Various Reasons of Unnatural (homicidal and Suicidal) Death of Women
Dowry – What is
Dowry related Crimes
Abetment of Suicide
Cruelty by Husband or Relatives of Husband
Methods for Homicide and Suicide in Women
Bride Burning – What, Why
Material and Methods
Advantage & Disadvantages of Methodology
Challenges in Data Collection
Other sources of Data Collection
Effective Surveillance System
Other General Measures
Inference of Study
Annexure – I (Performa of Research)
Various Reasons of Unnatural (Suicidal and Homicidal) Deaths of Women :
Oedipal Dominance of mother in law over the
Husband may be Intoxicated, Epileptic, Insane
Deluded or Depressed
Wife may be Intoxicated, Epileptic, Insane or
suffering from any Chronic Incurable diseases
Quarrel with mother in law or husband
Failure in the exams
Frustration in Love
Dowry means the money, goods or estate
that a woman brings to her husband in marriage
Dowry is a continuing demand. It is not one isolated payment made initially at the time of marriage alone, but a series of gifts before and after marriage till the in-laws and the husband are appeased.
This custom of dowry has been in vogue since very ancient times
As per the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, Dowry is
Any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly—
2. By parents of either party to a marriage or by any
other person to either party to the marriage or to any
other person, at or before or after the marriage
Indian law states that any suspicious death of a married woman within seven years of her marriage is considered to be a case of dowry death unless proved otherwise by the defendants
It is a cognizable and non-bailable offence.
Dowry Related Crimes
Dowry Deaths has been defined in under Sec. 304 B of IPC as
When the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassments by her husband or by any relative of her husband for, or in connection with the any demand for dowry, such deaths shall be called 'dowry death’ and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.
2. Whoever commits dowry deaths shall be punished by imprisonment for no less than seven years, but which may extend to life imprisonment.
Abetment of Suicide
(l) (Sec. 306) -In Indian Penal Code has been dealt
'If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine’.
(2) Sec. 113 A of Indian Evidence Act deals with the presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman as:
"When the question is whether the commission of suicide by a woman had been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband and it is shown that she had Committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or such relative of her husband had subjected her to cruelty, the Court may presume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband.”
Cruelty by Husband or Relatives of Husband: (Sec. 498 A IPC)
"Whoever being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
a) Any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (Whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
b) Harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.
Methods used for Homicide or Suicide in Women
Burning --- bride burning
No specific definition of bride burning
May be suicidal or homicidal
Why Bride Burning?
The belief that a sati had great supernatural powers, motivated others to ensure that she burnt herself for their benefit. It was thought that a woman on her way to the pyre was capable of bestowing eternal bliss on anyone she cared to look upon; that she could descend to hell and force the powers of the pit to yield her ancestors, relatives and friends and bring them to salvation.
Sometimes, they are not available as they abscond or
they are in custody of police
They also pretend of rescuing the victim by burning
Not available during autopsy as not been informed
Parents also do not tell the truth just to avoid any
Unable to share the fact due to mental trauma
Bribed by in-laws to make the incident as an accident
Not available in many cases
If available, do not want to give any statements due to
Even at autopsy also, it becomes sometimes difficult
to know the nature of death
Other Sources of data collection
(Not used in author’s study)
Accident & Emergency
Local Panchayats or Mothers group
Community based studies
Prevention and Control of Dowry Death
Effective Surveillance system in married women deaths
A Reliable estimates of dowry deaths by collection and collation of all the data from various sources as mentioned above at the regional and national level
B Design of tools for distinguishing between accidents, suicides, and homicides
C One central agency should be given responsibility for all this surveillance work e.g., National Commission For Women in India,
Similar organization in other countries can also be appointed who can make quarterly reports on the subject. This Report should highlight
Magnitude of problem
Manner of deaths
Cost- direct and indirect of mortality and
This report can be utilized for advocacy at state, regional and national levels. The targets for advocacy in this matter should include the policy makers including politicians and bureaucrats. India has a large influence of cinema actors that can become channels of change for the public so they should also be the target of advocacy activities.
Useful tool for conceptualizing etiological factors
Useful tool for conceptualizing etiological factors
and identifying prevention strategies. Within this
new, stricter legislation to abolish dowry related
Establishment of voluntary associations to decrease
the importance of dowries in general.
Married female burn constituted 82.31% of total burn deaths including males, autopsied during 13th June 1987 to 3rd Feb., 1989
Out of the total 152 cases studied 70(46.05%) were accidental 47(30.92%) homicidal and 32(21.05%) were suicidal in nature.
Most of married female burn deaths 136(85.47%) occurred within 35 yrs. of their age.
Homicide by burning of married women -(48.93%) were done at an earlier age(16-20 years), While suicidal and accidental-(40.62%) and (27.14%) respectively burning occurred at a little older age from 21-25 years.
Incidences of burnt married female were mostly in Hindu religion - 141(92.76%) followed by the Muslims - 10(6.57%) and Christian - 1(0.65%).
Most of the Cases - 111(73.02%) came from
rural areas than the city locality - 33(21.71%)
and 8(5.26%) belonged to sub urban
Over the majority of the incidents - 37(90.13%)
of married female burning were either in low or
lower middle socio-economic class.
Almost all the burnt victims - 146(96.05%)
were either illiterate 81(53.28%) or poorly
literate that is educated only up to High
School standard 65(41.76%) .
In the majority of the cases - 105(69.05%);
victim’s husband was either illiterate –
28(18.42%) or educated up to High School
level only 77(50.65%) cases.
Almost all the victims were housewives - 147(96.71%) by their occupation
Victims’ husband were either in business - 33(21.71%) or in service - 30(19.73%) or in agricultural work 22(14.47%).
Majority of the victims - 116(76.31%) came from joint familyas compared to nuclear family- 36(23.68%).
In a majority of cases 78(51.71%), the family of the victims comprised of 6-10 members.
In majority of cases -126(82.89%), victims age at marriage were below 20 yrs.
Most of the homicidal (91.48%) and accidental (42%) burns were seen when the marriage took place, while the age of the victim was between 11,to 20 years;
Suicidal cases were most frequently found (75%) when the victims were married between 16-25 years of their age.
Most of the victims had arranged marriages - 141(92.76%) as compared to love marriages - 11(7.23%) cases.
Almost half of the incidents occurred within 5 yrs. of their marriage - 74(48.68%).
Most of the burnt wife victims died either issueless 74(48.68%) or after having one - 26(17.10%) or two 21(13.81%) children. More than half of the homicidal (53.19%) and suicidal - (53.12%) victims died before they had any issue.
During pregnancy suicidal - 5(15.62%) and
accidental - 9(12.85%) burns were more
frequent than the homicidal - 2(4.25%)
Burnings were more frequent in the evening
hours 49(32.23%) or in the morning hours -
45(29.60%) followed by mid-day –
37(23.34%) and night hours 21(13.8%).
Largest number of victims - 69(45.39%),sustained burn injuries in the kitchen followed by in the living rooms - 27(17.76%) and kitchen cum living room - 22(14.47%) while and 26(17.10%) victims received burns in an open space.
Most of accidental burns were due to either wood cooking stove (40%) or by the use of kerosene stoves - (34.28%); whereas amongst suicidal (40.62%) and homicidal (42.55%) victims match stick was commonly used.
Over the majority of homicidal-(57.44%) and accidental-(68.57%) burns were first noticed by the in-laws or husband of the victim while suicidal burns were generally first noticed by the neighbors(40.62%).
The large number of victims 127(83.55%) got some kind of rescue either by in-laws - 48(31.57%) or husband - 42 (27.63%) or by neighbors- 30(19.73%) .
Most frequently victims alone sustained burn injuries -122(80.26%) while husband in-14(9.21%), in-laws in - 12 (7.89%) and neighbors in--2 (1.31%) cases sustained burn injuries along with the victims primarily during rescuing.
In the maximum number of cases - 50(32.89%) none was present at the place of incidents- whereas one person in 30(19.73%), two in 19(12.5%) and more than 5 person in 14(9.21%) of cases were present at the spot during the incident.
Reportedly parents were informed in l27(80.89%) cases of married female burning while in rest cases 25 (16.44'%) parents were not informed till autopsies were done.
In a majority of the cases - 91(59.86%), medical officer was the first person to inform about the incidents to Police followed by neighbors in-23(6.57%) in-laws in 14(9.21%) husband in 11(7.23%) and parents in 10(6.57%) of cases.
Over a majority of the victims - 120(78.97%),.died in a hospital while - 26(17.10%) died at the spot and 4(2.63%) died on the way to hospital.
In the majority, amongst the hospitalized cases 66(54.97%), treatment were started between 1-6 hrs. after the incident and in - 31(25.40%) victims treatment were started earlier within 1 hour. In 22(18.03%) victims, treatment were started after 6-12 of incident and in - 3(2.45%) cases it was delayed beyond 1 day.
Most frequently - 84(72.13%) burnt wife victims were hospitalized in the District Hospital followed - 14(11.47%) in Medical College Hospital and 13(10.63%) were treated at Primary Health Centers amongst hospitalized cases.
Largest number of hospitalized victims -44(36.06%) died within 12 hrs. of their hospitalization and still another - 17(13.93%} cases expired within next 12 hrs. As many as 39(31.96%) victims could receive treatment for 1-10 days before their death and 22(18.03%) victims had treatment for more than 10 days but could not saved.
Most commonly - 72(47.36%), victims
were dressed in synthetic Sari, followed by
46(30.26%) in cotton and - 29(19.07%)
were putting on semi synthetic sari.
Kerosene smell could be detected in
41(26.9%) of victims.
Frequently homicidal - (34.04%) and suicidal (25%) victims died instantaneously or died within 24 hrs. -(40 42%) and (46.87%) respectively; whereas majority of the accidental victims survived for more than one day - (67.14%)
All suicidal - (100%) and homicidal - (95.74%) cases have more than (50%)burns, while many accidental - (28.57%) were having less than 50% of burn.
100% burns were more frequent in homicidal (44.68%) than suicidal (31.25%) or accidental (4.28%) cases.
In - 6(3.94%) victims (homicidal 4, and suicidal 2) both ante mortem and postmortem burns were found and other associated injuries along with burns were seen in - 10(17.10%) cases which were all homicidal.
Carbon soot in respiratory tract was detected in 26(17.10%) cases, generalized congestion of viscera in 112(73.68%) and generalized pallor in 39(25.64%) cases were found.
Singeing of hairs in 102(67 .10%),sooty blackening in 86(56.57%), Pugilistic attitude in 24(15.78%}, heat rapture in 23(15.15%) and heat fracture in 2(1.31%) cases were ascertained
Most frequently in - 100(65.98%) cases the cause of death was shock while 47(30.92%) victims died of septicaemia. In 4 cases there was head injury contributing to the burn shock.
This problem is frequent in low or lower middle class. Many of the victims are in the early periods of marriage with extensive burns. Moreover, newly married females are also much more vulnerable to accidental burn as they, in their new place at in-laws house, fail to acclimatize with all sorts of adversities. Though only few cases of literate women succumbed to this injury in authors study, yet literacy has little to do with these injuries as because female literacy itself as whole is low.
Even the literate woman fails to acclimatize with the situation and suicide is resulted. Many of the women die issue less or after having one or two children. Apart from this, dowry problem which results in bride burning is increasing day by day in spite of legislation. Usually the dowry problem exists in joint families and arranged marriages, where the burning of married females are seen mostly.
ANNEXURE - I
A STUDY OF BURNT MARRIED FEMALES IN MEDICOLEGAL AUTOPSIES
1. Age: Year Months Days
2. Victims Religion: Caste: Culture:
3. Husband's Religions Caste: Culture:
4. Education of Victim: Illiterate / Primary / Jr.High School / High-School /
Intermediate / Graduate / Postgraduate / Professional Degree
/Any other ......
5. Education of Husband: Illiterate / Primary /Jr.High School / High-School /
ii) Type -- Sari / Dhoti / Petticot / pant / salwar / Kurta / Any other.
iii) Material – cotton / synthetic (Terene, terrylene, nylon, silk) / semisynthetic (Terri cot) / any other
43. Was the death suicidal – Yes / No / Doubtful.
If suicide - probable.,motive - Quarrel with mother inlaw / quarrel with husband / quarrel with any other / unemployment / poverty / failure in examination / frustration in love / scolding / incurable chronic diseases /loneliness / any other - specify –
Did the victim leave any suicide note –
If so, what was the contents- give briefly.
iii) Letters if any expressing marital unhappiness- -------Yes / No / doubtful.
iv) Was any previous threat or Utterances or attempt of suicide- Yes / No
44. Was the death Homicidal? Yes / No / doubtful
i) If homicide - the probable motive- dowry / sterility / sexual jealousy / marital infidelity / any other- specify -
ii) If any note or letter expressing apprehension of hurt or death –
Yes / No / Not known
iii) If any attempt of homicide or homicidal attacks previously - Yes / No
iv) If In-laws and husband absconded after the incidence- Yes / No
v) Whether parents were informed ------- Yes / No
If Yes - a) after how long
b) when (in relation to the victim's condition)-
vi) Whether Police / relatives were having undue haste to complete autopsy- Yes / No
vii) If any dying declaration – Yes / No / Not known
If Yes - give contents briefly-
45. Was the death accidental - Yes / No / Doubtful
i) History of epilepsy / intoxication in the victim – Yes / No / Not known.
ii) Circumstances leading to accident (account briefly)
46. If the nature of death is doubtful then what could be the most probable nature –
Accident / Suicide / Homicide
47. Did the victim receive any treatment - Yes / No
If Yes i) first aid alone / hospitalized /any other- specify -
ii) place oftreatment- private clinic / P.H.C./ District hospital /
Medical college hospital / any other
iii) If hospitalized----date and time of admission.
iv) Time interval between incident and the commencement of the