"Dowry Deaths" Increasing In India As Age Old Violence Against Women Continues
Despite the fact that India is becoming more modern every day, an age-old, horrific crime is still plaguing its society.
According to the nation's crime statistics, deaths from "dowry-related" violence are up. In 2012, 8,233 women died due to crimes stemming from a dowry dispute. That's about one woman per hour.
Dowry crimes can range from abuse by husbands and their families (in the hopes of eliciting more money from a bride's family) to even more horrific acts, like bride burning. And even as the reports of brides who are tortured increases, experts think the problem is much more dire than the numbers suggest. Many bride's families don't report the violence for fear of social stigma that could lead to difficulty marrying their other daughters.
India's Parliament passed a law banning dowries as a condition of marriage in 1961, but the rule is mostly ignored.
Bride burning and other violence began to dwindle in India as the country gained independence, education became more widespread, and income grew. But according to experts, some advances have been a double-edged sword. Some of the increase in crimes related to dowries are thought to be related to rising consumerism. While more sophisticated goods like electronics and appliances are now available in India, they're still out of reach for many Indians. Families who had big plans for what to do with their dowry money may now be lashing out when they payout doesn't live up to their expectations.
Women's rights activist Ranjana Kumari told the India Times that the violence is the result of a "culture of greed." "Marriages have become commercialized. It's like a business proposition where the groom and his family make exorbitant demands," she said.
But violence against brides isn't the only instance of terrifying sexism in India. The male-to-female ratio has widened to 940 women for every 1,000 men, according to the 2013 Gender Scorecard complied by the Delhi Policy Group. (The gap may be due to families utilizing ultrasounds to determine the sex of their child and terminating pregnancies if the fetus is female.)
Convictions in cases of rape in India stands at only 24 percent. For the murder of women in dowry-related cases, the conviction rate is 33 percent.