To understand dowry deaths one must first understand dowry, dowry existed hundreds of years ago in ancient civilizations such as the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans. Dowry is an ancient custom and tradition in many cultures, including the Hindu culture, in which the bride’s family gives gifts or money to the groom’s family during marriage. Dowry deaths are caused by disputes over the amount of dowry and usually result in the bride committing suicide, being murdered, or being greatly abused/ injured. Dowry deaths have been a rising problem in India and in the year 2012, 8,233 deaths were classified as dowry deaths calculating out to be one death per hour over dowry disputes.
The first key actor in the conflict of the dowry deaths is the bride who is oppressed. Women in India have a lower social status than men and are often not given an equal amount of rights as men. Men are considered better than woman and in some parts of India parents will even kill their baby if it is a girl, known as female infanticide. The custom in India is for the bride to go and live with her husband’s family after marriage and take a dowry of money and other goods for her in-laws family. When the bride refuses to give more dowry or her family is unable to provide any more dowry she is often tortured and in some cases killed. The bride can be burnt to death with kerosene (bride burning), drowned, poisoned, have acid thrown at her, driven to starvation, beaten to death, or she may hang herself.
The second key actor in the dispute is the husband and his parents/ in-laws, the oppressors. The husband and the bride’s in-laws normally demand more dowry, because they believe that since the bride will be living with them and they will be providing for her it is only proper for the bride’s family to help with that by giving a dowry. However when the bride’s family doesn’t provide the amount of dowry that the groom’s family wants the in-laws and husband usually use violence on the bride to try and get the money from the bride’s parents and then disguise it as an accident or suicide. The in-laws and husbands are driven with greed for more money and the idea that women are less important than men.
I believe that in order for dowry deaths to stop the Indian government needs to play a bigger role in preventing it. Though there are laws (Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961), which forbid dowry to be given or accepted it still happens all throughout India and this is due to the government’s blind eye that they have turned towards the situation. Even if there is a lot of evidence showing that a death was caused by a dowry dispute, local judges will rule it an accident, because of the corruption in India’s government. I also believe that pressure from the international community and the United Nations will help raise awareness and help stop dowry deaths. Another big factor to solving this problem is by educating girls and promoting women’s rights. If women are educated then they won’t need to depend on their husbands and will be able to support themselves.
Dowry deaths mainly happen in India, but they also occur in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iran. The image shows the distribution of dowry deaths throughout India and how affected each state is by this.
The picture shows how women are given monetary values and families must pay in order for their daughter to be married. The in-laws test the bride’s family to see how much their daughter is actually worth by asking for more dowry.