India: Before the three sisters and their children were discovered dead in a well, they wrote a message criticizing the family they had married into.

Kalu, Kamlesh, and Mamta Meena were the victims of a dowry dispute, in which Indian parents pay exorbitant sums to marry off their daughters.

According to the sisters’ heartbroken relatives, the sisters had married brothers from the same household and lived under the same roof, but they were subjected to incessant assault from their husbands and in-laws.

They claim they were assaulted on a regular basis, particularly when their father did not meet their demands for more money.
Last month, all three of them, as well as Kalu’s four-year-old kid and infant child, were discovered dead near their marital home, a village on the outskirts of Jaipur. Kamlesh and Mamta were both expecting a child.

“We don’t want to die, but death is preferable than their torture,” one of the sisters wrote on WhatsApp after they vanished, according to a cousin.

“Our in-laws are to blame for our deaths.” “It’s better to die together than to die alone every day.”
According to a top police officer in Jaipur, authorities are examining the fatalities and are currently classifying them as suicides.
Sardar Meena, the sisters’ heartbroken father, claimed his daughters’ lives had been a living hell since their spouses had forbidden them from continuing their education and were continuously harassing them for more money.

“We had already given them so many items, you can see them in their home,” he continued, pointing to the family’s mattresses, television sets, and refrigerator.

“I am the father of six daughters; there is a limit to how much I can offer,” Sardar, a poor farmer, explained.
“I had to educate them, and that was challenging enough.”

The three husbands, their mother, and a sister-in-law have been charged with dowry harassment and spousal abuse by the police.
Attempts to reach the men’s family proved futile.

The tradition of paying dowries was abolished in India more than 60 years ago, and harassment or extortion over the payments is now illegal.

However, social customs that see women as an economic burden and require pay for accepting them as brides continue to support the practice, particularly in rural areas.

Local news channels frequently cover murders resulting from marital property disputes.

Last year, a man in Kerala, India’s southernmost state, was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife and seizing possession of their property, which included a new car and 500,000 rupees ($6,500) presented as dowry by her family.

Courts have also been harsh in their treatment of dowry harassment, with a man in Kerala being sentenced to ten years in prison last month after his payment demands were blamed for forcing his wife to commit suicide.

Divorce is frowned upon in India, with only one in every 100 marriages ending in divorce. This has prevented married women from considering leaving violent relationships.

Even though their relatives were aware of the violence, the Meena sisters never considered fleeing.
“We thought they should stay in their marital homes once they were married to maintain the family’s honor,” Sardar added.
“What would we do if we had gotten them remarried in another home and the situation turned out to be worse?” We’re going to look bad.”

In 2020, India’s National Crime Records Bureau documented approximately 7,000 dowry-related murders, or about 19 women every day.
That year, more than 1,700 women committed suicide due to “dowry-related concerns,” according to the same agency.
Both estimates are based on police records, and experts believe the true number of occurrences is substantially higher, as is the case with other family violence data.

“Some 30 to 40 women are victims of domestic abuse in an hour… and these are just reported (cases), so there must be much more,” said Kavita Srivastava of India’s People’s Union for Civil Liberties.

According to Srivastava, the Meena sisters’ dowry issue was simply one component of their tormentors’ efforts to control their lives and limit their freedom.

She went on to say that the root problem was India’s pervasive social acceptance of domestic abuse, which leaves women locked in coercive and abusive relationships.

“I feel the Indian state has failed those women if even one woman has to kill herself since her marriage life appears to be at an end,” she remarked.

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