“Bride Burning” in Nepal and burn injuries

From Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital web page. The subject of burn care in Nepal has many facets.

From Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital web page. The subject of burn care in Nepal has many facets.

On my DailyKOS blog, I relayed the  news of a motorcycle driver set on fire trying to sneak past protesters with petrol in his tank destined for black market sale. As an aside, I reminded the readers that “Bride Burning” is still an issue in South Asia. Including Nepal. A couple of readers expressed their horror at this. I thought about a DailyKOS blog entry, but I’m sure I will need to update such a blog after writing, and I also want to see the analytics. so – this is a better home for it.

Update, Here is a paragraph for links to news stories, starting Jan 20th 2016

I think I will use this paragraph to update as news stories are published. So you think it never happens? click here. Or, for a Jan 21st account of how a child got burned intetionally, click here.

Update, August 9th

I’m teaching my course at Kirtipur Hospital, and I found this video about burn care at that location. highly worthwhile https://youtu.be/6gWR010kn_A

Before we go any further,

view this video. Why? because it presents burn injuries, and the dedication required to treat them, with compassion and dignity. It shows Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital in Sangkhu, which is especially dedicated to burn care and plastic surgery.

Also this, and this other from the International Nepal Fellowship.  The first is about a young girl with burn injury care, and the second is an intro to INF. It’s quite tastefully done. The second one shows scenes of Mugu, a place in Nepal where tourists are not often seen.

I had not really worked with burn injury victims until I came to Nepal. About a third of my first book is devoted to my experiences on the burn ward in 2007; and a  significant episode in my second book also addresses the reaction of the main characters as they care for a victim of “bride burning”.  Part of my motivation  for writing the first book was to exorcise the PTSD of doing this work.

Executive Summary

Watch this piece by Subina Shrestha about Dowry violence and bride burning.


“Agni Pariksha” of Sita ( or of Maya Sita if you prefer metaphor)

Above – from a puja poster depicting scenes from the Ramayana – the “Agni Pariksha” of Sita. A test of chastity and truthfulness. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Sita

Bride-Burning is also descended from “Suttee,” a practice in South Asia for centuries.

The practice was initially legalized by the colonial British officials specifying conditions when sati was allowed;[2] then the practice was outlawed in 1829 in their territories in India (the collected statistics from their own regions suggesting an estimated 500–600 instances of sati per year), followed up by laws in the same directions by the authorities in the princely states of India in the ensuing decades, with a general ban for the whole of India issued by Queen Victoria in 1861. In Nepal, sati was banned in 1920 B.S.(1863 AD) The Indian Sati Prevention Act from 1988 further criminalised any type of aiding, abetting, and glorifying of sati. from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sati_(practice)


At the inner gate of the palace in Jodhpur, India commemorating the suttee of the Maharaja’s wives after his death. I got the audio tour for this fort, and the account of this was riveting and heart-wrenching. Before they left the palace for the final time, each wife dipped her hand in ochre and left a print. Note: I am well aware that this is a reference to Indian culture, as opposed to Nepali.

To learn more about the above, go to  http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/sati-handprints

A suttee event forms one of the climactic scenes of the book, The Far Pavilions, a best-selling novel in USA in 1978.


Bride-burning is still a “thing” in South Asia. It’s related to the dowry system. At the time of marriage, the parents of the bride give gifts to the groom and his family.


If the groom is dissatisfied with the woman or with the size of the gift, he may return and demand more. If at that time the bride’s family is not able to give an additional gift, the bride is punished. The ultimate form of punishment is brideburning. It is an extreme form of domestic abuse.

nov 28 dowry system



Up to 2,500 women a year are affected throughout South Asia.

Clearly this is a crime deserving of the highest punishment for the perpetrator. It is a bitter truth that it often goes unpunished.

Click here for a three-minute video.  (disclosure: it includes still photos of women who survived burning, with disfigurement).

UPDATE Sept 3, 2018 – from Jhapa. http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2018-09-03/woman-suffers-burn-injuries-in-husbands-attack.html


WOREC is an NGO that promotes women’s rights and empowerment. This includes anti-trafficking, but also ending the dowry system. Here is their page specific to Violence Against Women in Nepal.

Mass weddings

Here is another description of  a way to combat the dowry phenomenon in Nepal.

Teen Marriage

This is part of the puzzle. Here is a place to read more.


Here is a link to issues related to menstruation.

Treatment of Burn injuries in Nepal

In November 2015, a description of rehabilitation after burn injury.

Picture 190

the baby was a burn victim, and an indelible memory of my first trip to teach nursing in Nepal. I had not given burn care much thought before that. Risk reduction efforts are needed nationwide in Nepal.

Burn Violence Survivors Nepal

There is an NGO that deals specifically with this issue. It’s Burn Violence Survivors Nepal. They have a YouTube Channel, of course. I viewed some of their short clips; I recommend “Gudiya” and also “Mina” – this latter one described a person who attempted suicide by self-immolation but survived. As you might imagine, a person who chooses suicide by this method has generally internalized severe self-hatred and desperation.

Treatment of burn injuries

There is a FaceBook group for the Nepal Burn Society.  After I joined that group, I learned about a workshop in Nepal led by an international NGO that brings reconstructive surgery to Low Income Countries named ReSurge International.  They have one video titled “About Us” that gives a summary of their work worldwide.  “ReThink Burns: A Solvable Global Health Crisis” is another good summary of their specific work. (The video shows some persons with burn scars that may be – unsettling). Also, I recommend the thirty-minute video titled “A Story of Healing” – it describes the rewards of doing the work from the perspective of the surgeons and nurses. I just don’t think any nurse or doctor would be capable of watching this without tearing up.

Epidemiology of Pediatric Burns in Low Income Countries worldwide

The Consortium of Universities for Global Health  includes a module on epidemiology of pediatric burns on the resources section of their webpage.

The psychological challenge for those who deliver burn care

Burn Unit: Saving Lives after the Flames is a book about nurses at Massachusetts General Hospital. I haven’t read it, myself.  Sounds like a good place to start. I wrote about victims in each of my books about Nepal health care.


The back cover of the USA edition was a short synopsis. By the time we printed the Nepal edition, there were some reviews to quote and they were more colorful. In a bookstore, people make decisions to buy based on the first page and back cover, or so they say.

The book is about medical care in the hill country. you can get it on Amazon https://goo.gl/PGTW30