Deaths of 3 Sisters Seen as Example of Dowry Violence

Trio allegedly chose death over continued abuse for payments in India
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2022 4:20 PM CDT

Three sisters—Kalu, Kamlesh, and Mamta Meena—married brothers in the same family and lived under the same roof near Jaipur, India. Last month, the sisters left a message for family members on WhatsApp: "We don't wish to die, but death is better than their abuse. Our in-laws are the reason behind our deaths. We are dying together because it's better than dying every day." Their bodies were later found in a well, where they allegedly jumped to their deaths. The bodies of a 4-year-old and an infant were found with them, and two of the women were pregnant. Per Channel News Asia, citing reporting by Agence France-Presse, this is just one particularly tragic example of dowry-related violence that remains common throughout India.

Dowry payments were outlawed more than 60 years ago, and there are criminal penalties for related harassment and extortion. Still, "the custom persists, particularly in rural areas, undergirded by social conventions that treat women as an economic burden." Indian courts have doled out stiff prison sentences for dowry-related crimes, but that does little to deter the practice. Authorities recorded nearly 7,000 dowry-related murders in 2020 alone, plus another 1,700 suicides, and those are only the victims authorities know about.

The Meena sisters' father, Sardar Meena, told the AFP that "life had been a living hell for his daughters" as their husbands abused and harassed them for more dowry payments. Divorce is not a practical option in India, where strict social customs mean just 1-in-100 marriages are ever dissolved. Per the Hindu, the father filed a police report when his daughters went missing; in it, he said one sister had called earlier telling him they had been beaten and feared for their lives. The three husbands and some in-laws have since been arrested on dowry harassment charges. The investigation continues, but the deaths are being treated as suicides. Civil rights groups have demanded the investigation be transferred to India's Criminal Investigation Department. (Read more dowry stories.)

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