Wondering Why?

Why Do Dowry Deaths Happen?

Dowry deaths occur as a brutal traditional norm in some societies in which the in-law family of the bride harasses her until her unnatural death due to the perceived inadequate dowry. The harassment may be directed by the in-laws in an effort to either receive more money or valuable possessions in dowry or simply to tease and torture the bride. Dowry deaths are a gender crime and is said to have many more reasons other than just the dowry.

The practice of dowry deaths is prevalent in countries in South Asia including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. One of the main reasons behind dowry deaths is that women are considered economically inferior and unproductive in the societies where this practice is prevalent. Furthermore, the objectification of women as the legal possession of the in-laws also contributes to the torture and harassment that ensues after the marriage. Despite the modernization of urban societies in these countries, the dowry death rates remain alarmingly high. The United Nations recognize dowry deaths and bride burning as prominent forms of violence against women.

Most of dowry deaths are either harassment-driven suicides or homicide disguised as accidents and suicide. Bride burning or the immolation of the bride of the family is one way how women die in this form of violence. Dowry deaths are a serious social issue in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and their prevalence is not confined to any one religious community. Pakistan has the highest number of reported cases of dowry deaths per 100,000 persons in the world, with the rate of more than 2.45 per year.

Despite legislation against dowry and the related deaths in countries such as India and Pakistan, complex social and cultural factors cause dowry death rate to persist with offenders going largely unpunished. International Human Rights organizations have criticized the governments of these countries for not taking enough measures to prevent dowry deaths.


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