This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Twishaa Tandon. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Smothered, Drowned, Beaten: Women In India Are Dying Nearly Every Hour But No One Cares

More from Twishaa Tandon

NFI logoEditor’s Note: With #GoalPeBol, Youth Ki Awaaz has joined hands with the National Foundation for India to start a conversation around the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals that the Indian government has undertaken to accomplish by 2030. Let’s collectively advocate for successful and timely fulfilment of the SDGs to ensure a brighter future for our nation.


Smothered, drowned, beaten, strangled and burned. Dowry and related crimes persist in India, even amidst the raging fight for equality. With one woman being killed nearly every hour as a result of dowry harassment, one wonders about the effectiveness of the laws that exist to deter and prevent such violence.

Tracing The Law

The government’s first action against dowry crimes was in the form of a narrowly and vaguely defined Dowry Prohibition Act (1961). Its complete inability to check incidents of dowry violence led to several vociferous campaigns in the 1980s that helped bring dowry crimes under the ambit of criminal law. Sections 498A and 304B were added, dealing with cruelty towards a woman and death of a woman within 7 years of marriage, respectively. Later, in 2005, in a bid to provide more comprehensive assistance to women, the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act was passed.

Yet, The Problem Persists

The harsh reality is that nearly six decades after the first law was enforced, women continue to be sexually, physically and mentally harassed and in many cases, murdered. As per data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 88,467 women, or an average of 22, died each day in dowry-related cases, just within the span of a decade (2005 -2015).

But this is just what the official records say. The actual frequency of dowry-related crimes goes way beyond this because approaching the police is often the last resort for women who’ve been subjected to immense mental and physical torture. “Even when a woman reaches the police station, it is not easy for her to get the police to record her complaint. Only if she can use some political influence or approach a senior officer and get his recommendation will the local police take down her complaint,” says Flavia Agnes, founder of Majlis, an NGO that has been working since 1991, to provide social and legal support to women on issues related to domestic violence and sexual abuse. In Majlis’s own experience of trying help women navigate the legal space, they’ve come across women, who, despite, having visibly grave injuries were sent back by the police, dismissed their claims as ordinary “wear and tear” of marriage.

To make matters worse, protection officers, meant to provide legal and financial assistance to victims are often, overloaded with work and are not well trained to help. Furthermore, unrelenting campaigns by people who believed women were misusing the law, paid off, when, as recently as July 2017, a Supreme Court order endorsed their claims by weakening Section 498A.

A comment on, just one among many online communities created to assist people facing false dowry cases.

Section 498A used to be a cognizable offence, which meant that the police had the power to make arrests just upon receiving a complaint. But the order changed this. The Supreme Court issued guidelines that directed family welfare committees, consisting of “para-legal volunteers, social workers , retired persons/wives of working officers, and other citizens who might be found suitable,” to produce a report within a month, based on which, subsequent action by the police is to be taken.

The implementation of these guidelines is even worse. There are too many instances where the police forced women into counselling and that too, not by certified marriage counsellors, but by untrained police personnel, for whom an underlying motive is usually, to try and preserve the family. All this, without a word of advice to husbands, who abuse their wives.

Such actions indicate how dowry system is so deeply rooted in the Indian mindset that it subconsciously works to the tune of patriarchy. It has maimed the law because those responsible for providing justice, don’t believe in their victims’ cause.“There is an obstacle at every step for women accessing the police, the courts and other legal remedies. To change this, our basic attitude towards women accessing justice delivery mechanisms must change,” explains Agnes.

Sadly, parents themselves, don’t support their daughters. Talking from her experience of dealing with dowry cases, Agnes says, “When a newlywed bride complains of harassment and violence (dowry-related or otherwise) the parents do not want to help her to break the marriage. They ask her to adjust and stay in the marriage.” With no help forthcoming, these women are driven to commit suicide.

As a result, nearly half the population is being denied justice in a country, where not only does the constitution guarantee justice for every citizen, but a promise has also been made to achieve gender equality and provide access to justice for all as part of India’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Awareness & Sensitization Paves The Way Forward

A lot can change if women are just educated about the law to help them fight for rights they are entitled to. NGO Majlis’s work proves this. Gayatri Gawde is one of the women the organization helped by guiding her through the legal process and making her aware of her rights.

There is also, a dire need for a massive sensitization campaign on issues of caste and gender, which involves all stakeholders, including parents. “So long as it is mandatory for a Hindu father to marry off his daughter as a religious obligation, the dowry problem will remain. Only when we are comfortable with the notion of not ‘marrying the daughter within the same caste and class’ the problem of dowry will remain,” adds Agnes.

The fact that India ranks 4th lowest in the Global Gender Gap Index’s health and survival category should already set alarm bells ringing. Solving the dowry problem can put an end to many other social evils like child marriage and female infanticide, that plague our society too. More comprehensive efforts need to be made that do not perceive creating laws as the only solution but also involves educating and training important stakeholders to women’s issues and empowering women to become stakeholders in the decision-making process.Through this, we can change the mindset of people and attack the root cause of the problem.


Featured image for representational purposes only.

You must be to comment.

More from Twishaa Tandon

Similar Posts

By neetibiyani

By Kalai Selvi

By Shambhavi Saxena

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below