Last week, a 39-year-old woman in New Delhi, India, died in an apparent suicide, which authorities are now investigating as a “dowry death,” the Times of India reported.
The woman, Anissia Batra, was a Lufthansa airlines flight attendant, who married Mayank Singhvi, an investment banker, in 2016. Shortly after they were married, Singhvi allegedly began abusing Batra. According to Batra’s family, Singhvi repeatedly emotionally and physically abused Batra during their marriage over her dowry — a sum of money or a bundle of goods that the bride’s family pays to the groom’s.
Batra’s story is not an uncommon one.
More than 7,600 women were killed or moved to suicide in 2015 as a result of dowry harassment by their husbands or families-in-law, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau.
That amounts to about 20 women every day, according to the Guardian.
Though the act of giving or taking a dowry has been prohibited since 1961, the dowry custom has persisted, as has violence against women that stems from dissatisfaction over dowries.
Even as marriage practices in India are changing, with people marrying later and moving away from traditional arranged marriages, parents continue to offer dowries fearing that no one will marry their daughter if they do not. That belief is reinforced by cultural attitudes that consider women to be of less value than men. In the context that women and girls are seen as a financial burden, a dowry is a gift meant to offset that burden.
But some men and their families are dissatisfied with the dowries they initially receive and later pressure their wives for more. Many victims of “dowry deaths” were women whose dowries were already paid at the time of their marriage, but whose husbands and new families hope to gain more by pressuring and abusing them, the Guardian reported. Others are victims of violence because they are unable to meet the requested dowry.
Rights groups have pointed to the giving of dowries as a custom that undermines efforts to establish gender equality and contributes to violence against women, which continues to be widespread in India.
If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can find international resources here.