Bride burning is a form of domestic violence that is practiced mainly in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is estimated that many hundreds, and probably thousands, of brides are killed in this way each year. However bride burning is traditionally under-reported so it is very difficult to determine the exact figures. In all the countries concerned, government action is being taken to try to limit the number of bride burning deaths each year, but the problem is that in some remote regions this is a fairly common practice to which many locals turn a blind eye.
Occasionally, bride burning happens among resettled Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in other parts of the world, including the UK. Although illegal even in the countries where it is most common, bride burning is not only still extremely common, it is also thought to be occurring with increasing frequency in some parts of the world. Bride burning is most typically a form of dowry murder, where a husband and his family murder a woman because her family has refused to pay an increased dowry (or in some cases has reneged on a previous dowry arrangement).
When this happens, one of the most common ways of ‘getting rid’ of the bride is to douse her in petrol and set fire to her.
Women subjected to this type of attack almost never survive, but it is clearly a horrific death and has been the subject of a number of campaigns in recent years. However, because bride burning is seen as a traditional way of getting rid of an unwanted bride in some parts of the world (even where divorce is an option), many families simply report that the woman has been killed by an ‘exploding stove’ and there is no further investigation (BBC). In India, the country that seems most affected by bride burning, attempts have been made to outlaw the practice. In 1961, the Dowry Prohibition Act was passed in an attempt to outlaw dowries altogether, although this has been only marginally successful. Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code also specifies ‘dowry death’ as a specific form of domestic violence and establishes strict penalties of up to life imprisonment for those found guilty. However campaigners argue that dowry deaths are under-reported and that, even when they are presented to the police, action is often not taken. For this reason there are a number of campaigns by organisations such as the Progressive Women’s Association to encourage women to be better educated and to resist such situation.
Bride burning is part of a broader ‘honor killing’ problem that claims the lives of up to 10,000 women each year in southeast Asia (UNFPA). Honor killings can take place for a variety of reasons, but bride burnings are usually carried out either to punish a family for providing a poor dowry for their daughter, or to free a son so that he can remarry a richer woman. The organisation Human Rights Watch states that although men are occasionally victims of such crimes, in the vast majority of cases it is women who are killed (HRW). This type of death occasionally take place in the UK, such as the murder of Turkish-born Tulay Goren in 1999 after she allegedly began a relationship with a man of whom her parents did not approve (Bingham). Honor killings are often tied in with religious practices, but in fact this is often a perversion of religious sentiment. The Qu’ran, for example, does not provide motivation for honor killings, yet many are still carried out in an attempt to comply with holy scripture. In Tulay Goren’s case, it is suspected that one of the reasons her family were so against her relationship (apart from the fact that they considered it their right to choose her partner) was that the man was a Sunni Muslim and therefore traditionally an enemy of the family. An estimated ten such honor killings occur in the UK each year, and in some cases bride burning is involved. However, UK honor killings most commonly involve children (usually girls) who show signs of embracing a western lifestyle and are punished by their family as a result. While progress is being made in the fight against honor killings in the UK, in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan change is slow.
Many in those countries are reluctant to end this traditional way of dealing with dowry problems (Onal) and many more are unwilling to investigate such deaths even if they do not necessarily agree with them. While the decision by the Indian government to set stricter penalties for such killings does represent a step forward, it is still clear that this is only the start, and that bride burning and other forms of honour killing will only be stamped out once real changes take place in southeast Asian culture. Bride burning is to many an abhorrent crime, but to many others it is a part of tradition. This means that change is slow and cannot be forced through overnight. Over time, the traditional beliefs that support bride burning may die out, but this cannot be assumed, and wiping the practice out entirely may be impossible in some parts of the world.
At a time when women’s rights are being promoted in many countries and are seen as an important symbol of progressivism, bride burning is a step in the opposite direction, and this may partly explain why it is still practiced in some places, since it represents a way of defying the forces of global cultural homogeny. This does not mean that campaigns against bride burning should stop, but it means that instant success should not be expected. Works Cited
“South Asia Bride Burning ‘kills Hundreds'” BBC News. BBC, 27 Aug. 1999. Web. 21 Oct. Bingham, John. Honour killing: father convicted of murder of Tuley Goren. 2009. HRW. Domestic violence in India. 2001.
Onal, Ayse. Honour killing: stories of men who killed. London, Saqi Books, 2008. UNFPA. A human rights and health priority. 2006.
Cite this Bride Burning: A Global Problem
Bride Burning: A Global Problem. (2016, Nov 05). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/bride-burning-a-global-problem/