Dean Nelson, Telegraph (London), September 2, 2013
A woman is killed every hour in India because her family failed to meet her husband and in-laws’ demands for higher dowry payments and lavish gifts.
Official figures from India’s National Crime Records Bureau reveal that 8,233 young women, many of them new brides, were killed in so-called ‘dowry deaths’ in 2012. The report comes amid growing concern over the level of violence against women following the Delhi gang rape case last December.
The number of deaths is marginally less than in 2011, but reflects a broader increase in gender violence. While dowry deaths fell slightly from 8618 to 8233, the number of cases of cruelty committed by husbands and their relatives increased significantly from 99,135 in 2011 to 106,527 last year. Many of the cruelty cases are believed to be dowry-related and many dowry killings are preceded by cruelty by the husband and in-laws.
Although the payment of dowries for marriage is illegal in India, they remain widespread across caste, class and educational divides. In recent years demands have become more insistent and expensive.
One of the dowry deaths last year was Pravartika Gupta, who was burned to death in her bedroom as she slept with her one-year-old daughter. She had been threatened by her in-laws because her family could not afford to speed up their schedule of payments. They had agreed to pay £15,000 in cash and buy a Honda City car for their son-in-law’s parents. The in-laws had suddenly demanded that Pravartika’s family also buy them an apartment.
According to the Bureau’s latest figures, charges were brought in 94 per cent of the 8,233 dowry death cases, but the conviction rate was just 32 per cent. In cruelty cases, the conviction rate is only 15 per cent.
Vrinda Grover, a leading lawyer and women’s rights campaigner, said the figures proved that crime against women “is rampant in India”. She said dowry death cases can only be registered up to seven years after marriage, which means most of those killed were young women and relatively new brides. “Grave violence is being committed against young women in their matrimonial homes and the low conviction rate shows the legal system is not geared up to investigate and prosecute these cases,” she said.