Province 5 sees high number of women dying unnatural deathsAs many as 364 cases of suicide among women have also been reported in the same time period, against a nationwide number of 1,538. Police believe that most women committed suicide due to excessive physical and mental torture, sometimes at the hands of their own families.
Her wedding plans finalised, Sabnam Nisha was set to get married in June. But on the evening of May 7, the 19-year-old went missing from her home in Gaidahawa Rural Municipality of Rupandehi district.
Nisha’s relatives and neighbours conducted an extensive search, but were unable to find her. When the search was renewed the next morning, Nisha was found dead in an irrigation canal. Nisha’s family believes that she was murdered and the preliminary police investigation also indicates murder. According to locals, Nisha was in a relationship with a young man from the same neighbourhood, but was getting married to another against her wishes. Locals believe that this man, who has been missing since the day Nisha disappeared, could’ve killed her for preparing to marry someone else.
“The body has been sent to the TU Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu for a postmortem,” said Superintendent of Police Hridaya Thapa. “The postmortem report will confirm the cause of death and whether it was murder or suicide.”Security personnel have detained Nisha’s neighbour and are searching for her alleged boyfriend, said Thapa.Nisha’s death is just one among a string of cases of violence against women in Province 5. An unusually high number of women are dying unnatural deaths in the province. According to data from the police office in Dang, 41 women were murdered in the province’s various districts in the past 10 months.
As many as 364 cases of suicide among women have also been reported in the same time period, against a nationwide number of 1,538. Police believe that most women committed suicide due to excessive physical and mental torture, sometimes at the hands of their own families.
“Going by the number of reported cases, the number of murder and suicide cases of women is much higher,” Tika Bahadur Karki, spokesperson for the Province 5 Police Office, told the Post.
On May 4, 25-year-old Laxmi Khatri was found hanging from the ceiling in her Butwal home. According to neighbours, Khatri had been severely beaten the previous day by her mother-in-law, Harimaya Khatri, over dowry issues. Khatri, a resident of Gokhunga in Arghakhanchi district, had married into the Khatri household seven years ago but, according to locals, hers was not a happy marriage. She was constantly harassed by her in-laws for not bringing in enough dowry, with the harassment only increasing after her husband went abroad for foreign employment a couple of years into the marriage.
Dom Bahadur, Khatri’s father, and her neighbours lodged a complaint with the police, alleging that the victim had been forced to commit suicide. Deputy Superintendent of Police Dil Bahadur Malla said that a detailed investigation into the case is under way and that Khatri’s mother-in-law has been taken into custody for investigation.
Police too believe that such suicide cases often result from domestic violence, or excessive abuse by family members, said Tika Bahadur Karki, spokesperson for the provincial police office. In some cases, family members have been convicted of murder or abetting suicide.
The murder and suicide of women in the province can be primarily attributed to misunderstandings and disputes between the husband and wife, love affairs at a young age, extramarital affairs, and drug addiction, according to police. In most of these cases, however, violence against women is the primary cause of death.
In one emblematic case, Sunita Tharu, aged 21, of Banganga municipality, was found murdered in the Banganga stream on April 29. Tharu had filed a complaint of domestic violence with the police against her husband, Suresh Tharu. The couple had agreed to settle their dispute at the police station, but Tharu was murdered the very next day, leading police to take Suresh and two others into custody. Investigations are ongoing into their roles in the murder, said police.
Women leaders and rights activists believe that such cases of unnatural death cannot be prevented until gender equality becomes a reality in every home in the country.
“We continue to practise discrimination based on gender,” said Radha Gyawali, a former energy minister and prominent woman leader. “Even our education does not include gender equality in the syllabi.”
Gyawali pointed out how discrimination begins early, where images in school books feature women working in the kitchen while the men go out and work as the breadwinners of the family.
“Such gender-based roles need to be done away with, and that can only happen if violence against women is taken seriously,” said Gyawali.