Women's Issues In Guyana

Those fiery deaths

Kaieteur News – October 10, 2006

Not for the first time a woman died because she got too close to the flames of a fire set to destroy a pile of rubbish. Others had gone into the kitchen with the highly flammable night clothing and perished. The people around said that the woman’s death was accidental but there have been cases where murders were disguised as accidents.

The Indian Government was forced to take action in wake of a spate of women dying by burning. The reports came fast and furious during the 1990s and investigations revealed that many of these burnings were murders. Families were burning brides because dowries were inadequate.

Having set the bride alight they would all report that the death was accidental with the victim coming too close to an open flame.

One of the things that people such as housewives should have learned from the time they were very little children was that loose-fitting clothing was not the required wear in kitchens or around large flames. If the flame is outdoors then the wearer would realise that all it would take for them to become engulfed in flames is a puff of breeze that would catch the garment and send one portion close to the flames.

The Burns Unit of the Georgetown Public Hospital has had its fair share of hapless fire victims. Some told tales of their carelessness and expressed fears that their life would never be the same. And indeed their life is never the same because they become disfigured and whatever relationship they shared often came to a sudden end because their partner simply shunned any contact with a disfigured person.

There were those who spoke of being set alight by their spouses but for some strange reason they never provided the police with such information. It was as if they still loved the person who visited them with the atrocity and was prepared to suffer alone.

It was often the same with those who attempted suicide by immolation. Once they survived they were nothing short of being physical wrecks who would live to tell the story of not only a horrifying pain-filled experience but also of perpetual loneliness after they leave hospital.

Nurses who had to attend to these people would later tell of tales of the victim suffering a change of heart even as they were being consumed by the fire. It is no different with other suicides, some of whom drink the lethal gramozone.

According to the experts, once gramozone is taken in a substantial quantity the victim has no chance of survival. Death may be long in coming but it will surely come, because the weedicide attacks the major organs and slowly turns them into mush.

In their wait for death — if there is such a thing as waiting for death — they would express regret at taking the toxic substance and would often announce that they do not want to die.

And while we need to pay special attention to suicides which have reached astronomical proportions we also need to pay attention to the number of people who succumb to what appears to be accidental burning. Just a few weeks ago the courts sentenced a man to death for pushing his wife into a burning pit.

Initially, he presented the police with what appeared to be an accident. He claimed that the woman fell into the flames but investigations later proved otherwise. The investigating ranks also found that the man repeatedly kept the pit burning with the hope of destroying any presence of his wife.

We believe that it is time that we seriously investigate every case of immolation because these are so much easier to disguise. In the first instance, the victim is so severely burnt that they can say nothing about the incident. Often they are unconscious and at death’s door.

We do not believe that in this day and age people would go close to open flames with flowing garments.


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