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Death of Vismaya’s dowry: an Indian imprisoned for 10 years for the suicide of his wife

The Kerala state district court found Kiran Kumar guilty under India’s ‘death by dowry’ law, which allows people to be charged with causing the death of a woman within the first seven years of a marriage involving gifts and dowry payments.

Dowries, which are illegal but common in India, are wedding gifts given by the bride’s family to the groom’s family. Kumar had pleaded not guilty.

Kumar had been married to his wife, Vismaya Nair, for just over a year when she was found dead in the bathroom of her husband’s family home in Kerala last June.

Nair’s family had agreed to give Kumar 100 gold sovereigns, an acre of land and a car as a dowry, but he was unhappy with the model of the vehicle and demanded more money, according to court documents.

Kumar was physically and verbally abusive towards Nair, according to the judgement.

“She had lost all the charms of life,” the court said. “She was so desperate. A feeling of discouragement overcame her. She was severely mocked because of the dowry shortly before death.”

In an interview with CNN last year, Nair’s brother Vijith said Kumar restricted his sister’s social media use, stopped her from calling her parents and even stopped her from steal “because of this dowry”.

“We gave him a good car, but he kept demanding a bigger, more expensive car,” he said.

He described his sister as a “brilliant and bold” person who “loved to dance”.

Although prohibited under the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, the dowry system in India remains deeply embedded in society and has become associated with violence against women.

In the 1980s, lawmakers introduced sections into India’s penal code allowing authorities to charge men or their family members with “death for dowry”. The charge, which can also be made for suicide, carries prison sentences ranging from seven years to life.

In 2020, the country recorded over 10,000 dowry complaints and almost 7,000 dowry deaths, according to the National Crime Records Bureau of India.

Kerala, where Nair died, has some of the highest literacy rates for both men and women in India, and is generally considered a progressive state – but it “shows brutal and persistent dowry inflation since the 1970s and has the highest average dowry in recent years”. years,” according to a World Bank report published last June.

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