Vismaya Nair had been married for just over one year when she was found dead in the bathroom of her husband’s family’s home in India’s southwestern Kerala state.
Initially, police had no reason to view the 24-year-old student’s death on June 21 as suspicious, until her family made a complaint under the country’s “dowry death” law.
The law allows charges to be brought against people for causing the death or suicide of a woman within the first seven years of her marriage in which the family had promised a dowry — gifts given to a groom’s family when a couple marry.
Dowries have been banned in India for more than 60 years, but the practice persists — and not only in rural and more traditional parts of the country.
Kerala — where Nair died — boasts some of the highest literacy rates for both men and women in India, and is generally considered a progressive state — but it still “exhibits stark and persistent dowry inflation since the 1970s and has the highest average dowry in recent years,” according to a World Bank report released in June.