Bride Price – A poem on the Burning of Nusrat Rafi by Kristin Garth
Kristin Garth reads her poem ‘Bride Price’ about the burning of Nusrat Rafi. Read or listen to the poem which is due to be published in The Stakes anthology by APEP Publications
In Bangladesh, where Nusrat Rafi burns
for sexual attention she would spurn then
report to local police, their girls learn
young exactly the price to be women
even a bride. Twelve year olds to old men
are tied without a thought to their consent.
A bill of dowry husband presents, demands
of payment and unspoken consequence —
Bangladesh has the most incidents of
acid burning in the world of women
even little married girls withholding “love”
and a dowry their rightful owner, men.
Men fear the power of a woman’s face;
it is power they can choose to erase.
This poem is about the burning of Nusrat Rafi. She was a nineteen year old girl who was assaulted, reported the abuse and was then burned alive for doing so. Her name must never be forgotten, and no-one should suffer the injustice that was done to her. The poem seeks to place her burning in the context of an all-too common practice in Bangladesh and other places around the world of acid burning of young women.
The practice of men throwing acid into the face of a girl who spurns them, or withholds affection or dowry – often in a forced marriage – is a horrific practice that is not always reported. In Bangladesh, almost 70% of victims are women and girls. Perpetrators are almost always men. After much campaigning and media pressure, the Bangladesh Government introduced legislation in 2002 which included control of sale, use and storage of acid. Attacks have now declined to under 100 a year, but they continue. You can find out more on acid attacks around the world from Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI).
This poem is a part of my book The Stakes, a collection that considers fire and burning as a tool of misogyny. Fire and burning have historically been used against women by men in patriarchal society in history. These terrible practices persist in modern times. The Stakes is being published with APEP Publications.