Women in India at high risk of fire death

Risk of women burning to death in India double men’s

Indian women are twice as likely to burn to death than men, new research shows.

In India, twelve women burn to death every hour on average – almost double the corresponding number for men – according to a new study published in The Lancet medical journal.

The research was conducted by three US-based researchers – Prachi Sanghavi of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Kavi Bhalla of Harvard University, and Veena Das of Johns Hopkins University.

They estimated that there was a total of about 163,000 fire-related deaths in India in 2001, accounting for 2% of all deaths across the entire country of 1.1 billion people. Their estimate was six times higher than that reported by Indian police, they said.

Of the total number of fire-related deaths, 106,000 were women, and of those 57% were between the ages of 15 and 34, the study showed. The average ratio between women and men dying by fire was almost 2:1, while that between young women and young men was 3:1.

‘Such a high frequency of deaths in young women suggests that these deaths have common causes involving kitchen accidents, self-immolation, and different forms of domestic violence which may include dowry harassment that leads to death,’ the study said. Victims are often killed by being doused with kerosene and set on fire.

The results constitute the latest evidence of the vulnerability of women in India, where equality of the sexes is guaranteed in the constitution but remains a distant dream on the ground for all but the very rich.

Despite a raft of laws to protect women’s rights, activists say that India still suffers among the world’s highest rates of female foeticide and infanticide, child marriage, sexual harassment and domestic violence.

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