BIRGANJ: An increasing number of newly-married women are committing suicide because they are tortured by their husband’s families. But laws governing such cases are so ambiguous that culprits never face justice.
In the past year, ten women aged 19-35 in Parsa hanged or poisoned themselves. The police categorises these as ‘family dispute’ cases, but each crime is a result of domestic violence by in-laws. Anita Devi Patel, 17, of Pipara was tortured by her in-laws for bringing in an insufficient dowry. She hanged herself on Sunday. Her father Madan Prasad Kurmi says husband Amit Patel drove his daughter to suicide because he couldn’t pay Patel’s demand of Rs 300,000 and a well-paying job. Anita was married at 13, and has a one-year-old son.
Laxman Kalwar’s niece Anita Devi was tortured by her husband Bijay Kalwar because he wanted a motorcycle as dowry. Laxman couldn’t deliver it on time and Anita killed herself by swallowing poison, 36 days after getting married.
Activists say families can’t file a case because current laws don’t treat domestic abuse as a possible cause for suicide. Shesh Chandtara of the National Women’s Commission says this is a problem widespread in the Tarai.
Police officer Dhiraj Pratap Singh says locals don’t want to be social outcasts, so they are forced to ignore problems that eventually lead to suicides. He says: “It is easier to take legal steps in domestic abuse cases. But after women kill themselves, it gets difficult to prove.”