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Monday, January 14, 2013

Dowry death in India

An outageous crime in India has gotten a lot of publicity, but the larger picture is that the status of women in India is a whole lot different from the USA. The NY Times reports:
NEW DELHI — Harassed for years by her husband and his relatives, an Indian woman was finally kidnapped, raped, strangled and tossed into a ditch.

For more than a year, the woman’s father has tried without success to get the police to arrest those accused of killing her, including her husband, who were charged but remain at large. The father, Subedar Akhileshar Kumar Singh, an army officer, says he believes his daughter was killed because her in-laws were not satisfied with her dowry, according to an article on Thursday in The Indian Express.

Such crimes are routine in this country, where researchers estimate that anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000 women a year are killed over dowry disputes. Many are burned alive in a particularly grisly form of retribution. ...

In a column in The Hindustan Times, Sagarika Ghose, an author and commentator, wrote, “A profound fear and a deep, almost pathological, hatred of the woman who aspires to be anything more than mother and wife is justified on the grounds of tradition.”

That tradition has for centuries been especially deadly for women who fail to live up to its ideals or reject them altogether. Using techniques pioneered by Amartya Sen, an economist who won the Nobel Prize in 1998, researchers estimate that there are as many as 100 million “missing women,” as Mr. Sen called them, in India. These are women who would be alive if they died at the same rates relative to men as woman die relative to men in more developed countries, and their ranks grow by nearly two million each year, studies by an American and Canadian research team concluded.
Wikipedia says that India prohibited dowries in 1961, but dowry death continues.
Tradition in India also results in considerable acceptance of violence. A 2005 government survey found that 54 percent of women in India said that husbands were justified in beating their wives, with the most common justification being if they failed to show proper respect for their in-laws.

Still, Indian husbands beat their wives far less than men in many other developing countries, according to comparable surveys done in multiple countries. Domestic violence levels are far higher in Colombia, Egypt, Peru and Zambia than in India, the surveys found.

But discrimination against women is so endemic and wide-ranging in India that deaths from domestic violence account for only a fraction of the overall risk of unnecessary death. “Other aspects come into play, like female infanticide, mistreatment of young girls in terms of access to resources, maternal deaths, unequal access to health care and so forth,” said Ms. Anderson, the economics professor. “Indian women face more dangers.”
The problem is not just that women are disrespected. India has a family structure where the husband's parents are in charge, and the wife can be beaten for not showing proper respect for them. This is in contrast to the USA, where the nuclear family is more common.

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