Stop Dowry Killings in India


Target: Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

Goal: Mobilize government to fight dowry-related killings.

Dowry, or traditional payments given to a groom’s family by the bride’s at marriage, is a fact of life in India despite being legally banned since 1961. As India’s economy has boomed in recent years, so has an epidemic of dowry dispute-related murders. How pervasive is it? Every single hour a woman in India is killed.

According to figures from India’s Crime Records Bureau, 8,233 women were killed over dowry disputes in 2012. This statistic includes members of all social classes, and multiple causes for this epidemic of murders have been proposed.

One is the extremely low conviction rate of only 32 percent in dowry dispute-related murder cases. Kamini Kaiswal, a lawyer for the Indian Supreme Court, blamed a judicial system which has failed to quickly prosecute cases as well as a neglecting of police to record newly-opened cases. Suman Nalwa, a deputy commissioner of the Dehli Police Department, has said “the existing (dowry ban) law has certain loopholes and needs to be made stricter. Despite the amendments made to the Dowry Act in 1983, good results are still desired to be achieved.”

Beyond legal issues, however, there must also be an effort to openly discuss cultural attitudes towards women. In the aftermath of the tragic December 2012 fatal gang rape of a woman on a Dehli bus, Indian society is having this conversation. And it needs to extend not just to rape, but dowry killings as well.

The Indian government needs to take firm and decisive action to stop dowry-related murders in India. It must commit to a long campaign both creating public awareness around issues of dowry and women’s rights as well as reviewing and tightening laws and judicial procedures. By signing this petition, you will ask India to work to fight dowry-related killings.


Dear Prime Minister Singh,

The women of India are suffering through a crisis of tragic proportions. It is estimated that every hour a woman in your country is murdered in a crime related to dowry disputes. Despite an official ban on this traditional practice going back to 1961, it continues today with tragic results. And the Indian government must act.

According to figures from India’s Crime Records Bureau, 8,233 women were killed in 2012. The conviction rate for dowry-related killings, however, is currently only 32 percent. There are multiple reasons cited for the epidemic of murders today. One is that the booming Indian economy has created ever-growing dowry demands. Another is that legal loopholes and a slow court system, as well as a failure to record new cases by police, have created difficulties for prosecutors.

Beyond legal issues, the current national conversation in India about cultural treatment of women must be broadened to include dowry-related killings. The public outcry over the 2012 fatal gang rape of a woman on a Dehli bus shows that Indian society is serious about addressing women’s rights.

The Indian government has a responsibility to take the lead in addressing murders over dowry. It should publicly commit to a campaign to address the issue, including reviewing laws and judicial procedures related to dowry crimes as well as raising public awareness about the issue. I urge you to mobilize the full force of government to stop dowry-related killings in India.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Prachatai via Flickr

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