Saturday, 25th October 2014

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Burn to Life

Bijay Gajmer

Rihana Sheikh Dhapali, the 19-year- old from Banke District in southern Nepal, who was set on fire by her husband, has now returned home following an intensive treatment for 40 days at Bir Hospital in Kathmandu. Rihana was sent home for two weeks as she was feeling homesick and wanted to meet her mother but she has to return to undergo more treatment to fully recover.

Rihana married Farid Sheikh one year ago and according to preliminary reports, she was tortured and beaten by her husband and in-laws for several months because they wanted her to ask her father for a motorcycle, a gold watch, and a water buffalo. Eventually, her husband poured kerosene on her and set her on fire on March 17, 2014, the day of her first marriage anniversary.

Rihana suffered serious burns but did not die. She was also seven months pregnant when the incident occurred and to conceal the crime, her in-laws locked her in a room and left her to die. That was when her child died in her womb.

Following complaints from Rihana’s parents, she was finally rescued. Her family sold off their meager possessions – three goats and some jewelry – to pay for her treatment at Bheri Zonal Hospital in Nepalgunj. According to them, if she hadn’t received help and been brought to Kathmandu, they probably wouldn’t have been able to afford the medical expenses.

Rihana’s husband and in-laws have absconded to India. But despite all that she has had to go through, Rihana is stronger than ever. And she wants justice. “I want my husband and in-laws to be punished for what they did, “she says, lamenting the fact that the Nepal Police is helpless and can’t do anything despite knowing that the perpetrators are in India.

According to statistics of the National Women’s Commission, 81 percent of women are victims of violence by their own husbands. Due to the lack of effective laws against domestic violence, providing justice to victims and punishing the perpetrators has become difficult, if not impossible. The urgency to address the issue of domestic violence has never been greater, and Rihana could very well be the starting point.

Photo Courtesy: PJ Club

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