Dowry deaths on the rise in Nepal

Nineteen-year-old Manjudevi Sah of Santapur VDC in Rautahat district was murdered four months ago.

She was killed because she did not bring enough dowry with her when she got married. A complaint lodged at the District Police Office by her parents states that both the parties had agreed on Rs 15,000 (S$258) as dowry in the marriage, while the bride gave only Rs 5,000, promising to pay the remaining amount later.

"She was killed for not providing the rest of the amount," the complaint said.

While the woman's father-in-law Patilal Sah and mother-in-law Laledevi are in police custody, the husband, Rambhajan, is at large.

In a similar incident, Mamatadevi Das of Brahmapuri VDC-9 was killed for not bringing a bicycle as dowry in her marriage on Dec 3, 2010. Her in-laws were involved in the murder.

These two incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. The number of dowry deaths is rising in the district. Nine similar incidents were reported in the district in the past 15 months. However, most of those involved in the crime are still absconding.

Police said 17 criminals involved in such incidents at Rajapur, Pharahadawa, Auraiya, Inarabari, Hardia Paltuwa and Laukaha are on the run.

Inspector Manohar Jha said that victims' in-laws and husbands are found to be involved in most of the cases. He said police is hunting for the perpetrators.

Rights activists say that the failure to book criminals and lack of awareness are the main reasons for the increasing rate of dowry deaths.

"Such incidents cannot be checked until and unless the dowry system stops completely," said rights activist Bidur Ghimire. He added that marriages without dowry must be encouraged.

Another rights activist Bipin Gautam said that the culture of impunity is encouraging the trend. "Controlling such incidents are tough unless stern action is taken against perpetrators," he said.