India counts 1 woman killed every hour over dowry

NEW DELHI — One woman dies every hour in India because of dowry-related crimes, indicating that the country’s economic boom has made demands for dowries even more persistent, women’s rights activists said.

The National Crime Records Bureau says 8,233 women were killed across India last year because of disputes over dowry payments given by the bride’s family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage.

The conviction rate in dowry-related crimes remained a low 32 percent, according to statistics the bureau published last week.

Indian law prohibits the giving or receiving of a dowry, but the centuries-old social custom persists.

Dowry demands often continue for years after the wedding. Each year, thousands of young Indian women are doused with gasoline and burned to death because the groom or his family felt the dowry was inadequate.

Women’s rights activists and police said that loopholes in dowry prevention laws, delays in prosecution and low conviction rates have led to a steady rise in dowry-related crimes.

Dowry demands have become even more insistent and expensive following India’s economic boom, Ranjana Kumari, a women’s rights activist, said Tuesday.

She blamed a growing culture of greed as India opens its economy to foreign goods that the younger generation cannot afford but badly want.

“Marriages have become commercialized. It’s like a business proposition where the groom and his family make exorbitant demands. And the wealthier the family, the more outrageous the demands,” Kumari said.

Suman Nalwa, a senior New Delhi police officer dealing with crimes against women, said dowry practices extended to all classes in society. “Even highly educated people don’t say no to dowry,” she said.

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