Province 2 is in a state of mourning. The rainstorm of Sunday night has left 28 dead and hundreds injured. Within this is a mourning of death of a woman from Birgunj over dowry issue. Sunita Yadav was beaten and burnt with a hot iron by her husband Sachitananda Yadav, a medical doctor by profession, a few days ago. She was then taken to Kathmandu for treatment but it was already too late. She breathed her last on March 29 while undergoing treatment at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital. Sunita Yadav had been subjected to torture as early as she was married. When her marriage took place around 16 years ago, Sachitananda Yadav’s family demanded huge amount of dowry. Sunita’s family tried to give as much as possible. Yet, Sachitananda kept demanding more and warned not to take her to his home until her family relented. The cruelty did not stop here. She was tormented for not bringing enough dowry at her husband’s house. It reached unbearable proportion. On June 4, 2015, Sachitananda’s family tried to kill Sunita by burning her alive. The case was filed at District Administration Office, Parsa but it was settled through a meeting by village elders. To ensure that Sunita be safe, her family spent over Rs 2 million to pay dowry to her in-laws. But Sachitananda, who is employed at Narayani Hospital, demanded even more: new Maruti car and additional money. When her family could not meet this demand, he beat her to death.
Death of Sunita Yadav has once again exposed how deeply dowry violence is rooted in Nepal’s Tarai plains. The practice, which is more rampant among Madhesi communities, has taken lives of several women and ruined family lives of many brides. According to the police, most cases of violence against women in Tarai districts are related to insufficient dowry but only few report the case to the authorities. It has been established that dowry is the underlying cause in most cases of murder, suicide, assaults and violence against women in Madhes. This scourge of dowry related violence is deeply disturbing and it must be eliminated altogether. We already have legal instruments to fight this scourge. The new Criminal Code has criminalized dowry system. According to the law, anyone seeking or giving dowry will have to serve three years in jail and can be fined up to Rs 30,000. The fact that women are still beaten to death by husbands and in-laws for dowry shows two things. One, people do not fear law. They tend to think that they can commit violence with abandon by putting women’s lives in harm’s way and yet no one will stand against it. Besides, in Nepali families, family dignity is held high. So even if a woman suffers, she is less likely to file the case.
And even if the husband regularly beats up his wife, she cannot think of taking a divorce. Sunita Yadav became the victim of this tradition. She suffered at the hands of her cruel husband until she died. No other woman in Nepal should be subjected to similar fate. Chief Minister of Province 2 has come up with some laudable initiative to educate girls. Now his government’s focus should be equally on saving women from dowry violence. The country must collectively stand against the evil of dowry. This cruelty has to end, once and for all.