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#Dowry Murders: 106,000 Women Burnt to Death in 1 Year

October 2, 2011

by Rita Banerji

In 2009 the notable medical journal The Lancet published a study that made a shocking revelation.  It revealed that in one year, at least 106,000 women were killed by fires in their homes in India.  That is — one woman burnt to death every 5 minutes! 

burnt for dowry by ron harmon

Photo by Ron Harmon. All Rights Reserved.

These results were acquired by collating records of death by burns from hospitals.  Most of these women were married and of 18-35years, the age group in which married women are most likely to be victims of murder for dowry by their husbands and in-laws in India.  Also upon speaking to relatives of the victims, the researchers observed that most of these deaths were under suspicious circumstances.  The study also noted that the police refused to investigate and in most cases refused to even open a case file, as is often the case in suspected dowry related murders.  As the Lancet study also noted, many women killed for dowry are burnt to death, because these kinds of deaths are easiest to stage as suicides or  kitchen “accidents.”

 Indira Jaisingh, a high profile women’s rights advocate, and supreme court lawyer in India, in a television interview had also pointed out that most cases never make it to the hospital or into police records.  So even these 106,000 deaths by fire per year are a conservative estimate, and the actual numbers are probably much higher Moreover, as Jaisingh has also pointed out there are many more ways that women are murdered for dowry, so there is no accounting for how many thousands of women are actually murdered for dowry in India each year.

 Every year thousands of young married women in India are blackmailed and tortured by their husbands and in-laws for dowry.  The custom of dowry is an old one in India where a bride’s family is expected to pay a certain negotiated sum in cash or kind to a groom’s family upon the time of marriage.  In 1961 a law was passed (The Dowry Prohibition Act) that made the giving and taking of dowry illegal in India.  However, the custom continues.  The dowry demands also don’t end with the one time sum paid during the wedding.  Increasingly, the dowry demands have become  never-ending, and continue for years after the wedding.  These include repeated demands for cash, for goods, gold, or even demands for larger monetary transactions, like for houses, land, or foreign education for a family member. 

Often when the bride’s family stop giving in to the demand, the bride is killed in what often are cold, premeditated, gang-murders.  They are hanged, stabbed, shot, drowned, poisoned or doused with gasoline and set on fire.  The last method is so prevalent that these murders are sometimes incongruously referred to as “bride-burnings.”

Below are some news reports of Indian women murdered for dowry:

Balrampur, Uttar Pradesh, Oct 01, 2012:  A 21-year-old, Gudda Devi who was pregnant at the time of the incident, had been married to Jhinkan for four years, and had been constantly harassed for more dowry.  She was burnt to death by her husband and mother-in-law.   Full report here

Lucknow, Dec 28, 2012:  26-year-old Jahnvi was killed by her husband Kamal Kishore, who is a milk man, around 3am on Wednesday.  He shot her at a close range killing her on the spot.   Six months prior to this, Jahnvi’s father who is a farmer had to sell a portion of his land, to give Kamal the Rs. 2 lakhs (U.S. $4000.00) he had demanded of her in more dowry, since Kamal was not satisfied with had been given to him earlier.  Jahnvi’s father says that his daughter was being tortured and that’s why he sold his land to give her husband the money.  However, after receiving the money, Kamal now wanted a car.  When he didn’t get the car, he shot Jahnvi dead!  Full report here

Allahabad, Gujarat, Nov 09, 2012:  Sushila Gupta who married Rakesh Gupta in 2009, often complained to her parents that her husband and in-laws were abusing her for more dowry. They wanted a motorcycle and Rs. 50,000 more in addition to what they had already received in dowry. When they didn’t get more dowry, Sushila was locked into a box with her 1½- year-old daughter, and the box was set on fire.  To ensure they didn’t get away, her husband and in-laws also locked the door from outside.  By the time the neighbors broke the door open and tried to rescue the mother and child, both had burnt to death. Report here

Surat, Gujarat, Nov 06, 2012:   27-year-old Puja was starved to death by her husband and in-laws because her parents could not pay more dowry.  “My sister was unwell for last several months due to hunger and her deteriorating health led to death. They were torturing her for dowry,” her brother told police in his complaint.  Full report here

Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, Jan 30, 2013: Shaikh Bibijan had married Chinna Qasim in 2005, a man she thought was in love with her.  However,  Chinna started harassing and abusing her for dowry.  Bibijan complied with his demands for money a few times, by approaching her aged mother.  However when the demands continued, Bibijan left Chinna and returned to her mother’s home with her two children in 2012.   She attempted to file a dowry harassment case with the local police, but as is so often the case, the police ignored her and did not file her complaint.  One evening Chinna arrived at Bibijan’s parents home, drunk and angry, and with a butcher’s knife attacked his wife chopping off her arms.  Bibijan used to stitch clothes to earn an income, which she can’t any more.  Her mother is very old and poor, and struggles to work to take care of her daughter and grandchildren, who often go hungry.   And the family still awaits justice. Report here.

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, August 10, 2012:    A 21-year-old woman, who had been tortured for dowry for three years by her husband and mother-in-law, was assaulted, doused with kerosene  and set ablaze by her husband and mother-in-law,  and later died of her injuries at a hospital on Wednesday night.  Before her death she gave a full statement to the police.  Report here.

Muzaffarnagar July 8, 2012:   Asma, who was married to Naeem, was beaten to death by her husband and in-laws after she could not meet their persistent demands for more dowry. The police have arrested the husband and his parents. Report here

Noida, Haryana: July 03, 2012 :  Jyoti who was married to Gyanender of Bisrakh area  two years ago, and was constantly tortured for dowry, suddenly fell sick and died in the hospital.  Her father Rati Ram, filed a complaint against her husband and in-laws and said that not only had they constantly tortured her for dowry but also killed her by poisoning her.  The in-laws are currently absconding. Report here

Ethah, Uttar Pradesh, June 16, 2012:  A married woman in her mid-20s and her two daughters aged three years and eight-months were set on fire and killed by the woman’s in-laws.  The woman’s brother said that the in-laws had been demanding more dowry since her wedding. Report here

Kanpur, May 22, 2012 :  Umesh Verma, and three other members of his family, including mother, were convicted for murdering his wife by and sentenced to life in prison. Umesh and his family were not satisfied with the dowry his wife Vidushi had been given at the time of her marriage and they were demanding a car.  They would torture Vidushi mentally and physically.  On December 8, 2010 Umesh and other family members beat up Vidushi and killed her.  Later they hanged the body from the roof of a room in the house and tried to make it look like a suicide.  Report here

Kolkata, West Bengal April 09, 2012 :   Raj Kumar Pandey, a police constable, along with his son, daughter and wife, poured kerosene on 25-year-old Anushka,  the daughter-in-law, and set her on fire because her parents did not meet their demands for more dowry in gold and a motorcycle.  Anuska died in the hospital. Report here.

Amritsar, Punjab, April 07, 2012:   For many women in India giving birth to a daughter is a nightmare, because their husbands and in-laws start torturing them.  In many cases women are killed for giving birth to daughters [See News reports here] To avoid this kind of violence, women often kill their own daughters after giving birth to them [See News reports here] However, Jagroop Kaur of Amristar, unable to bear the abuse over more dowry demands from her husband, set fire to herself and her 3-year-old daughter, killing both.  No arrests have been made. Report here.

Hyderabad, April 06, 2012:  Nazeer Khan murdered his two daughters – Shakirin, who was 8-years-old,  and Shajeeda who was 16-years-old, so he did not have to pay dowry for their marriages later. Khan strangled Shakirin and disposed of her body.  He gave Shajeeda sleeping pills and lay her body on the railway tracks where she was run over and killed by a train.  Report here

Orissa,  April 09, 2012:  Ratnakar Behera of Parang village, Orissa,  shot his wife Churni to death, and also shot at his mother-in-law grievously injuring her.   In 2007 Behera had married Churni and began to torture her for more dowry.  She filed a complaint against him with the police and eventually left his house and moved in with her parents.  Behera visited his in-laws demanding to take Churni back but she did not want to go.  Upon which Behera opened fire on the family, killing his wife.   Report here

New Delhi, November 24, 2011:  Rekha Rani’s husband, along with his sisters and mother, had tortured her mentally and physicall, even threatened to kill her, as they demanded dowry from Rekha’s parents.  On May 9, 2011, Rekha’s parents received news that she had died because she had hung herself. The parents believe her ‘suicide’ was staged. One of Rekha Rani’s sisters-in-law, Seema Singhal who was arrested with other family members, and has been denied bail, was a school teacher and a law graduate. The report here.

Herdon, Virginia, U.S.A. June 25, 2004:  Divya, 21, was hacked into three pieces, which were then packed into three suitcases and dumped as garbage in Herdon city near Dallas international airport in Virginia. Divya’s parents said that she was murdered by her husband K. Praveen Kumar for more dowry. Praveen confessed to having suffocated Divya to death with pillows and used an axe saw and a cutter to drain the blood and cut the body. Read the report.

Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, 01 October, 2011:  25-year-old woman, Neera Verma, who was six months pregnant, was murdered by her husband and in-laws for dowry in the Chakeri district. Neeru’s husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law had asked her to get them a motorcycle, a washing machine and cash from her parents’ house. When Neeru refused, all of them assaulted her with leather belts, strangled her to death with a nylon rope and later hanged her body from the ceiling of her room. Read the full report

Mumbai, 19 April 2011:  Komal Cheda, a 31-year-old  Bank manager at HDFC, one of Asia’s top banks, hanged and killed herself in Mumbai after being mentally and physically abused by her husband and his parents for dowry.  Her father  said Komal’s ordeal started immediately after marriage. Her bankrupt husband and parents-in-law kept demanding money from Komal to repay their loans. “Komal even gave Rs 2 lakh to [her husband’s] younger brother, for higher studies in the US.”  Read the report here.  

Patna: September 26, 2011:  Amrita Kumari was thrown into the river, off Patna’s Gandhi Setu bridge by her husband and his uncle on Wednesday evening. Fishermen at Rasalpur Ganga Ghat in Samastipur district, over 40 km away, saw her floating, unconscious, the next morning and rescued her. “My husband, his uncle, my mother-in-law and a family friend of theirs took me to the Ganga bridge in the evening in a car. My husband and his friend grabbed my hands while my husband’s uncle and his friend grabbed my feet to throw me down into the Ganga to die,” Kumari told a magistrate Saturday. Read the report here


anshuAnshu Singh was a bright, young woman, with big dreams of a successful career and a happy family life, who was killed by her husband and in-laws, in their greed for dowry, just 6 weeks after her wedding.  The 50 Million Missing Campaign has been supporting Anshu Singh’s father, Girendra Singh, in his fight for justice and we wish the family strength and courage to continue their fight till justice is done.   Click here to read Anshu Singh’s story.



slide 11 Roopa's story

Photo by Rita Banerji.

Roopa is a young woman, who had been relentlessly harassed for dowry by her wealthy, land-owning in-laws.  When her parents refused to pay dowry, her husband and in-laws pinned her down and force-fed her acid.  When The 50 Million Missing Campaign was alerted to Roopa’s case, we found that she was in need or urgent surgery or she would have died.  Her insides were burnt and she was starving to death.  The campaign has no funds, and we reached out to numerous well-funded NGOs, organizations, governments, in India and in other countries, requesting help for her.  We were running out of time, and Roopa needed immediate intervention.  At that point various members of the campaign directly donated and helped her parents who were very poor and couldn’t afford her medical bills. To read her story click here.


The photos in this post are by member photographers of The 50 Million Missing Campaign.  There are 2400 photographers from around the world who support The 50 Million Missing Campaign’s photo pool on flickr. To see more of the works by each of the photographers here click on the photos and connect to their individual sites.

© The 50 Million Missing Campaign. All Rights Reserved. Please see our copyright notice.

42 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2011 1:02 pm

    sooo sad …

  2. October 13, 2011 12:49 pm

    As someone for the West I am shocked, since we have been told that the West is materialistic and the East has special spiritual knowledge. Based on these videos it seems the opposite is true. In the West I have to live in a culture that often is too focused on chasing after material wealth, but at least most of my friends have some idea of the existential value of a human life! We don’t burn women!

  3. October 25, 2011 8:47 pm

    It is shameful and shocking how women are abused and that it is accepted by society….terrible!!!

  4. emery permalink
    December 16, 2011 10:05 pm

    it makes scene if these women were turning up riddled with bullets someone would want to know why. this is exactly what the Nazis did burn up all the evidence of the crimes!

  5. Jared Purdy permalink
    January 29, 2012 3:48 pm

    The woman who is the national chair of women thinks that just changing mindsets wil work? Is she nuts? Is there a process to change that mindset, or is it as simple as every Indian waking up one morning and spontaneously declaring an end to gender violence and discrimination???

  6. February 1, 2012 3:58 am

    Shocking interview with Girija Vyas who is an apologist for dowry murders! Women like this are our worst enemies in the fight for the right to life for Indian women.

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 2, 2012 11:02 pm

      you make an interesting point. I’ve been thinking the same thing for some time but I couldn’t come up with the right words for the situation. I call such women collaborators. unfortunately there are a lot of collaborators out there. it should also be noted that not all men are your enemies ether. there are men who have joined this campaign. I know because I’m one of them. I believe that all those responsible for dowry deaths should be lined up and shot! if this was done than maybe all the money, cars, apartments, oil futures contracts and whatever else they usaly demand would not be worth it. that’s the way to solve this problem!

    • February 7, 2012 4:57 am

      You are absolutely right. There are indeed many men who have joined and who support our campaign, just as there were many white people who joined the fight against racial segregation in the U.S. and apartheid in South Africa. So we thank you for your support very much and hope more men will join us!

  7. Narendra permalink
    February 10, 2012 1:19 pm

    Official figure is 7456 death and they are declining. Even one death is bad but then west also have so many woman dying because of drug abuse. Americans should better improve their own crime ridden society

    • February 14, 2012 6:37 pm

      You perhaps don’t know because you don’t work with this issue. But women’s groups, NGOs, human rights groups have repeatedly reported that the police does not register most cases of dowry murders. We have found that with cases we have worked with!! Your logic is strange. This is not about drug us. This is about murder. A human rights crime!!

    • emery permalink
      February 15, 2012 12:04 am

      is this some sort of a sick joke! your logic makes absolutely no scene. that’s like saying the US should have gotten unemployment down before stopping the Nazis from killing the Jews. i don’t know about the rest of you but I think that Narendra should be banned from making further comments for that one!

    • February 23, 2012 7:24 am

      @emery — Yes we are monitoring the comments. Narendra’s unfortunately is only a small representation of what a lot of educated, internet savvy Indians think!! We are wondering how does one change this mindset?

  8. emery permalink
    February 23, 2012 10:47 pm

    I might have gone a little too far in my condemnation of Narendra’s comment but only because some of the things I’ve said are also unpopular. the difference is what Ive said is intended to help the campaign. as for your question maybe the answer is to discuss more the secondary effects. I believe that war is a possible secondary effect of the elimination of women. one way this could happen is if an Indian man trays to impress the family of one of the few remaining women so he can get an arranged marriage set up by assassinating the president of Pakistan or China. so my question is do you agree with my position on this.

    • February 25, 2012 1:41 pm

      @emery — No when women are treated as ‘resources’, there are other ways around it. Increasingly, families of 4 or more brothers are now ‘buying’ a bride to “share” — and they keep her as a virtual domestic and sexual slave!! Rape is increasing at the highest rate of all other crimes in India. See our most recent post on the petition by Avaaz and please support it.

  9. August 1, 2013 6:12 pm

    Reblogged this on Homo economicus' Weblog and commented:
    Women being burnt to death for ther dowry in India … Truly horrific.

  10. February 1, 2014 4:31 pm

    And India Expects to Come Up In The WORLD ??!!
    It Treats It’s Women Like DOGS…..

  11. harsha permalink
    October 6, 2014 5:12 pm

    Girl committed suicide because of his mother in law she WS my frn

  12. April 8, 2016 4:36 am

    Reblogged this on iheariseeilearn.


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