In New Delhi, India, “One woman dies every hour due to dowry related reasons on an average in the country.” In order to understand this horrifying statistic, you must first understand the concept of dowry, and the role it plays in Indian society.
In Indian culture, it’s tradition for the bride’s family to provide her with riches such as “gold, jewelry, and a trousseau, before she leaves her parental home to live with her in-laws.” This practice is a means of providing the couple with a sense of economic security as they begin their new life together. In 1961, India passed the Dowry Prohibition Act, which “prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of dowry as consideration for the marriage.” As exhibited by the horrific statistics concerning dowry related deaths, this law is widely ignored.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported that the number of dowry related deaths have been increasing. In 2007, 8903 deaths were reported. In 2008 and 2009, the number rose to 8,383.
Dowry related deaths are linked to the phenomenon of gender imbalance occurring within Indian society. Couples want to have boys instead of girls. This is because, if you have a girl, you have to pay dowry when she gets engaged. Oppositely, if you have a boy, you receive dowry. Having a son is more profitable than having a daughter. Often, women are abused if they cannot give birth to a son. This is a cruel and ironic practice. The gender of a baby is decided by the sex chromosome that each parent contributes. Women have two X chromosomes, and males have one X and one Y chromosome. The mother can only contribute an X chromosome; the gender of the baby at that point depends on whether or not the father contributes his X or Y chromosome. Reference, Figure 1.1
The highest population of women in any age group is around 52 million, whereas the highest population of men in any age group is around 65 million. This serves to illustrate the enormous gap between the male and female population in India. This age structure diagram also illustrates that the population in India is currently expanding. Additionally, it indicates that India is between the second and third stage of the demographic transition. The demographic transition has five stages; it’s used to illustrate a country’s change from high birth rates and high death rates, to low birth rates and low death rates. The demographic transition model below illustrates birth rate, death rate and population growth. See Figure 1.2
The problem of gender imbalance and dowry related deaths are prominent ones. I hope that as India progresses through the demographic transition that the culture of the country will progress with it. If this happens than the rate of dowry deaths and the gender imbalance should decrease. This is because, often as countries progress through the transition, societal traditions change with it, specifically gender equality increases along with female literacy rates. These changes often attribute to the lowering birth rate as a country advances through the transition.
I think the key to combating the issue of dowry related death will be in changing societal beliefs concerning dowry, and also by combatting gender inequality within Indian communities.