(sanskrit) bhAvAkUta n. the first emotions of love

Bride Burning

Dowry has been part of the Indian culture and tradition for years. When a Hindu girl gets married, parents give presents to the bride and groom based on their social and financial position. The ancient concept was that the Hindu girl could not get part of the inheritance so the father would provide her material things in lieu. Over time concept of dowry has gotten distorted with the groom’s family making demand for lavish presents like cars, cash, house or gold. When the bride’s family is unable to satisfy these unreasonable demands, the in-laws can take the drastic step of dousing the girl with an inflammable liquid and setting her on fire. Husbands who indulge in this act of bride burning see it as a way of getting rid of their wives so that they can remarry for a bigger dowry.

India has a number of cases every year of bride burning. However, a lot of cases do not get reported to the police so an exact number can not be recorded. Invariably bride burning is disguised as a kitchen accident.

According to the Indian Penal Act, giving or asking dowry is prohibited. If anyone is reported, they can be arrested and tried under The Dowry Prohibition Act. According to Time Magazine the number of bride burning cases have increased from 400 in early 1980s to 5,800 in 1990s. It is not known whether the bride burning cases had increased or the number of police reports have increased.

The Government of India is trying its best to curb the menace of bride burning. The police has set up offices for these cases across the country with special shelters and homes for the victims. However, the victims after having survived the ordeal still face ostracization from families and society should they report the crime.

A women’s group located in Bangalore estimates that three to five women suffering from severe burn injuries are taken to a burns unit at Victoria City Hospital everyday. According to the statistics released by the Government of India in 2001, 7,000 women were killed by husbands and in-laws because of less dowry or inability to pay more dowry.

Bride burning is a social stigma which India is trying hard to fight. However, women organizations claim that not enough is being done to protect women and women rights specially when witnesses can be intimidation or police are indifferent during investigating.

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