I had been wanting to share this incident which happened with one of our inpatients about a month back . . . much before the Delhi rape case happened.
What emerged from this incident was one cruel reality which stalks many a women of our country. Read the incident and decide for yourself.
It was a busy outpatient day when a young lady, a mother of 2, was brought to the emergency. It seems she suffered burn injuries couple of days back. She was being managed elsewhere. From the injuries, it did not need much knowledge to infer that the burns was not accidental. The history was that the stove burst while she was cooking and her clothes caught fire.
Since it was quite busy and we were short of hands, we did not go much into arguing with the husband. However, within 2 days, we had found out the truth. The husband had thrown kerosene onto his wife and set her on fire in a fit of rage. But, from the way, he was caring for his wife after the incident, it did not seem so. He was so dedicated to helping his wife to survive.
With good care, the lady survived and improved. But, it was evident that the hospital admission was taking a toll on the family. Their total bill was around 25000 INR. They had hardly 10000 INR after about 3 weeks in hospital. Obviously, the husband was the only bread-winner in the house.
Promising that they would come back for the skin graft, they got discharged after we wrote off the rest of the bill.
Why do I write this? During her admission, as with all cases of burns we had sent a police intimation. The primary report was that it was accidental. However, on coming to know that it was homicidal, I called up one of the policemen and told him of this. He already knew that it was homicidal.
Then he tried to convince me on the futility of making this case into a murder case. 'The husband was very remorseful. Quite a lot of people depended on him for their daily bread. In addition to the wife and 2 children, he also had his parents to take care of. If I file a case against this man, the family would fall into poverty and would be on the street.'
Yeah, what the police man told me was true. If the husband went to jail, our system does not have any provision to provide for the rest of the family.
Later, I happened to meet mother of the wife. I asked her if she knew what had happened. She knew. She told me, 'Please do not betray us to the police. My son-in-law did it in a fit of anger. If he goes to the police, my daughter would have to sell her body to earn a living. Please do not allow that to happen. We've forgiven him.'
We had another lady with burns injuries caused by her husband more than a year back. Here also, the lady described her husband as a good man. And she refused to testify against her husband. The case was dropped. I presume that in that case too, this must have been the reason for the wife not to proceed with the case against her husband.
In our country, in very few families is the woman empowered to live a life independently. I do not have any easy answers for this sort of a situation in which the woman would prefer to remain imprisoned in an abusive relationship.
I would encourage you to put in your thoughts on this matter which I'm sure is a common issue in many families of our country.