Bride burning

From ArticleWorld

Indian Government statistics show that husbands and in-laws killed nearly 7,000 women in 2001 over inadequate dowry payments. Bride-burning is term used to describe a form of domestic violence practiced in parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries located on or around the Indian subcontinent. In bride-burning, a husband or the family of the husband douses the man's wife with kerosene, gasoline, or other inflammable liquid, and sets the woman alight. Bride-burning is often disguised as a kitchen accident or suicide. Many cases of bride burnings are not reported as such, and the exact number of victims can only be estimated. In 2003, the latest year in which statistics are available from the National Crime Records Bureau of India, confirmed and reported dowry deaths, including bride burning totaled 6,208.

There are several reasons that may be cited by the husband and his family for bride-burning. These commonly include the failure of the wife’s family to provide what is seen as a large enough dowry, the wife's family falling behind on dowry payments, or the desire of the husband to rid himself of his wife without dishonoring himself. Husbands who participate in these crimes may believe that burning their wife is a good way to remove her without evidence, and may provide for an opportunity to marry again and thus receive a larger dowry. The first instances of practice of bride burning were seen in the latter part of the 20th century, contrary to popular perception that it is culturally and historically embedded in the South Asian psyche.

Ranjana Kumari, who runs seven domestic violence refuge centers for women in Delhi, believes up to 70 cases a month are linked to rows over dowry. "Sometimes women are tortured to squeeze more money out of their families and in extreme cases they're killed. Then the husband is free to remarry and get another dowry," she said. This type of murder is often called "bride burning" in India. When Nisha Sharma had her groom arrested for demanding cash from her family, she put India's illegal - but thriving - dowry system in the spotlight. Nisha Sharma has sparked a new mood of defiance among Indian women. Several brides have followed her and reported their greedy grooms to the police.

Dowry Crime & Laws

The giving of a dowry upon marriage has been part of many cultures, and it has continued and even flourished in many areas with large Hindi populations. The practice of giving dowry has been prohibited by law in India as of 1961 by the Dowry Prohibition Act (amended in 1984 and 1986), and has been regulated by law in Pakistan since 1976. In an effort to prevent bride-burning and other types of dowry crimes, police in India have begun setting up offices and shelters to help the victims of bride-burning and other dowry crimes. In many cases, even if a woman survives the burning, she could face a difficult recovery. In some cases, by simply surviving the attack, the woman risks rejection by her own family and society, which may blame her as the victim, rather than hold responsible her attacker(s). Even if the media does not write about dowry deaths anymore as it did in the latter part of the 1970s and early 1980s, we must not fool ourselves into believing that the problem has disappeared, says Kalpana Sharma.

November 2002

The International Society against Dowry and Bride-Burning in India was formed and incorporated in 1993. In February 1995, the Society received Tax-exempt status from Internal Revenue Service of the Government of the USA. The "purposes" of the Society are manifold: • to arouse public awareness against the evil of dowry and bride-burning in India • to provide medical assistance to the victims of these crimes • to provide legal and judicial assistance to the victims • to provide shelter and to educate, train and find jobs for such victims and foster their rehabilitation into social life, • to provide shelter and to educate, train and find jobs for potential brides in India and help them avoid paying dowry for marriage • to carry on all other activities to accomplish the foregoing purposes


In Pakistan, women including Shahnaz Bukhari, the chief coordinator of the Progressive Women’s Association, have been campaigning for protective legislations, women’s shelters and hospitals with specialized burn wards. Although the government of Pakistan has rejected any legal prohibition against dowry and "honor" killings, there are indications that pressure from within, as well as from international human rights groups may be increasing the level of awareness within the Pakistani government.

While some human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have active campaigns to reduce and prevent violence against women in India, Pakistan and other Asian countries, it is only within the last 30 years that modern legislation and protective measures have begun to be enacted to prevent these types of crime