A 17-year-old pregnant mother, who set herself on fire pouring kerosene over her body on October 8 in an attempt to kill herself, finally succumbed to her burn injuries on Thursday, after giving birth to a still baby.
Suraiya Newaz Labanya, daughter of Ariful Islam of Rahimpur village in Netrakona, breathed her last around 7:40pm at Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute of Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), said Partha Sankar Paul, a resident doctor of the hospital.
Harassed for dowry by her husband and in-laws, Suraiya set fire to her body on October 8 pouring kerosene in the kitchen at her father’s house.
Dr Ayub Hossain, another resident doctor of the institute, said Suraiya was six months’ pregnant and admitted to the hospital with 90 percent burn injuries. “Her child died in her womb before birth when she got her body burned,” Dr Hossain said.
Suraiya’s father, Ariful, said he married his daughter off with Shahin Alam, a private car driver from Dhobaura upazila in Mymensingh, after their long relationship on October 2 last year.
Since then, Suraiya had been staying with her in-laws in Mymensingh. After a few days, Ariful said, they started torturing her mentally and physically for dowry. They demanded Tk 2 lakh for Shahin as dowry to start a business.
Suraiya, meanwhile, got pregnant but that did not prevent her husband and in-laws from torturing her. She was even denied her regular meals.
But Suraiya’s husband, Shahin, is not a man to spare her so easily. Shahin then started calling her over phone regularly and used to abuse her verbally.
Having failed to endure the torture, Suraiya set fire to her body pouring kerosene in the kitchen of her father’s house on October 8.
Hearing her screams, Suraiya’s grandmother, Sadia Khatun, came forward and rescued her with the help of locals. She was then taken to Mymensingh Sadar Hospital. She was transferred to Sheikh Hasina Plastic and Burn Institute the following day as her condition turned critical.
Suraiya’s father said he did not inform the police yet but blamed Shahin and his family members for her daughter’s death. He, however, said he will file a case against Suraiya’s in-laws soon.
Meanwhile, the dead child was buried at Azimpur graveyard Friday morning.
Suraiya’s body was sent for an autopsy, said Bachchu Mia, in-charge of the police outpost at the DMCH.
Dowry culture in Bangladesh
Dowry culture that arises from the pervasive greed still thrives in Bangladesh. Around 50 percent of the violence against women in the country are reported due to the dowry culture, according to a study.
Odhikar, a human rights body, says as many as 5,699 women faced dowry-related violence from 2001 to 2017 and the rate of homicides and suicides owing to dowry incidents has been high too.
To replace the 1980 law, the government enacted Dowry Prohibition Act-2017, but the number of cases filed is still low compared to the number of violent incidents.
Though the country achieved significant development in women education and empowerment, the dowry violence is far from dying down, data suggests.
The modern feature of dowry is to provide large sums of money, jewellery, and other goods from the bride's family to the groom's one as Bangladesh is fighting a losing battle against the menace despite having a law.