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Stove burning

The practice of stove burning takes different forms. Sometimes a woman is burned alive through deliberate tampering with a gasoline stove by her in-laws, causing an explosion. Other manifestations of stove burning include incidents where a husband or his family members douse his wife with kerosene oil and set her on fire. Stove burning may be motivated by anger over a wife’s failure to fulfill dowry demands or to give birth to a male child, but it is also frequently the culmination of a larger pattern of domestic violence.  Stove burning incidents are usually characterized as accidents or suicides by the perpetrators and ignored by the police. Stove burning is prevalent in Pakistan and India. (See: Good Practices on Harmful Practices Expert Group Report, pp. 21-22; See also: Dowry-Related Violence; “Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo”, p. 14; Supplement to the Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women “Harmful Practices” Against Women, pp. 21-22.

Legislation addressing stove burning should include the following elements:    

  • Legislation should define stove burning as a specific offense of premeditated killing or infliction of bodily harm on a woman through the use of fire, kerosene oil or other stove related matter;
  • Legislation should impose criminal penalties on anyone who commits the offense of stove burning, specifically including family members among those who may be penalized;
  • Legislation should penalize those who aid and abet this harmful practice, and should include family members among those who may be penalized;
  • Legislation should impose a duty upon medical providers to report to law enforcement authorities any case of serious bodily harm or death of a woman caused by fire, kerosene oil, or other stove-related matter;
  • Legislation should mandate that police officers investigate any such case reported by a medical provider;
  • Legislation should provide for penalties of prison time, fines and education;
  • Legislation should prohibit the acceptance of informal financial settlement or marriage as settlement of claims;
  • Legislation should provide that sentencing guidelines reflect the gravity of the offense;
  • Legislation should provide for enhanced penalties if a victim dies as a result of stove burning. The perpetrator should be prosecuted under the murder statutes of the penal code. The specific law on stove burning should provide a term of imprisonment and fine which is no less severe than what is provided under the murder statutes of the general penal code with the exception of capital punishment;
  • Legislation should provide that no mediation provisions are a part of legislation on acid attacks;
  • Legislation should establish and fund public awareness campaigns and training for all sectors about this harmful practice and its consequences;
  • Legislation and other practices that perpetuate this harmful practice, such as honour crimes, should be amended or abolished;
  • Legislation should allow survivors of stove burning and the parents, siblings, or children of deceased victims to pursue civil remedies against the perpetrators; and
  • Legislation should provide legal, medical, and other types of rehabilitation services for survivors of stove burning.

(See: Good Practices on Harmful Practices Expert Group Report, pp. 21-22)

Promising Practice:  Pakistan Criminal Procedure Code, 1898, Section 174-A
The government of Pakistan introduced a new section into its Criminal Procedure Code in 2001, providing that medical or law enforcement personnel who receive a case or report of grievous burns caused by fire, kerosene oil, chemical or other means must notify the nearest magistrate. The medical officer is also required to record the statement of the injured person. This statement is admissible in court under a “dying declaration” exception to the hearsay rules. (See: Facets of Violence against Women, p. 17; Pakistan:  Insufficient Protection of Women, Amnesty International)

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