Dowry, Dowry death, dowry murder, stop dowry, prevent dowry
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Dowry Killings: Why Does It Happen and How Can We Prevent It?



Dowry is a social custom where a man and his family demand assets and money from the bride’s family. Even though dowry is declared illegal in India and other neighboring countries, this practice is still highly prevalent in these region. To know more about this custom, it’s background and consequences, read our post Dowry- The Leading Cause of Female Infanticides and Foeticides in Indian Sub-continent


What is dowry killings ?


In some cases, greed of the guy’s family persists after marriage and the demand for money or expensive items does not end after marriage . In these cases, often the girls are tortured and severely abused to bring cash from her father. Failure to do so leads to extreme torture, murder or suicide of the girls

Killing a new married girl for dowry is very prevalent in Indian society. Despite many State and National level initiatives, laws, campaign and educational program, murder of a girl by her husband’s family for dowry is still quite common. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 7,634 women died in 2015 – 20 every day – due to dowry harassment. They were either murdered or took  their own lives.


dowry killing, dowry murder, prevent dowry, stop dowry


Why it is so difficult to abolish this social evil?


The roots of dowry killings lie in severe gender discrimination.  Girls are considered as burdens. Society expects the husband and his family must be compensated to take care of the girl for the rest of the life.

In almost ALL marriages in India, every girl brings jewelries, furniture and other expensive gifts from her family to her husband’s family. It is NEVER even considered as wrong or something to be ashamed of as this is a culture and tradition.  Guests, relatives and neighbors on any wedding are always inquisitive about ‘what did she get from her father?’


Even highly educated and economically self independent girls would not get married without bringing jewelry, furniture and other expensive gifts from their parents as a tradition. Breaking this tradition is usually associated with dishonoring one’s family in the society and a risk of being tortured or abused after marriage.


For those who are wondering –

Why does a girl endure such horrific torture for dowry ?


Answer to this question also lies very deeply in the culture, but the main reasons are –

1. Once married off, returning to her parent’s home is considered as disgraceful both for the girl and her parents.

2. Girls are taught not to question her in-laws and husband, to tolerate and compromise with everything comes their way, and not to speak up. Girls are often blamed by the societies and relatives if a marriage fails.

3. Girls do not have equal value in the society as boys, and are not raised equally as boys. They are often considered as a liability. They are not raised up to be economically independent and to take care of themselves. Instead, girls are expected to stay at home to take care of the family. Even while facing extreme torture, they try their best to put up with it as they do not want to be a burden to their father again.

4. The last, but the most horrific reality is, in many cases girls parents are aware of the torture, and demand of continuous dowry after marriage. On one hand they try their best to meet the demand, and on the other hand,  pressurize their daughter to ‘adjust’ and try to be happy with her husband.


I lost the count in how many reported cases of dowry deaths, I have heard the very similar story – where a girl was scared to return to her husband’s home but parents sent her back, only to receive the news of her death after few days!


It is not true that none of these parents loved their daughters or wanted her to die. The stigma associated with the failed marriage of a daughter, or the fear of having to take care of her for the rest of her life ALWAYS overpowers the common sense!


While combating a social evil like Dowry Killing is not simple and needs time and a proper strategy, every parent should ensure that their daughter is valued, cared, loved and empowered enough so that she doesn’t choose to endure torture by her husband’s family over coming back to her parents.


For everyone in the society, here are few Do’s and Don’ts to prevent the death of our daughters


  • Neither accept nor give dowry under any circumstance. Under Indian law, both who give and those who receive dowries are liable to fines and imprisonment.


  • DON’T teach your daughter that remaining silent will make her marriage successful.


  • Be alert of any unexplained or suspicious injury, bruises or illness of your daughter after her marriage.


  • Look out for possible red flags if your daughter is repeatedly asking for large amount of money after marriage.


  • NEVER force your daughter to go back to her husband’s family if she is showing very strong resistance. Pay serious attention if you see signs of abnormally silent or depressive behavior of your daughter after her marriage.


  • Please be aware and look out for red flags of a new bride / girl being tortured or abused by in-laws and husband, in your neighborhood. Take immediate intervention by informing the girl’s parents or the local authority before it is too late.


  • Help your daughter to become confident and independent rather than considering her as a burden. Save money for her education, not for her dowry.


  • Educate and create awareness in your social and personal circle against dowry.


Last but not the least , an appeal to the newer generation and those who are yet to get married – Be the face of a very big change. Some young activists in India has set up online matrimonial sites like Without Dowry and Dowry Free Marriage  to register for dowry free marriage. Considering the far-reaching consequences, it is time for all of us to stand up against this evil practice. If you find it really challenging to oppose such a strong and old social custom, please follow our A Step by Step guide for Men To Create A Gender Equal Society, for more guidance and resources.


Please help raise awareness against dowry and dowry deaths by sharing this post.

A Clinical Researcher by profession, I am originally from India; now live in California with my family. I am an advocate of gender equality and women empowerment. I am also a Certified Reiki Healer and a Certified Sexual Assault Counselor and Advocate. I write about women's rights, equality and gender based issues to create awareness and to include every body in my fight against gender discrimination.


  • Nisha

    Very nicely written about a very sensitive topic in India. I think Modi should do something more to stop all these dowry crimes. He has already done some like giving death sentence to the rapists of the victims below 12 years. Hope he does something to stop DOWRY !

  • Swagata Sen

    Thank you so much Nisha ! I know India has seen lot of positive changes over last two decade..But a custom like dowry is so difficult to completely abolish because it is blended with our culture ! And that makes me really sad ! We are taught not to question our tradition and just to comply with it ..people make such a big deal out of it when some one doesn’t comply with the tradition – however irrelevant, wrong or harmful that might be! Thanks for your comments and I am really glad that you liked it.

  • jennybhatia

    Gosh, I really did not know this kind of thing happened. You have written this post to bring awareness to something horrific, very brave of you to put this out there. We are raised so differently here in the states as women. Maybe we take it for granted.

    • Swagata Sen

      Yes,I agree with you that sometimes it might challenging for people from different cultures to identify with how people specially girls and women live in some other parts of the world. And that is why I am trying to talk about these issues, which are usually not discussed openly.

  • notquitesupermommn

    This is such a very important topic to raise awareness to others. I had no idea how widespread it still is, very shocking.

  • Scott J DeNicola

    I’m sorry that this is still happening in this day and age. It amazes me how poorly women are treated elsewhere throughout the world. I am raising two girls and we always instill in them their worth in this world. Thank you for keeping light on this topic.

  • Despite Pain

    It’s shocking to know that this still goes on. I hope that the work you do in highlighting this actually helps. It will take time, but your voice must be a comfort to so many women. They are too afraid to speak out, so you are making a huge difference.

  • Nikita Hall

    This is so incredibly sad to hear. I knew it existed, but I’ll be honest in that I thought it was a thing of the past. Education is so, SO important on the subject, and I believe the only thing that stands a chance of enacting long term change.

  • Livelearnbetter (@livelearnbetter)

    I’m from Africa, and we pay dowry as a sign of appreciation to the bride’s family for raising a woman and trusting us with their daughter.
    Many families have started rejecting any monetary gifts, but accepts other items like fruits, drinks and any items useful for the bride is given to her.

    • Swagata Sen

      Ohh that’s very interesting! Thanks for sharing your tradition in terms of dowry. Wondering if you would like to share the custom of ‘dowry’ in Africa on a guest post? Thank You!

  • Johnny Quid

    Wow…no words. This is disgusting. I had no idea that something like this even went on…and yet it doesn’t surprise me all that much. And all in the name of “tradition”. Sick. I hope the Indian government is doing everything in their power to bring this to a screeching halt, because EVERYONE needs to know about this and work together to end this NOW.

    • Swagata Sen

      There have been several laws and initiatives by Government, and many non-profit organizations. But like many other harmful social and cultural customs, it is difficult to enforce laws when these customs are so widespread.

    • Swagata Sen

      Thank you so much ! Would be really great if you could share these posts in your network, where there could potentially be lot many people who could be benefited by these posts.

      • travelwisesr

        Sure I will Swagata in the next few days.I have been traveling for work & was not getting the time & the poor network.The issues that you highlight are so close to my heart really & I admire you for trying to bring it to the world.Would actually love to meet you sometime.

  • Lene Andersen

    Thanks for writing this post so more people can know of these horrific acts of violence. There a log way to go, but the more people that talk about it, the better we can fight it.

    • Swagata Sen

      I totally agree with you that more and more people must speak up. We try to ignore or internalize these situations, and that is these continue to happen silently, for generations!

  • Nina

    Some customs and traditions must be kept in order to identity but others like dowry, need to be complete abolished because it hinders people from truly living at the present time.

  • Lindsay Rae

    I’ve heard of Dowry but had no idea the detrimental effects of this practice! As I was reading your article my jaw was dropping. It is so disheartening to know that these sorts of things still happen throughout the world. This was a brave and very important piece, thank you for writing it and spreading this awareness.

  • lforsythe7040

    It blows my mind that something like this still occurs. You talk about how dowry is part of a culture – does that mean that Indian people living in the other countries still practice this, or is it limited to the geographical area of India and the surrounding countries?

    • Swagata Sen

      Can’t say for sure as I do not have any supportive data. It is also difficult to collect genuine information on this as people might not be very open or honest in sharing this information. There is a very high chance that they might do as it is a tradition which must be followed, for some families. Having said that, some times people living abroad for many years could be more open minded, and more aware about the harmful sides of this tradition. Thank you so much for taking your time in reading and commenting!

  • Megan McC

    Thank you for bringing such important topics to light. I’m glad that you have provided us with information about Dowry killings and how to identify it and help stop it. Thank you.

  • erica3639

    This is both shocking and sad that this still happens. There’s kind of an expectation that with all the advancements we’ve made in this day and age, this kind of thing should not still be happening. Thank you for keeping it in the spotlight.

  • Mary

    Thank you for speaking out an empowering other women to stand up for themselves, even against societal prejudices. I love reading your posts. People need to understand these practices are going on and stop ignoring them.

  • angienh86

    I will never understand how social stigmas overpower common sense and love for a child. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a woman in this type of society.

  • Fly Away Godddess

    I remember when I first learned about these killings and I thought to myself this is by far the most awful ting that could ever happen- and that this should be real. My heart hurts to hear these stories.

    • Swagata Sen

      I can totally relate. Even though I am so well aware about this practice, each time I read or hear about a new incidence, my heart aches. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • stylelullaby

    Women definitely need to stand up for themselves despite social stigmas and societal prejudices. Thank you for raising awareness on this issue.

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