Note: This essay contains DISTURBING CONTENT!
Bibi Zohora, 19, was admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital with a severely broken neck. Tortured by her in-laws for dowry, she had returned to her parental home in Nolua, Kabirhat, Noakhali and had a failed attempt to commit suicide by hanging herself from a mango tree. Her poor parents had somehow managed to take her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) for her treatment. But what treatment had been awaiting her? Bibi Zohora was now at the ICU of DMCH, lying amidst another 21 critical patients. But there were only three doctors who seemed rather interested in their private talk. Her parents were the only attendants there to look after their gasping daughter though nobody except the medical staff is allowed to enter any intensive care unit. However, the mother at one stage made out that her daughter was no more alive and started wailing. The doctors hurried to Bibi Zohora and pretended to do everything possible- thumping, pumping and what not. Sensing the presence of a camera, one of the doctors gaped at the ECG monitor reading LOSS OF SIGNAL. He posed as if doing a grave job though the ECG monitor was not connected with the patient.
Bibi Zohora was a victim of dowry death who was driven to suicide by continuous harassment and torture by husband and in-laws in an effort to extort an increased dowry. Dowry death is considered one of the many categories of violence against women in South Asia. Most dowry deaths occur when the young woman, unable to bear the harassment and torture, commits suicide. Most of these suicides are by hanging, poisoning or by fire. Sometimes the woman is killed by setting her on fire; this is known as “bride burning”, and sometimes disguised as suicide or accident.
As per women rights organization’s statistics, from 01 January 2005 to 28 February 2011, 1257 women were killed, 348 were ill-treated and 243 committed suicide due to dowry related violence. Women in Bangladesh are still in a vulnerable situation in the society. To reduce violence against women, society should ensure gender equality, no economic gap between genders, social consciousness and proper implementation of law and order.
Editorial Note – Anil Cherukupalli
Of all the work we have featured so far on Aksgar this has been the toughest to write a note for so far. I made many attempts but each time the horror and tragedy behind the essay overwhelmed me. What can you add to what is so obvious? I cannot begin to imagine what the photographer must have gone through when he was shooting this. As Turjoy said in one of his emails, “I couldn’t sleep at least one week after this experience.” Bibi Zohora’s story is not the first and sadly won’t be the last but her story and situation must be one of the few that have been so graphically and intensely documented. And for that reason it is important to see this essay even if it can be a disturbing experience. Violence against women is in the news currently but it has always happened and will continue to happen if stronger steps are not taken to educate and sensitise men and even women. If violence against women continues to increase at an alarming rate it is because of the colossal failure of our educational, cultural and legal systems. But let me stop here and let the essay speak for itself.