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India: Where A Woman Is Killed Every Hour For Dowry

Sourjya Bhowmick,
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Highlights
*India has lost, on an average, 9,000 women every year or 1 woman every hour due to dowry deaths between 2005-2012
*There was a 23% decadal increase in dowry deaths, the child sex ratio fell by 13 points
*Punjab and Haryana have increased the child sex ratio and reduced dowry deaths

 

Women and children constitute around 70% of India’s population. While there are 586 million women in India, they are also the most marginalised section in society.

 

While this fact is well known, the key reasons behind this phenomenon are not so well understood. Nor its linkages with larger societal failures. And why it seems to be getting worse all the time.

 

Are, for instance, the problems (and indeed crimes) that women face linked to more societal asymmetries such as sex ratios?  Is there a link, for instance, between sex ratios and dowry deaths?

 

Women have faced increasing incidents of crime (crime against women saw a 69% decadal jump) in the last few years. On the other hand, there has been a remarkably steep fall in the child sex ratio (914 per1, 000 males), which is the lowest since Independence. Child sex ratio was 983 during the 1951 Census.

 

Now here is another shocker: 63,171 women have been killed in dowry-related incidents from 2005 till 2012, which roughly translates into 7,896 deaths per year, 658 per month and 22 per day.  Almost1 woman died every hour in India due to dowry-related violence.

 

We looked at the probable co-relation between dowry deaths and the child sex ratio and found that while there is a 23% decadal increase in dowry deaths, the child sex ratio fell by 13 points in the same period.

 

Figure 1 (a)

 

 

 

 

Figure 1(b)

 

Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, recorded the highest dowry-related deaths. The cases of dowry deaths have increased in all these states over the years. Even the all-India figures have risen every year. Uttar Pradesh with 12,254 deaths leads the list followed by Bihar with (7,136 deaths) and Madhya Pradesh (4,800 deaths).

 

However, if we calculate the same data per-capita we see that MP  is worst affected with 25.4 reported dowry deaths per million women in the state. Followed by Bihar 25.2 and then UP with 23 reported dowry deaths per million women in these sates.

 

The all-India dowry death number stood at 8,473 in 2011 but declined to 8,092 in 2012 and is averaging at around 8,000 a year. The data for dowry deaths during 2011 and 2012 has not been used in the table as the child sex ratio data is till 2011.

 

If we add this number to the deaths during 2005-10, the total number of dowry deaths is 63,171. So, during the last seven years, India has lost, on an average, 9,000 women every year or 1 woman every hour due to dowry deaths.

 

It must be kept in mind that these are reported deaths, based on police complaints. The unofficial figure, which goes unreported, maybe higher. Incidentally, around 48,891 persons were convicted during the period for the crime, which means a 78% conviction rate from 2005-12.

 

The North-Eastern states, known for their matriarchal society, combined together, except Assam and Tripura, had less than 10 cases in the period 2005-10. Delhi, infamous for women safety, had around 816 dowry deaths in this period, an average of 13 per month.

 

Contrary to popular belief, we do not find the states of Punjab or Haryana in the list. It must be noted that the number of dowry deaths are also driven by the population numbers. The North-Eastern states have lesser population than larger states like UP, Bihar, MP.

 

The prevalence of dowry and declining child sex ratio can be traced to worries of parents about a girl child being a liability till their marriage and the reverse thought that a boy would take care of them, earn livelihood etc.

 

So, do dowry deaths have any co-relation with child sex ratio?

 

Figure 2(a)

Figure 2(b)

The three worst states – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh – amongst them account for an approximate 15-point reduction in the child sex ratio.

 

Interestingly, most states that have less than 1 dowry deathper day for the last five years, have seen their child sex ratios rise. Punjab and Haryana, known as patriarchal societies, have done remarkably well in increasing the child sex ratio and have also seen a reduction in dowry deaths.

 

Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir are an exception in this data layering exercise because the states have not reported dowry deaths though the child sex ratio has declined.

 

Bottom line is that most states in India are seeing a rise the number of dowry deaths. Likewise, the child sex ratio has also been decreasing over the years; it was 962 in 1981, 945 in 1991, 927 in 2001 and is now 914.

 

If we do a back- of -the–envelope calculation, we see that around 80,000 dowry deaths ( 8,000 per year) is causing a fall of 16 girl child per thousand boys every Census (average drop between 1981 to 2011).

 

Interestingly, the total number of dowry deaths during 2001 was 6,851 and the child sex ratio was 927. When dowry deaths galloped to 8,473 in 2011 (23% decadal increase) it led to a fall of 13 points in the child sex ratio.

 

Women’s education, employment and thus empowerment are rising in both rural and urban areas but increasing dowry deaths, which impact the child sex ratio, are troubling, if not corrected soon.

 

Concerted Government campaigns and laws against abortion and dowry do not seem to be achieving their objective. Strong laws are evidently not enough to trigger a change in the outlook towards women.

 

What are dowry deaths?Dowry deaths usually refer to the death of women who are killed or driven to suicide by their husbands and in-laws for being unable to meet the requisite demand for cash and gifts, which are given to the groom’s family from the bride’s side.It is one of the most widespread forms of violence against women spread across the sub-continent, and also leads to female foeticide.

 

 

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