Rashmi Goel

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India’s dowry murders, Gender violence crime, Dowry-violence legislation


This article focuses on the phenomenon of women who kill women in the context of India’s dowry murders. Killing by females is rare, and killing of other females is rarer still. India’s dowry deaths, where mothers-in-law are, next to husbands, the most accused and convicted, represents a unique opportunity to examine the mechanics around women who kill, especially in the context of a gender violence crime. The article examines both the roots of the dowry system and the current anti-dowry and dowry-violence legislation to demonstrate the implicit and accepted gender inequities within marriage that serve to under gird an overall system of female oppression within the marital relationship. This inequity is understood to be a positive aspect within marriage, but ironically negative within public Indian society. The article then considers various theories of agency and motivation from social science and feminist literature to answer why some women participate in oppressing other women in Indian society. Finally, the article notes some of the ways in which Indian courts are contributing to the oppressive power structure by limiting the application of the anti-dowry and dowry-violence laws.

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