Dr Manjula O'Connor.

Dr Manjula O'Connor. Photo: Joe Armao

Women's rights advocates and former premier Ted Baillieu are pushing to have the Indian practice of dowry banned in Victoria amid claims it leads to domestic violence and the abuse of women.

Mr Baillieu tabled a petition in State Parliament in April calling for amendments to family violence laws. Economic abuse was made illegal under the Family Violence Act in 2008, but campaigners also want a specific ban on the dowry, which would bring state law into line with Indian law.

The move has caused deep rifts within the state's 190,000-strong Indian community.

Manjula O'Connor, an Indian-born psychiatrist and research fellow at Melbourne University, said the dowry must be outlawed.

Dr O'Connor said through her private practice she saw many women who had suffered dowry-related domestic violence.

''Paying a dowry belittles the woman, it reinforces their role as inferior in the relationship and it makes the marriage an economic transaction,'' she said. Sometimes a man's family was unhappy with the amount paid and this could trigger violence and abuse against his wife or in-laws.

Paying and accepting a dowry is a centuries-old tradition in India where the bride's parents give gifts of cash, clothes and jewellery to the groom's family. It has been illegal in India since 1961 but is still widely practised in arranged marriages.

Mr Baillieu was contacted by Dr O'Connor when he was premier. ''Dowry is clearly part of the issue faced by these women,'' he said. Dr O'Connor will discuss the issue with state Attorney-General Robert Clark. Mr Baillieu said the matter may be referred to the Victorian Law Reform Commission.

India's National Crimes Bureau reported that 8233 women died in 2012 due to dowry-related crimes. Many others took their own lives.