CAMPAIGNERS have warned about the hidden abuse that hundreds of women suffer due to disputes between families over dowry.
Support groups called for police to have more training over the ancient custom where the bride’s relatives give a gift of money, property or jewellery to the groom’s family.
It comes after a 30-year-old woman was burnt to death allegedly by her husband and in-laws over a dowry dispute in Uttar Pradesh in India, according to reports on Tuesday (2).
The victim’s husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law have been arrested. Charities are dealing with hundreds of cases each year of women in Britain being beaten up, burnt and imprisoned by their husband or in-laws over the amount of dowry they were given.
One of these is The Sharan Project which said it was a problem in some marriages involving a bride from south Asia coming to the UK.
The charity said: “The groom or his family abuse the woman, take the dowry and cancel her sponsorship in the attempt to send her back. “Where her family often view this as the bride bringing shame on them or that they did not give enough dowry to make the marriage work, the blame often falls on the woman.
“With no financial means of supporting herself, she is unable to return to her family without her dowry, nor move forward to make a life of her own.
“We hear countless stories where the bride’s dowry has been gambled, used for drink, drugs, repayment of debts or poorly invested and lost. This creates a situation where the woman is unable to escape from abusive situations and fears bringing shame on her family by speaking out.”
The centuries-old practice was banned in India in 1961 but is still practised there and here in the UK. It is also common in Bangladesh and Pakistan despite figures showing there have been 14,000 dowry-related deaths worldwide.
Mandy Sanghera, a human rights activist and government adviser, supported one victim named Rupa* whose boyfriend’s family wanted over £100,000.
Sanghera told EE: “His family demanded 12 gold rings, six pairs of earrings, a new car which cost Rupa’s family over £100k. She was asked to borrow money to set up a business and physically assaulted every time she refused.
“Rupa told me: ‘I never knew this was going to be the outcome from a love marriage. Why would he beat me?’ “We need to end such out-of-date practices. Why is it acceptable to sell our daughters so-called izzat [honour] – there is nothing honourable about putting others into debt.”
Mak Chishty is the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead on honour- based violence. The senior commander told EE: “The role of dowry is frequently identified by officers once they have responded to a direct report of domestic abuse, rather than it being reported specifically as an incident of dowry-related violence.
“There is no explicit flag on police report-logging systems for dowry violence as it is the violent offence that will be logged rather than the underlying issue of dowry. But the police are alert to the links that can exist, particularly in many communities from South Asia, between dowry and domestic abuse incidents, particularly when a marriage has broken down and there may be a dispute about the division of property.
“We will strive to ensure links are identified when preparing reports. Our first duty is to the victim of any crime to ensure they are protected, safeguarded and given access to justice.”
*Name has been changed