The request, payment or acceptance of dowry has been illegal in India since 1961 under the Dowry Prohibition Act. There are several categories of crime under the prohibition of dowry laws such as dowry death and cruelty by relatives, however these laws and penalties have not eradicated the practice.
The laws can lead to charges that result in financial penalties, prison and legal means to recover dowry.
Statistics from the Indian National Crime Records Bureau (INCRB) show dowry related crime and deaths. Some of this has now been altered and what was a dowry related crime is now absorbed by other penal codes (eg cruelty by husband was a crime up until about 2013).
While death numbers are trending a decrease, some women’s advocacy groups claim this to be due to increased harassment leading to women committing suicide, with the real number unaccounted for.
India Today reported (April 2017) that 21 dowry deaths are reported every day, but the conviction rate is less than 35%, which indicates a further decrease in the overall statistics.
|YEAR||DOWRY DEATHS||CRUELTY BY HUSBAND|
Figures from the Indian National Crime Records Bureau 2015-16
The penalties for dowry crimes can be fines, prison terms and for some the death penalty, so cannot to be dismissed lightly. The lack of clarity led the Indian Supreme court in 2015 to establish welfare committees to review the laws in practice.
In Pakistan there are dowry laws, limiting the amount of dowry allowed, however there are also various Islamic laws that may apply (and not necessarily consistent with federal laws). The federal laws are in any case being diluted with recent amendments and there has been a rise in tribal and rural rulers ignoring federal laws, making such laws largely ineffective.
Sri Lanka attaches dowry to property rights and inheritance, the laws in Bangladesh are similar to India but with monetary penalties as well as custodial sentences.