Why dowry deaths have risen in India?

Author name: 
Geetika Dang
Vani S. Kulkarni
Raghav Gaiha

The present study builds on the extant literature on dowry deaths in India. We analyse the extent of rise of and reasons underlying dowry deaths between 2001-2016, using a nation-wide panel survey, supplemented by another analysis that focuses on a panel of two cross-sections for 2001 and 2011. A key hypothesis to explain the rise in dowry deaths is the marriage squeeze causing dowry inflation and deaths. Our analysis offers a robust confirmation, based on alternative measures of marriage squeeze. Other explanatory factors include state affluence, education of women, nature of state governance, convictions against dowry deaths, and an important Supreme Court judgment in 2010 that made it compulsory to establish prior harassment of a victim by the male spouse and his relatives arising from dowry. Glaring inefficiencies of the police and judiciary systems in registering dowry deaths and punishing the perpetrators are highlighted. Anti-dowry legislation is not to be judged by its intent but by its implementation. Besides, aggressive masculinity can’t be curbed without addressing powerful influences of gender norms and systems of inequality. In brief, the challenges of curbing the growing menace of dowry deaths are many but effective solutions are few.

Publication file: 

Updated:  25 February 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team