UK & World News
India: Shock Dowry Deaths Increase Revealed
A woman dies every hour in India due to the demands placed upon her family as a result of the dowry system, according to figures from the country's National Crime Records Bureau.
This is an age old custom where the wife's family has to hand over endless amounts in cash and gifts at the wedding and beyond to secure her wellbeing.
It is illegal and the punishments are severe, but the number of cases is on the rise in a country that continues to grapple with the issue of violence against women.
Most of the victims of the dowry system die in the most painful way - burnt by their husband's family.
Neha, a 29-year-old mother-of-two, was treated in the intensive burns unit of a hospital in Delhi after suffering deep burns over almost half of her body.
She said her in-laws threw gasoline on her and set her alight. Doctors said it will take another six months before the bandages can be removed from her body.
Neha told Sky News: "The demands of dowry started right from the time I got married. My father gave whatever he could but their demands were endless and so was the violence and harassment.
"It got worse when my daughter was born. I never thought they would do this to me; they would beat me up and throw me out of the house in the middle of the night. But I never thought they would try to kill me by burning me."
The case is being investigated and four people are in police custody. Neha is now looked after by her parents at their home on the outskirts of Delhi.
Her father Virender Yadav said he did everything possible to make sure his daughter was safe, but never imagined the situation would get this bad. He wants the severest punishment for all those involved in the attack.
Seema Mishra said she saved herself from unbearable misery when she left her husband's home with her eight-year-old daughter.
She said the demands made were beyond her father's means. This resulted in physical violence and harassment which caused her to lose her first child. Unable to cope, and in fear for her daughter's life, she left.
Her case has been in court for five years now, and Seema's family have poured their savings into fighting it.
She told Sky News: "There is no justice in sight. There is no future for us, if have no hope for any support from anyone."
Since 2001 an estimated 100,000 women have been killed due to dowries. But the worrying factor has been the increasing numbers of such deaths and dowry cases registered by the NCRB.
Kamla Bhasin, a women's rights activist for more than four decades, told Sky News she was shocked by the rising numbers and believes there is a direct correlation with India's economic progress.
"It's really linked to greed of money and its linked to patriarchy. Traditional patriarchy is bad enough. This combination of capitalist patriarchy is lethal," she said.
The system has far-reaching effects on Indian society. It is the primary reason for female foeticide and infanticide. Activists estimate 500,000 female foetuses are aborted illegally every year.
For many families it is the boy who brings in the riches while a girl continuously depletes it.
Mrs Bhasin said: "Female foeticide takes place in the progressive states like Delhi, Haryana and Punjab, resulting in a distorted sex ratio.
"It's not the uneducated or tribals that practise this but the affluent societies in large cities and towns of the country. And all this for the want of money."
The horrific Delhi bus gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in December 2012 led to unprecedented protests across the country.
Under pressure from the public, the government passed tough laws aimed at protecting women. Fast track courts were established to try cases of violence against women and punishments were increased.