Home > Why is North East India a ‘dowry-free’ zone?

Why is North East India a ‘dowry-free’ zone?

08 Sep 2015 12:09 AM, IST

Why is North East India a ‘dowry-free’ zone?
Northeastern women wait with their baggage to board trains home, at a railway station in Bangalore in Aug 2012. (Photo - Hindustan Times)

By Waquar Hasan,

New Delhi, 8 Sept 2015:Despite India having been tagged as an insecure country for women, the country has a number of states that recorded not a single incident of dowry death for the past two years in a row. The most fascinating fact: it is the North East India that constantly figures in the list of states with minimum dowry deaths.

According to the latest Crime in India report 2014, prepared by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a constituent of the Ministry of Home Affairs, among the four Indian states that recorded zero dowry deaths in 2014 include two Northeastern states, Sikkim and Mizoram. In 2013 too, Northeastern states figured prominently among the top-five states that registered no dowry death. Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur recorded not a single dowry-related death in the year.

Apart from North East, the states from other parts of India that consistently show fare in the list are Goa and Himachal Pradesh. While Goa consequently recorded zero dowry deaths in both 2013 and 2014, Himachal fluctuated with only one case of dowry death in 2014, while the state recorded none in the previous year. Northeastern state Nagaland also had no incident of dowry death in 2014, while it had one case in 2013. In 2014, the states that registered merely one dowry death were Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.


No. Dowry Death in 2014

No. of Dowry Death in 2013













Himachal Pradesh



Arunachal Pradesh







Why dowry deaths are uncommon in North East?

An interesting facet of the North East India is that most of the states in the seven-sister domain have predominantly tribal societies. Even though a major chunk of their population, apart from Assam and Sikkim, is converted Christians, tribal customs still dominate the daily lives of Northeastern society.

Kaustav Padmapati, programme executive at Ananta Aspen Centre, attributes the low figure of dowry deaths to a number of reasons, including the predominant matriarch Northeastern society. “I will say it’s mainly because the tribal societies are matriarchal, and gender equality stems from this. You can say that in Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya, there is hardly any concept of dowry system.”

While relating the no-dowry death figures to a dowry-free system of the North East, Kaustav who hails from Assam, finds another interesting angle, the right freely choose life partners in the hilly tribal zone. “One major factor that contributes to the almost nil figures across years in the North East is the absolute vacuum of arranged marriages in Northeastern states. Boys and girls choose themselves for marriage instead of their parents. It’s a safe haven for freedom,” said Kaustav.

The emphasis on the matriarch societal factor echoed in the voice of Meitei Manipuri student Chinglen Khumukcham as well. Chinglen, convener of the Delhi-based North-East Forum for International Solidarity, said, “Dowry deaths are rare because in our traditional society norms where women are not looked down upon. We have community gatherings on numerous occasions, almost every day, which are largely presided over by the women. So the status and roles of women in our society is entirely different from the other parts of India.”

Chinglen, however, expressed apprehension that dowry is now a days not entirely unknown a practice in North East, particularly in Manipur. “Gradually the dowry system is taking over the Northeastern traditions. People are becoming greedy,” said concerned Chinglen.

When asked what the other parts of India can learn from the Northeastern weddings without dowry, Chinglen threw a one-line bouncer, “respecting women.”

Maximum dowry deaths

While the North East India goes almost nil in terms of the number of dowry deaths, there are some Indian states where dowry deaths appear to be a serious issue to be addressed. Uttar Pradesh has been topping the list of states with maximum dowry death for the past two years. It recorded total 2,469 incidents of dowry deaths in 2014 and 2,335 incidents in 2013, with 0.35 percent increase. In both years, 2013 and 2014, Bihar followed Uttar Pradesh in dowry deaths with 1,373 cases in 2014 and 1,182 cases in 2013, with an increase at 1.63 percent. Madhya Pradesh also remained at the third position continuously for two years in terms of maximum dowry deaths with 733 incidents in 2014 and 776 incidents in 2013, albeit with a decline in the rate at 0.92 percent.  West Bengal was at the fourth position in dowry deaths in 2014, while it was at the fifth position in 2013. It recorded 501 incidents in 2014 and 481 in 2013, an increase of 0.02 percent. Odisha was at the fifth position recording 441 incidents in 2014. Andhra Pradesh was at the fourth position with 492 incidents in 2013, which it almost halved with 215 dowry death incidents in 2014, a sharp decline of 3.54 percent.


No. of dowry death in 2014

No. of Dowry Death in 2013

Uttar Pradesh






Madhya Pradesh



West Bengal






Andhra Pradesh




India reported total 8,445 incidents of dowry death in 2014, while in 2013 the country witnessed 8,083 incidents of dowry death.

While North East India fares with almost zero incidents of dowry death because of its matriarch society and shows maximum tolerance for its women, the states with maximum dowry deaths may actually require serious introspection and learn from the Northeastern experience of considering women equal and not the other.

Keywords : dowry death ,   National Crime Records Bureau ,   NCRB ,   crime ,   North East ,   India ,   Northeastern ,   women ,   Sikkim ,   Mizoram ,   Arunachal Pradesh ,   Manipur ,   Himachal Pradesh ,   Goa ,   Nagaland ,   Meghalaya ,   Uttar Pradesh ,   Bihar  

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