India ‘Dowry Deaths’ Still Rising Despite Modernization
Crime statistics and a Gender Scorecard compiled by women’s rights activists have put chilling new perspective on an age-old social ill in India: Bride-burning and other “dowry crimes” take the life of a woman every hour.
Despite a rapidly expanding middle class, enviable economic growth and measurable strides in modernization since India’s 1947 independence, dowry deaths continue to rise year on year, as does the related plague of “cruelty by husband and relatives” — the crime defined as torture committed against women in pursuit of more marriage bounty from their parents.
India’s National Crime Records Bureau last week reported that 8,233 Indian women were killed in 2012 in dowry-related violence, or nearly one per hour. The incidence of dowry deaths grew by nearly 3% over the previous five years, and torture at the hands of a husband or family increased by 5.4%, with 99,135 cases reported by survivors in 2011.
The scope of the problems is likely to be wider than the statistics suggest, as many women and their parents are reluctant to seek prosecution for fear of scandal that would destroy their other daughters’ chances of getting married, analysts say.
Sociologists and women’s rights advocates attribute the disturbingly persistent trends to rising consumerism in India, where once-scarce and unaffordable goods like appliances and motor vehicles are now available but still beyond the reach of many families.
Bride-burning and other fatal attacks over disappointing dowries began tapering off after independence as education and income levels began a slow rising trend, said Vishakha Desai, a former president of the Asia Society and professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.