Need For More Legislation Against The Issue Of Housewife-Death

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Suicide is an unfortunate and unique tragedy that steals a person’s life sooner than it would have been. The tragedy, in turn, has a domino effect that affects the deceased’s family, acquaintances, and communities. Suicide can be caused by a variety of reasons, including issues with one’s employment or career, alienation, maltreatment, conflicts with one’s family, mental illness, etc. Within the Indian community and society, marriage is a sacred bond not only between two people but also between their families. Any damage to such a relationship has great consequences, one of them being suicide. Married women account for the highest proportion of suicide deaths among women in India. This article is an attempt to understand why there is a surge and the probable causes behind the suicide rates of housewives in India.


“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”[1]

A total of 1,53,052 suicides were reported in the country during 2020, showing an increase of 10.0% in comparison to 2019. Of females who committed suicide, the highest number was that of housewives, followed by students. Most suicides committed by housewives were reported in Madhya Pradesh followed by Maharashtra. Housewives accounted for 50.3% of the total female victims and constitute nearly 14.6% of total victims who had committed suicide. A significant factor in these deaths of housewives is found in the domestic sphere, where a woman seeks the utmost level of personal safety.

It is a misguided remark to believe that violence in a relationship is only due to actions and inactions of the two parties within the relationship, which one calls “issues”. It also may be governed by many other risk factors which cause the abuser to perpetuate violence against his victim. If, for example, they have been conditioned to treat individuals in a certain negative manner, they would perpetuate such conditioning. “Even when they are mistreated, usually their family asks them to ‘adjust’, causing them further despair and isolation, which is one of the primary reasons housewives commit suicide.

The increase in the number of suicides committed by housewives in India can be attributed to  Domestic Violence and Dowry. They are explored in detail in the sections that follow.

Domestic Violence

In India, the issue of domestic violence against women is complicated and ingrained. “Despite regional differences in women’s status, there is much less variation in rates of domestic violence. Ultimately, domestic violence is widespread across all contexts, geographical areas, and religious traditions.

Domestic violence has led to the suicide of many women across the world, with one in three women experiencing this phenomenon worldwide. In India, 29.3% of married women aged 18-49 years have experienced physical and/or sexual spouse-caused violence. Although Section 498-A of the IPC criminalizes domestic abuse, there is a need for speedy assistance to women in a family who may be exposed to abuse by their spouses and in-laws. In response to this need, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDV)[2], was introduced.

Section 3 of the PWDV Act defines domestic violence as any act of violence committed by a relative or a person in a domestic relationship against a woman. Acts of violence include physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and economic abuse. The section also outlines the various forms of relief that a woman may seek under the Act, including protection orders, residence orders, monetary relief, custody orders, and compensation orders. The section further lays out the procedures for obtaining relief and the responsibilities of the authorities in implementing the provisions of the act. Even though the legislation has provided wide powers, they have been unable to completely curb the practice and end it for good.

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, there was a significant spike of “domestic violence helplines”. The National Commission for Women has seen more than a two-fold rise in complaints of domestic violence since then. While anticipating an increase in the number of cases,  The Ministry of Women and Child Development had to publish advisories in order to provide vital assistance to women who had been victims of abuse. The Honorable Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, striking down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code wrote that-“(S)ociety ascribes impossible virtues to a woman and confines her to a narrow sphere of behavior by an expectation of conformity”[3] This conformity has only become more amplified and augmented during and after the pandemic.

Housewives had a “safe space after the menfolk would leave for work, but that disappeared during the pandemic. They were frequently confined with their attackers in domestic violence scenarios. It further impeded their freedom of movement and their capacity to engage in activities that offered them comfort or happiness. As a result, the abuse they suffered grew over time and suicide became their last recourse.


Marriage is often considered to be a sacrosanct social institution and an integral part of mankind – the ceremonies that have evolved within it have taken on the role of being one of the colossal economic transactions that persist in Indian society. In modern India, dowry transfers from a bride’s family to that of the groom’s have become a norm.

The absence of employment opportunities for women and the resulting lack of economic independence is the wider context for the practice of dowry. To assist them to save money for the dowry, the less affluent segments of society send their daughters out to labor to earn money, affecting their education and ultimately their future. Furthermore, an incalculable number of women in the nation, despite being academically sound and professionally competent, continue to remain unmarried, owing to their parents’ inability to pay the required amount as a dowry.

The Indian Parliament passed the Dowry Prohibition Act[4] (DPA) in 1961, which has subsequently undergone numerous amendments. However, the legislation did not succeed in extirpating the dowry practice.

In 2021, the number of cases filed under the DPA in the nation reached 13,568, an approximately 30% increase from the cases filed in the year before which was 10,366 cases. The DPA resulted in 1,086 cases being closed because of inadequate evidence, and 49 cases being transferred to another state or agency; only 35.05% of charge sheets were completed successfully.

Dowry, as perceived, is the result of society’s collective covetousness and its desire to display its status, riches, and the groom’s value in society by revealing how many gifts or the amount of cash the groom received. In some circumstances, the bride’s family could keep pressing for dowry even after the wedding. Dowry has also been linked to cause numerous cases of cruelty and harassment post marriage.[5]

Way Forward      

The fact that Domestic Violence is fostered by Dowry and Dependence, makes it incumbent upon us to understand the correlation among them. Due to the financial incapabilities of women, they are dependent on their husbands. Dowry and Stridhan have a thin difference which the courts have attempted to ascertain[6], as dowry often works as a catalyst of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence is a crime in which it is difficult to produce evidence and other information to assist a case and the Court. Another limiting factor is the problem of victims remaining silent. The long and drawn-out time that is spent in courts makes it difficult to produce concrete evidence of physical abuse (as injury marks fade over time and also because some abuse does not necessarily leave marks on the body), and mental abuse is far more conditional and problematic. The Registration of Stridhan in all the various forms it takes would allow for women to have stable evidence that it is their property. It would reinforce the intention behind the legislature which caused it to initially create provisions in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956[7] which were to provide women absolute rights over their property.

If the “variable” of dowry is removed completely by creating a specific legislation which strives to tackle the lacuna in the situation at hand; firstly, by having a registration deed solely for the transfer of property from the brides’ home to the grooms’(as currently the transfer of property is governed by way of gift deeds and creation of lists); and secondly, through greater investment on women uplifting schemes and policies, women can be provided more independence. Only when  these lacunas are remedied can the evil of domestic violence be greatly mitigated, thus curtailing the number of deaths of housewives.

There is legislation in place which would allow for the housewives or other affected individuals to be able to report and obtain reparations for the crimes committed. But it may not be enough, as the Judiciary has been trying its level best as can be inferred from the recent judgement by the Hon’ble Kerala High Court which observed that a wife can claim the return of gold jewelry under the Dowry Prohibition Act[8],  only if she can demonstrate that the jewelry was given to her husband, to mitigate the ill effects of these lacunas in many ways, as is evident by the cases discussed herein.

However, owing to an absence of specific legislation, the Judiciary is unable to extend and protect the rights effectively at the root level in the District Courts and Family Courts. Furthermore, Article 142 of the Indian Constitution[9] only provides the Hon’ble Supreme Court with the power to do complete justice, the use of which is limited. Thus, having legislation which can provide greater protection to housewives would greatly benefit courts throughout the land.

[1] Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus 4 Penguin 2005.

[2] The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, No. 43, Acts of Parliament 2005(India).

[3]Joseph Shine v. Union of India, (2019) 3 SCC 39.

[4] The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, No. 28, Acts of Parliament 1961(India).

[5] Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar, (1985) 2 SCC 370.

[6] Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar, (1985) 2 SCC 370.

[7] The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, No. 30, Acts of Parliament 1956(India).

[8] The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, No. 28, Acts of Parliament 1961(India).

[9] India Const.


Shashwat Lohia
+ posts

2nd Year Law Student ,NUSRL (Ranchi)

Madhur Anand
+ posts

1st National Law Institute University, Bhopal

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