02/20/2012, 00.00
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Nepali widow burned alive, accused of witchcraft

by Kalpit Parajuli
Thegani Devi Yadav, 40, supported two children and in-laws with her work. The government provides compensation and punishes the culprits. A famous healer and magician, tied her and set her on fire with the help of some villagers. Human rights activists explain that "it is a very common practice" and the legacy of a society "dominated by Hinduism."

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - A Nepalese woman was burned to death on charges of witchcraft. A terrible story, which has shaken the conscience of a country where - human rights activists explain - the traditional influence of Hinduism is still alive and women are excluded. The government has promised compensation for the family of around 10 thousand Euros, to ensure the education of children and promises to punish those responsible for a crime, which "happens very frequently," only that "today the cases emerge" with more ease than ever before.

The victim is Thegani Devi Yadav, a widow of 40 years, mother of two children - a boy of 12 years and a girl of 9 - who, through her work at a building site, also took care of her in-laws guaranteeing them two meals per day. The woman was originally from Chitwan district, 150 km from the capital Kathmandu and was killed for "witchcraft". She was accused of this by a famous healer and expert in magic arts, named Guruwa, who burned her alive with the help of his cousin and other villagers.

An eyewitness named Ram Bahadur Tharu confirms that "[she] was tied up and burned alive", while "strongly rejecting the charges and pleaded for her life." The incident has raised controversy and condemnation of the National Commission for Human Rights, over an "inhuman" act against someone who was "poor and marginalized". Activist Sharmila Sharma points the finger at "traditional society dominated by Hinduism" and confirms that similar cases occur frequently, but "in the past were hidden by society itself" and the police "did not intervene in time to stop the crimes ".

Interviewed by AsiaNews Dan Bahadur Chaudhari, Minister for Women, Children and Welfare, said he was "saddened" by the tragic event and confirms that "the law does not do enough" because "for many years the traditional Hindu practice recognized witchcraft" . "In many villages, several women - he adds - suffer from this terrible practice and ask for it to be repressed with the appropriate standards." Nepalese society, in fact, is still inspired by the Hindu religion and sees women as the "second class" sex, more so if widows. For this a reform of the laws is needed and policies that promote equality between men and women as well as an end to discrimination against minorities and the marginalized.


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