NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) - Less than a third of murders involving women killed due to dowry demands in India have resulted in convictions in the last five years, the country's minister for women and child development said on Thursday, calling on the police to do more.
Dowries – often in the form of jewellery, expensive clothing, cars and money -- are given in India by the bride's family to the groom and his parents, traditionally to ensure the bride will be comfortable and looked after in her new home.
The custom, outlawed more than five decades ago but still widely practised, is often exploited with the groom's family demanding more money after marriage leading to mental and sometimes physical harassment, which often drives the woman to suicide.
In the worst cases, she is murdered by her husband and his family for not fulfilling their demands.
According to a written reply in country's upper house of parliament, Krishna Tirath, women and child minister, said conviction rates for dowry-related murders over the past five years were relatively unchanged with 23.3 percent in 2010 compared to 27.3 percent in 2006.
"The primary responsibility of prevention, detection, registration, investigation and prosecution of crimes, including crimes against women, lies with the state governments..." a statement from Tirath's ministry quoted the minister as saying in her reply to legislators.
Tirath said making police more sensitive to gender violence, minimising delays in investigations of crimes against women, and setting up 'women cells' to specifically deal with such cases in some areas was necessary.
According to latest figures from India's National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there were 8,391 cases of dowry-related deaths in the country in 2010 compared to 8,383 the previous year.
The NCRB also said there were almost 90,000 cases of torture and cruelty towards women by their husbands or family in 2010, an increase of five percent from 2009.