NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Anger at the practice of demanding dowries, which can lead to violence against brides, has prompted a takeoff of "Angry Birds" called "Angry Brides" that aims to highlight the illegal practice still prevalent in many South Asian countries.
Dowries -- such as jewelry, clothes, cars and money -- are traditionally given by the bride's family to the groom and his parents to ensure she is taken care of in her new home.
The custom was outlawed more than five decades ago. But it is still widely practiced, with the groom's family demanding even more money after marriage, leading to mental and physical harassment that can drive the woman to suicide.
In the worst cases, she may be murdered by her husband and his family, often in so-called "stove burnings" where she is doused in kerosene and set on fire.
"The Angry Brides game is our way of throwing a spotlight on the nuisance of dowry," said Ram Bhamidi, senior vice president and head of online marketing for Shaadi.com, a matrimonial website with two million members.
"According to a 2007 study ... there is a dowry-related death every four hours in India. We condemn this menace and have consistently run campaigns on social media to help create awareness of the issue."
The name of the app, available on the group's home page (www.facebook.com/shaadicom), is a spinoff from the globally popular "Angry Birds" game. Its home page shows a red-clad, eight-armed woman resembling a powerful female Hindu goddess.
Underneath, there is a caption: "A woman will give you strength, care and all the love you need ... NOT dowry!"
To play the game, users have to try and hit three dodging grooms -- a pilot, builder and doctor. There is a wide array of weapons to choose from, including a stiletto shoe, a frying pan, broomstick, tomato and loafer.
Each groom has a price tag, starting at 1.5 million rupees ($29,165). Every time the player hits a groom, his value decreases and money is added to the player's Anti-Dowry Fund, which is saved posted on their Facebook page.
"Since we launched the game last week, more than 270,000 people have liked the app. Both men and women seem to be playing it," said Bhamidi.
According to latest figures from India's National Crime Records Bureau, there were 8,391 cases of dowry-related deaths in the country and 90,000 cases of torture and cruelty toward women by their husbands or family in 2010.
(Reporting by AlertNet. a global humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Visit www.trust.org/alertnet)
Editing by Elaine Lies