Why women fear their stoves
By Mohammad Kamran
ISLAMABAD: Incidents of stove burning usually conceal the ugly reality of the murder of or brutality against innocent women. This fact has been proven by judgments in several cases where innocent women were reportedly killed by their in-laws, but the case registered citied the death as an accidental one.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said that incidents of stove burning are used as a lethal weapon against women and are a recognised form of domestic violence. According to the data accumulated by the HRCP, over 1,000 cases of kitchen accidents (stove burning or gas explosions) were reported in the last 10 years. In most cases, the victims were either killed or critically injured.
The Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan states that a new section, 174-A, incorporated in the Criminal Procedure Code 1898, specifically deals with such cases. This section exclusively deals with the domestic violence against women, particularly when the attempt on her life is represented as an accident. Under this section, if a case of stove or acid burning is brought to a hospital, then a designated medical officer immediately informs the local police station to ensure the victim’s statement is recorded. The in charge of the police station records the statement in a coercion-free environment and tries to ascertain the story behind the incident itself. The investigation officer also obtains the statement of the victim’s parents and her in-laws.
Copies of the victim’s statement are forwarded to the district and sessions judge, the district superintendent of police and police station in charge for the initiation of criminal proceedings against the accused. In case the victim is not in a position to record her statement, the medical officer on-duty records his or her statement, which is to be sent to the trial court and considered valid evidence.
“If the police find even an iota of doubt in the case, the police officer in-charge will register an FIR under section 154 of the CrPC and the weapon (stove) would also be taken into custody and its manufacturer, distributor and retailer would also be included in the case,” an LJCP official said.
Normally, in an accidental death cases, heirs ask for a post-mortem of the corpse. However, if there is any doubt, the investigation officer will also ensure that an autopsy is performed, the official said.
In a the case of ‘State Vs SSP Lahore,’ the Lahore High Court laid down the guidelines for dealing with the cases of stove burning. The court ruled that the victims’ heirs can file a damages suit in a court of law and no court fee would be charged from them.
“Normally, the deceased’s heirs hesitate in filing a damage suit because of financial constraints. That is why the court announced an exemption of fee for such heirs,” he said.
Naheeda Mehboob Illahi, the deputy attorney general and an expert in family law, said that cases of domestic violence, including incidents of stove and acid burning, are dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the CrPC and the Pakistan Penal Code. She said that normally, the poor financial status of a woman, less dowry, conjugal estrangement and suspicions about her conduct lead to such incidents, where in-laws use the kitchen stove to kill her. She said that section 174-A of the CrPC is not being implemented in its true spirit and this is why in many cases the motive is not established and a murder is dubbed ‘an accident’.