hand over the fingers to doctors and they were recovered from a rubbish bin.
Police say Mr Islam has confessed to the crime. Police say they have recovered his machete.
The attack was one of a series of violent acts carried out against educated women. In June, a university lecturer lost one eye while the other was badly wounded in an attack allegedly carried out by her husband. Campaigners say that while Bangladesh has made considerable progress in promoting and defending women’s rights, there is still more to be done, especially in remote areas.
“There has been tremendous progress. Women are entering the workplace and entering education,” said Asif Saleh, country director of the charity BRAC. “This incident is an aberration. But in remote areas there is still an acceptance of violence against women. We need to help create the demand for change.”
Mrs Akhter says she wants her husband to be severely punished. She has also made clear her intention to continue her studies and has reportedly started learning to write with her left hand. She said: “My right hand has been cut off, but I can use my other hand.”