How can we prevent dowry killing
Around The World,  Socio-Cultural Norms,  Violence Against Women and Girls

Dowry Killing: 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, the practice is still highly prevalent in these regions. In this post, I am going to explain what is dowry killing and how can we prevent dowry killing. To know more about this custom, the background, and the consequences, read this post Dowry- The Leading Cause of Female Infanticides



What is Dowry Killing?

Killing a newly married woman for dowry is widespread in India. Despite many state and national level initiatives, laws, campaigns, and educational programs, the murder of women by their husband’s families continues to happen. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 7,634 women died in 2015 – and 20 every day – due to dowry harassment. They were either murdered or took their own lives.



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What is Dowry?

The origin of dowry lies in the patriarchal belief that a woman is a liability to her family. The tradition is that a man and his family are to be compensated for marrying a girl and taking care of her for the rest of her life. it’s a social custom in India to gift expensive jewelry, furniture, and other valuable items at the daughter’s wedding. It is deeply embedded in the culture. Families, relatives, and neighbors genuinely care about the gifts and assets a girl brings from her father. It’s also a matter of status and pride for both families.

Even highly educated and economically self-independent girls would not marry without bringing jewelry, furniture, and other expensive gifts from their parents. Breaking this tradition is almost impossible

In some cases, the groom and his family demand a huge dowry. Marriages are fixed on the family’s ability to meet those demands.  Sometimes, the demand for money or expensive items does not end after marriage. Women are tortured and abused to bring more cash or other assets from their parents which often leads to murder or suicide.



In a nutshell, dowry is an oppressive social custom where a man and his family get paid or compensated for marrying a girl!



Dowry Killing: Why Does it Happen?

The answers to this question again lie in the patriarchal culture –

1. Once married, returning to her parent’s home is considered disgraceful for a woman. A failed marriage is a stigma for a girl and her family.

2. After marriage, women are expected to be submissive, be silent and compromise with everything that comes their way. 

3. Girls do not have equal values and are not raised equally as boys. They are not raised up to be economically independent. Even in the face of torture, many women try their best to put up with it as they do not want to be a burden to their parents.


4. Women in India often have very little or no control and agency over their own lives. This makes them extremely vulnerable to injustice and oppression. 


5. Despite dowry being illegal in India, very few actions have been taken to stop the heavy exchange of cash and other assets in marriages. It is a very common practice across all socio-economic classes.

6. The last, but the most horrific reality is, in many cases, the parents of a girl are aware of the torture and constant demand for dowry after marriage. Usually, they try their best to meet the demands, while pushing their daughters to ‘adjust’ and try to be a good wife. Saving the daughter’s marriage is more important for them than saving her life, and they continue to ignore many alarming signs. 


I lost the count of the reported cases of dowry deaths, where I noticed this very similar pattern – the girl was scared to stay with her husband and wanted to return to her parents. But her parents sent her back and received the news of her death after a few days!

Parents often prioritize social expectations over their daughter’s safety and happiness. The stigma of a failed marriage of a girl overpowers their ability to protect her life.

While combating a social evil like dowry murder is not simple and needs a proper strategy, every parent should ensure that their daughter is valued, cared for, loved, and empowered enough so that she doesn’t choose to endure torture or death over returning to her parents.

How can we prevent dowry killing?

Here are some tips on how can we prevent dowry deaths-
  • Neither accept nor give dowry under any circumstance. Under Indian law, those who give and those who receive dowries are equally liable to fines and imprisonment.
  • Stop teaching your daughters that remaining silent will make her marriage successful.
  • Be alert of any unexplained or suspicious injury, bruises, or illness of a girl after her marriage. Don’t ignore any signs of physical or emotional abuse.
  • Look out for possible red flags, especially if your daughter repeatedly asks for a large amount of money after marriage.
  • NEVER force your daughter to go back to her husband if she  shows resistance. Pay attention to the depressive mood or behavior of your daughter after her marriage.
  • Please be aware and look out for red flags of a new bride/girl being tortured in your neighborhood. Take immediate intervention by informing the family or the local authority before it is too late.
  • Help your daughter to become confident and independent rather than treating her as a burden. Invest in her education, not in her marriage.
  • Create awareness in your community against dowry.
It’s extremely vital now to reconstruct the social and cultural practices of patriarchal societies. Considering the damaging consequences, it is time for all of us to stand up against this evil practice. But, to end dowry or prevent dowry killings, we must enhance the value of women in Indian society. The social structure must grant women more power and freedom. The question is, are we ready for it yet? Can we even imagine women having complete control of their own lives? As long as we continue to have men as the decision-makers, protectors and controllers of women’s lives, violence and oppression against women will never stop.



  • 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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