William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


Rashmi Goel

Article Title

Women Who Kill Women


This Article examines more closely the participation of mothers-in-law in India’s dowry murders to gain a better understanding of these dynamics and to expose the limits of existing reforms. I first turn to the participation of women in dowry death cases and the ways in which their participation challenges our conventional understanding of patriarchy and societal manifestation. In Part II, I provide an overview of dowry deaths in India. In Part III, I survey the different criminal provisions related to dowry deaths and demonstrate how these laws actually operate within a set of cultural practices that support female subjugation. Part IV presents some theories of why these women participate in killing other women. In Part V, I examine how the courts’ conservative characterizations of the women in these crimes—as perpetrators and as victims—serve to trap women in subordinate roles. Finally, I conclude with some observations for the future.