Incredible enough, thousands of women still die in India every year in the hands of their own husbands because their family couldn't meet the economic expectations of their in-laws. Many of these cases were brought to the light after the efforts of different associations and individuals, fighting to eradicate at once dowry deaths. Most of them, though, remained unknown and what's more important, unpunished, because of the conscientious effort of the ruling elite to hide them.
Namrata was the center of maybe one of the most famous cases. Her death and the legal process that followed it put dowry deaths in the media spotlight not only in India but also abroad. The eyes of the world were carefully examining every thing that happened in that courtroom.
Namrata was 22 years old and a middle class graduate when she married Vivek in 1980 in Dehli, one of the most conservative cities in India. Vivek and his family were not happy with the dowry they had received from Namrata's family and started torturing her as soon as she got pregnant. In a visit to Namrata's parents, Vivek demanded a scooter on the birth of the child. Her parents didn't give in to his demands. Two days later, and less than a year after her marriage Namrata was found dead in her kitchen. Her body was badly burnt.
Her mother, Lavanya, started a four-year lonely struggle to get her daughter's murder to be punished. Finally with the help of different Indian women's associations Lavanya brought her daughter's case to the Supreme Court of India and Lavanya's in-laws summoned on charges of abetment to commit suicide. It wasn't until 1993 when a charge was framed against Vivek and his mother.
As in the Namrata case, Vimala's murder didn't go unpunished. For Vimala the harassment started right after the wedding. Her family couldn't meet the dowry demands of her in-laws. After less than a year of marriage and eight months pregnant, Vimala's mother in-law soaked her in kerosene and set her aflame. She was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Unfortunately most of the cases go unpunished. Many husbands know how the law can be tricked. This is the case of Shilpa who's murder is a perfect example of how planned these murders may be. Shilpa got married at fifteen, too young according to Indian law. She suffered the abuse of his husband's family, pressuring her to give them more and more money. Shilpa didn't stay quiet; she sought help several times in a shelter for abused women, to cope with the constant demands for dowry of their family. After counseling the couple was together again. She was twenty-two when they found her badly burnt in the kitchen floor. Her husband knew that according to the Dowry Prohibition Act, a death is only considered a dowry crime if it happens within the first 7 years of the marriage- Shilpa was murdered 7 years after her wedding. Her husband's family was powerful enough to interfere with the process. After an insufficient investigation Shilpa's husband was acquitted for lack of evidence.