A woman mistreated by her husband because of a small dowry hanged herself, and her three younger sisters committed suicide with her to avoid a similar fate, according to a news report Sunday.
Police found the sisters, who ranged in age from 12 to 24, hanging from a staircase Saturday inside their home in Agra, near where the Taj Mahal - the 17th century monument to love - is located.
The eldest sister, Amita Kumari, said in a suicide note that her husband and in-laws mistreated her because her parents had provided a small dowry, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Her three unwed sisters joined the suicide pact because they were worried their parents would not be able to give them dowries, the agency said.
In July, India’s Supreme Court toughened punishment for breaking a 1961 law that banned dowries, but the practice remains widespread.
Husbands and in-laws frequently impoverish the wife’s family by insisting on gifts - cash, cars and electronic appliances - and mistreat the new bride if they are not satisfied.
At least 7,300 women were killed by their in-laws in 1995 because of arguments over dowries, according to government figures. Women’s rights groups say the number is much higher.
Brides whose families cannot meet in-laws’ demands are sometimes doused in kerosene and set on fire. The deaths are usually passed off as kitchen accidents.