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Dowry Disgrace

India's "kitchen accident" epidemic.

11:00 PM, Nov 28, 2006 • By ABIGAIL LAVIN
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Indian women have become casualties of the anxiety that comes with living in the world's most rapidly growing economy. Because they are not expected to work, women are viewed as a financial drain. This adds to the pressure to produce an extravagant dowry, and gives in-laws perceived license to extract more and more dowry gifts from a bride's family for years after the marriage. The most promising aspect of the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act is its guarantee of financial assets to women who have the courage to walk away from abusive husbands. Indian officials hope that this will give women the freedom to speak up about dowry harassment and other forms of abuse.

Though it appears promising, it remains to be seen what the new domestic abuse law means for women in India. An October 27 editorial in New Delhi's Hindustan Times wondered whether this new law would prove to be a "paper tiger" like the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961. Vigilant enforcement and public awareness campaigns will be key to ensuring that the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence act is more than just a straw-man law.

Abigail Lavin is a staff assistant at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

*This article originally stated that: "Recent studies found that 70 percent of Indian women have experienced some form of domestic abuse." This statement was based on a 2005 report from the United Nations Population Fund. The U.N. has since questioned the validity of this number, calling the report "misleading." Since this article was published, the Washington Times has retracted similar statements.