12/13/2012, 00.00
NEPAL - ISLAM
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Would-be bride, 16, set on fire over dowry

by Kalpit Parajuli
Shiwa Hasami died yesterday in a Kathmandu hospital from her injuries. Police arrested her would-be groom but eventually focused on the young woman's family because it could not pay the huge dowry (US$ 2,300) demanded by the future groom's family.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Violence against women continues in Nepal. A 16-year-old Muslim woman was set on fire over dowry. Rushed to a Kathmandu hospital, Shiwa Hasami died from her injuries. When Nepali media reported the event yesterday, it sent shockwaves across the country. Human rights activists and associations organised demonstrations against violence against women, who are often victimised in the name of religious and ethnic traditions.

At present, little is known about the case. Initially, police arrested her groom-to-be, Babu Khan, 23, on suspicious that he tried to kill her because she refused to run away with him. Now police are turning their attention to the young woman' brother, Tanbir Ahmed, and other family members as the main culprits in the murder.

"Her brother Tanbir Ahmed had warned Shiwa not to marry Babu Khan because his father had demanded a 200,000 rupee dowry, something huge for the Hasami family, which is poor," said Police Superintendent Ramkripal Sah, who is investigating the case.

Refusing to pay dowry is something dishonourable among Muslims and Hindus. For the police officer, the brother or another member of the family decided to punish the young woman for wanting to get married even without a dowry, placing the family in a difficult situation.

Dowry-related murders are widespread in South Asia. According to India's National Crime Records Bureau, 8,391 people died in dowry-related cases in 2010. In at least another 90,000 additional cases, husbands and the in-law family have tortured or otherwise abused women.

In predominantly Muslim Bangladesh, at least 325 women were tortured and killed over dowry disputes in 2011 alone.

Nepal is no exception. Here police have recorded hundreds of cases of domestic violence due to dissatisfaction by husbands and their families over dowries, the highest number of cases among Muslims and Madeshi.

Superintendent Ramkripal Sah noted however, that Shiwa's case was the first in which the victim's family was responsible for the violence.

Muslim leader Nazrul Hussan Falahi said that Islam has nothing to do with the problem, which is mostly due to sick minds and poverty.

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