At first we couldn’t believe the statistics. Nearly 200 deaths in 2009. 48 in the first three months of this year. Women – most of them, young and in the prime of their lives – beaten, strangled, burnt, kicked, tortured, drowned, starved, hacked… to death. Because of their husbands and in-laws’ greed. What on earth was going on?
And then we went to Bangladesh. And the numbers took on new meaning. What shocked us initially, became genuinely horrifying. We met grieving families, helpless victims, motherless kids. And we witnessed, firsthand, the impossible obstacles some women had to overcome in order to live a life free of fear. One young lady we met had angry acid-burn scars all over her body. Another ran away after enduring years of abuse. A third was found hanging from a ceiling fan.
“She suffered a lot,” a weeping mother told us.
“Why?” We asked. “Why is this happening in this day and age?”
“Husband’s family wanted more dowry.”
The answers we got were often complex and confusing. Activists blamed it on a patriarchal society; gender inequality; the lack of education; poor access to justice… the list was endless. Everyone agreed that the problem would take years to solve. But in the meantime, women are dying. At least 15 a month. 15. Surely, something needs to be done now?
“Dowry Deaths” aired recently on Al Jazeera’s 101 East. Watch it if you can. That last scene of Taslima in a room full of squabbling men continues to haunt and anger me.