The young women who wrote a letter in blood and sentenced their father to life imprisonment | World

Six years after a teenage girl from India wrote a letter in her own blood asking for justice for her mother who was burned alive, the killer was punished.

Based on eyewitness accounts of Latika Bansal — now 21 — and her younger sister, a court sent their father, Manoj Bansal, to life imprisonment.

The girls told the court that the father used to beat the mother for “not giving birth to a child”.

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Bansal denied the allegations and said his wife committed suicide.

In its decision at the end of July, the court in the city of Bulandshahr, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, agreed that Bansal was guilty of killing his wife for “failing to give birth to a child”.

India’s preference for boys is rooted in a widely held cultural belief that a male son would carry on the family legacy and care for his parents in old age, while daughters would cost them dowries and leave them to go to their parents’ homes. husbands.

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Activists attribute to this belief practices such as the neglect and mistreatment of girls, as well as India’s dramatically skewed sex ratio — caused by the elimination of tens of millions of female fetuses through sex-selective abortions, known as female feticide.

During the trial, the Bansal sisters told the court how they grew up seeing their father and his family often insult and assault their mother, Anu Bansal, for giving birth to only daughters.

The court also heard that Anu was forced to undergo six abortions after illegal sex-identification tests showed she was carrying a girl.

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Anu Bansal was killed by her husband because he was unable to give her a child, according to the daughters’ complaint – Photo: SANJAY SHARMA / BBC

The sister said her life changed on the morning of June 14, 2016, when her father — reportedly supported by family members who deny the allegations against them — doused her mother with kerosene and set it on fire.

“At 6:30 am, we were awakened by our mother’s screams. We could not help her because our bedroom door was locked from the outside. We saw her burn,” the girls said in their testimony at trial.

Latika said that after her calls to local police and ambulance services were ignored, they called her maternal uncle and grandmother, who arrived quickly and took the mother to the hospital.

According to the doctors who treated her, Anu Bansal had 80% of her body burned. She died a few days later in the hospital.

In India, violence against women is a serious problem that causes constant mobilizations, as was recorded in September 2021 in the country’s capital. — Photo: Getty Images/BBC

The case came to light only after the girls – then aged 15 and 11 – wrote a letter in their own blood to then-Minister Akhilesh Yadav, accusing local police of changing the classification of the case from murder to suicide.

The local police investigator was then suspended for failing to conduct a proper investigation and Yadav ordered police and administration officials to oversee the case.

“It took us six years, a month and 13 days to finally get justice,” Sanjay Sharma, a lawyer who represented the sisters in court, told the BBC.

“This is a rare case of daughters who file a case against their own father and finally get justice,” he said, adding that over the past six years, the girls had appeared in court “over 100 times” and “never lost a single one.” date”.

Sharma added that he did not charge the family any money because they were financially vulnerable and also because he wanted to draw attention to a social issue.

“This is not just the murder of a woman. It is a crime against society,” he said. “It’s not in a woman’s hands to decide the sex of a child, so why should she be tortured and punished? That’s bad.”

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