Bride burning: A unique and ongoing form of gender-based violence

Elsevier, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Volume 75, October 2020, 102035
Authors: 
Navpreet Kaura and Roger W. Byard

Despite legislation, dowry is still widespread in many parts of India and adjacent countries. It refers to the transfer of goods, money, and property to a bridegroom, his parents, or his relatives from a bride's family as a condition of the marriage. One of the consequences of the dowry system has been the murder or abetted suicide of young wives, either because more dowry goods were not provided to her husband or his family, or to secure the goods after marriage. In 2015 7634 women died due to dowry harassment, representing approximately 21 cases per day in India. The majority of dowry deaths occur within the first three years of marriage. Common types of dowry death homicides involve fire (‘bride burning’, drowning, poisoning and hanging/strangulation. In addition to legislation, an organized and multipronged approach is need by investigating police officers, women's’ welfare organizations, responsible public servants, and the judiciary with consistent applications of deterrent penalties. Full and properly conducted medicolegal investigation is mandatory which must include scene examinations, full autopsies with photographic documentation and ancillary investigations such as headspace analyses. Significant burns in young Indian women living in traditional circumstances should raise the possibility of dowry-related crime.