Dowry deaths are the deaths of young women in primarily India who are murdered or driven to suicide by continuous harassment and torture by husbands and in-laws in an effort to extort an increased dowry. Dowry death is considered one of the many categories of violence against women in India, alongside bride burning, Eve teasing, and acid throwing.
Self-immolation, particularly by wedded women, has been a perennial aspect of Indian culture. Since ancient times, the act of sati, has been viewed by Indian society as a respectful way for a recently widowed woman to illustrate dedication to her deceased husband. In recent times the deaths of Indian women by self-immolation have been more frequently attributed to dowry conflicts. This historical pretext is only relevant to the cases of dowry death in which the victim claims her own life and does not account for those in which the victim is murdered by the groom’s family.
Most dowry deaths occur when the young woman, unable to bear the harassment and torture, commits suicide. Most of these suicides are by hanging, poisoning or by fire. Sometimes the woman is killed by setting her on fire; this is known as "bride burning", and sometimes disguised as suicide or accident.
According to Indian National Crime Record Bureau, there were 1,948 convictions and 3,876 acquittals in dowry death cases in the year 2008. According to Indian police, every year it receives over 2,500 reports of bride-burning  The Indian National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports that there were about 8172 dowry death cases registered in India in 2008. Incidents of dowry deaths during the year 2008 (8172) have increased by 14.4 per cent over 1998 level (7146). The accuracy of these figures have received a great deal of scrutiny from critics who believe dowry deaths are consistently under-reported
The Dowry Prohibition Act, passed in India in 1961, prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of a dowry, "as consideration for the marriage", where "dowry" is defined as a gift demanded or given as a precondition for a marriage. Gifts given without a precondition are not considered dowry, and are legal. Asking or giving of dowry can be punished by an imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to Rs. 5000. It replaced several pieces of anti-dowry legislation that had been enacted by various Indian states.
Indian women's rights activists campaigned for more than 40 years to contain dowry deaths, such as the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 and the more stringent Section 498a of IPC (enacted in 1983). Using the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA) implemented in 2006, a woman can put a stop to the dowry harassment by approaching a domestic violence protection officer. Due to demands by women's rights activists, the Indian government has modified property inheritance laws and permitted daughters to claim equal rights to their parental property. Some religious groups have urged the people to curb extravagant spending during the marriages.
Global advocacy 
The fight to end dowry deaths in India and other countries has not been confined to these nations' borders. Reports of these incidents have attracted a great deal of public interest and have sparked a global activist movement seeking to end the practice. Of this activist community, the United Nations (UN) has played a pivotal role in ending not only dowry deaths, but violence against women as a whole.
United Nations 
The UN has been an advocate for women's rights since its inception in 1945, explicitly stating so in its Charter’s Preamble, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted in 1966), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (also adopted in 1966) (these three documents are known collectively as the International Bill of Rights) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2012).
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), though predominately focused on improving the quality of education available to children globally, has also taken a proactive stance against dowry death. On March 9 (International Women's Day), 2009, at a press conference in Washington D.C., UNICEF's Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman, publicly condemned dowry deaths and the legislative systems which allow the culprits to go unpunished. In 2009 UNICEF launched its first Strategic Priority Action Plan for Gender Equality, which was followed by a second Action Plan in 2010. The aim of these plans has been to make gender equality a higher priority within all international UNICEF programs and functions.
Private organizations 
Amnesty International, in an effort to educate the public, has cited dowry deaths as a major contributor to global violence against women. Also, in their annual human rights evaluations, Amnesty International criticizes India for the occurrences of dowry deaths as well as the impunity provided to its perpetrators.
Human Rights Watch has also criticized the Indian government for its inability to make any progress towards eliminating dowry deaths and its lackluster performance for bringing its perpetrators to justice in 2011. In 2004, the Global Fund for Women launched its "Now or Never" funding project. This campaign hopes to raise funds domestically and consequently finance the efforts of feminist organizations across the globe - including Indian women's rights activists. As of 2007 the Now or Never fund has raised and distributed about $7 million.
A relatively smaller organization, V-Day, has dedicated itself to ending violence against women. By arranging events such as plays, art shows, and workshops in communities and college campuses across the United States, V-Day raises funds and educates the public on topics of gender-based violence including dowry death.
Despite a considerable amount of activism both globally and domestically, and the passage of international and domestic laws, dowry deaths remain persistent and their perpetrators consistently go unpunished. Although India officially ratified the terms and conditions of CEDAW in 2000, several organizations including the United Nations and the aforementioned Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticize the nation for not adhering to its terms. India’s reluctance to obey CEDAW’s mandates begins began before the nation even ratified it. When originally presented with CEDAW, the Republic of India’s initial report contained two Declaratory Statements and one Reservation. The first Declaratory Statement was written as follows:
"With regard to Article 16 (a call to the end of the discrimination against women in all matters of family and marriage relations) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the government of the Republic of India declares that it shall abide by and ensure these provisions in conformity with its policy of non-interference in the personal affairs of any community without its initiative and consent."
The second Declaratory Statement was written as follows:
“With regard to the [second part of] Article 16 (a mandate requiring the registration of all marriages with the government) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the government of the Republic of India declares that it agrees to the principle of compulsory registration of marriages. However, failure to get the marriage registered, will not invalidate the marriage particularly in India with its variety of customs, religions and level of literacy.”
India's only Reservation was written as follows:
“With regard to Article 29 (the compulsory adjudication of any and all disputes over interpretation to an International court of law) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the government of the Republic of India declares that it does not consider itself bound by paragraph 1 of this Article.”
In the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’s response to India’s Initial Report, several problems were noted. In addition to concerns regarding the Republic of India’s Declarations and Reservation, the Committee found that: the initial support lacked sufficient statistical data; India’s education system does not proffer the same educational opportunities to girls as it does boys; and that customs such as dowry and sati and traditional structures such as the caste system and religion leave women susceptible to acts of violence and harassment. In addition to these aforementioned nation-specific aspects which make adherence to international laws a complicated process, there also exists a great deal of fundamental obstacles to overcome when a nation adapts international laws for use within its borders. When organizations like the United Nations develop legislation to be applied in several countries the local contexts are ignored. Particularly visible within the realm of human rights legislation, the attempt to create a universal, “one-size-fits-all” notion of social justice leads to friction when the global vision for equality does not cohere perfectly with the already well-established structure of an individual nation. This dilemma is well illustrated by India’s reluctance to ratify CEDAW and its initial Declarations and Reservation.
See also 
- Kumar, Virendra (Feb. 2003). "Burnt wives". Burns 29 (1): 31–36.
- "Disposal of Cases by Courts". National Crime Records Bureau, India. 2010-01-16. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
- Bride-burning claims hundreds in India: Practice sometimes disguised as suicide or accident CNN, August 18, 1996.
- Point No.17, Dowry Deaths
- Caleekal, Anuppa. "Dowry Death". Retrieved 05-01-2012.
- Section 1-4, Dowry Act
- "Charter of the United Nations: Preamble". United Nations. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights". United Nations. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights". Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights". Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "International Law". Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women". United Nations. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "Statement of UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman on International Women's Day". UNICEF. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "UNICEF Strategic Priority Action Plan for Gender Equality: 2010-2012". UNICEF.
- "Violence Against Women Information". Amnesty International. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "India". Amnesty International. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "India: Disappointing Year for Human Rights". 04-09-2012. Human Rights Watch.
- "Her Majesty Queen Noor and Nancy Pelosi Join GFW to Announce Endowment for the World's Women". Global Fund For Women. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "Dowry Deaths & Bride Burning". V-Day. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "CEDAW Initial Report: India". United Nations. Retrieved 04-09-2012.
- "Committee's Respones to India's Initial Report". United Nations. Retrieved 04--09-2012.
- Merry, Sally Engle (2006). Human rights and gender violence : translating international law into local justice ([Nachdr.]. ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-52073-5.
Further reading 
- Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime, by Veena Talwar Oldenburg. Published by Oxford University Press, 2002.
- Dowry and Protection to Married Women, by Paras Diwan, Peeyushi Diwan. Published by Deep & Deep Publications, 1987.
- Crime in Marriages, a Broad Spectrum, by Poornima Advani. Published by Gopushi Publishers, 1994.
- Encyclopaedia of violence against women and dowry death in India, by Kalpana Roy. Published by Anmol Publications PVT. LTD., 1999. ISBN 81-261-0343-4.
- Dowry Death in India, by Geetanjali Mukherjee. Published by Indian Publishers Distributors, 1999. ISBN 81-7341-091-7.
- Dowry Death, by Kamakshya Prasad, Jawaid Ahmad Khan, Hari Nath Upadhyaya. Published by Modern Law Publications, 2000. ISBN 81-87629-04-5.
- Women in South Asia: Dowry Death and Human Rights Violations, by Pramod Kumar Mishra. Published by AuthorsPress, 2000. ISBN 81-7273-039-X.
- Dowry murder: the imperial origins of a cultural crime, by Veena Talwar Oldenburg. Published by Oxford University Press US, 2002. ISBN 0-19-515071-6.
- Death by Fire: Sati, Dowry, Death, and Female Infanticide in Modern India, by Mala Sen. Published by Rutgers University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8135-3102-0.
- Article by women's activist Madhu Kishwar
- Indian National Crime Bureau Data on Dowry Deaths
- Indian newspaper articles on Dowry Deaths
- - National Commission for Women, (NCW) India
- Death of two women due to dowry demands
- Leaders of community call for an end to lavish wedding celebrations
- Dowry Disgrace and Suicides
- Most dowry victims in State of Punjab(India) are poisoned