Honour Killing in India: A Crime in the name of Honour
There is nothing honourable in Honour Killing, and in fact, they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal and feudal-minded persons. I. Introduction to Honour Killing Life is unpredictable; nobody knows what will happen in the very next minute of his/her life. In this situation, every person has the right and wish to… Read More »
There is nothing honourable in Honour Killing, and in fact, they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal and feudal-minded persons.
I. Introduction to Honour Killing
Life is unpredictable; nobody knows what will happen in the very next minute of his/her life. In this situation, every person has the right and wish to live the life up to their willingness. No one shall be compelled to live a life for the benefit and name of others. Honour crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, ‘committed by male family members against female family members either-or, who are held to have brought dishonour upon the family.
There is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact, they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal and feudal-minded persons. The loose term honour killing applies to the killing of both males and females.
An honour killing can also be described as extra-judicial punishment of a female relative for assumed sexual and marriage offences. These offences, which are considered as a misdeed or insult, include sexual faithlessness, marrying without the will of parents or having a relationship that the family considers to be inappropriate and rebelling against the tribal and social matrimonial customs. It is an act of shame caused to the family for which it is otherwise called as shame killing.
In India, mostly in states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan practice of honour killing is extensive. Due to the complex socio-cultural problems, the crime of honour killing is divulging more and more.
II. Cause of honour killing
There are multiple causes for which honour killings occur, and numerous factors interact with one another such as:
- Dressing in ways or in a manner which is deemed inappropriate and unacceptable to the family or Engaging in homosexual acts or relation in which the women and girls are killed at a much higher rate than men. There is evidence that homosexuality can also be perceived as a ground for honour killing by relatives.
- Wanting to terminate or refusing to enter an arranged marriage or desiring to marry by own choice; refusing an arranged marriage is often a cause of an honour killing.
- Seeking a divorce: A woman attempting to obtain a divorce or separation without the consent of the husband. Extended family can also be a trigger for honour killings.
- Allegation and rumours about family members, in certain cultures: An allegation against a woman can be enough to tarnish her family’s reputation and to trigger an honour killing, the family’s fear of being ostracized by the community is enormous.
III. Legal aspect of honour killing
The Indian legislation seems to have finally awoken to this problem after it has come into the limelight and people are speaking up against such cruelty. Finally, after the killings, according to the home minister P. Chidambaram, the UPA led central government proposed to amend the Indian Penal Code and make Honor Killing a ‘distinct offence’ ; although how that will make any difference to the present condition still needs to be scrutinized as honour killing amounts to murder which is punishable under law.
The government has also made proposals to revoke the 30 days notice period presently required under the Special Marriage Act for inter-community marriages because that time is misused by families to track down, kill and forcibly separate couples.
Indian Constitution has been the basic document and guiding force which vests ample rights to its citizens. Honour killing violates few such provisions in the Constitution thus contrary to the basic rights of people.
Such rights are Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 15(1) and (3) (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth), Article 17 (Abolition of Untouchability), Article 19(1) (freedom to speech and expression) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty). Most of the honour killings directly focus on women and very few on men and thus lead to gender violence.
The freedom of expressing women or men’s choice is suppressed and this suppression further leads to such killings thereby violating the fundamental rights of that person. And the perpetrators use religion or caste as grounds for “dishonour” thereby trying to validate such killings. This act is totally contrary to the Constitution.
The Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP) though not enforceable can be considered for the good governance of the Country.
Article 39(a) provides for the State to secure that all citizens are provided with adequate means of livelihood. But honour killing deprives the life of the woman in most of the cases, also Article 39 (e) and (f) provides for the State to ensure that the child and youth are protected from exploitation and against growing and material abandonment. Whereas due to this customary practise of honour killing many young, youth and married couples are exploited of their life, they are placed in an unprotected circumstance. Hence it is the duty of the State to protect such vulnerable people and protect their lives against this evil practice.
Human rights are possessed by every person irrespective of his or her nationality, race sex, religion etc without discrimination. There is strong democratic freedom in India where human rights to all citizens are guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Human Right is not about the wealth of the country or world but about the dignity of each and every individual in society.
The customary killing of the people i.e., the killing was done in order to comply with the customs of their culture is a complete violation of human rights. This crime also violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not a legally binding instrument but has a greater persuasive value.
Article 1 and Article 2 of the Convention state that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Article 3 states that” everyone has the right to life, liberty and security”. Article 5 gives the “right to be free from torture or cruel, inhumane and or degrading treatment” these articles are violated as women or men are inflicted a lot of mental and physical pain while commissioning of the crime.
Article 16 talks about the choice of marriage given to men and women of full age without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion. But honour killing takes away the dignity and life of the person and affects the person’s freedom of choice of marriage. Such practice subjects the person to cruel and inhumane treatment.
Honour killing constitutes grave disregard to universal human rights and violation of fundamental rights guaranteed in Constitution especially when India is a signatory to United Nations Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW 1979) and has also ratified it.
There is a legally binding obligation for India, as a state party to the Convention, to take measures to end all form of practices of honour killing and ensure all discriminations against women in matters relating to marriage and family relations are eliminated. Though there are provisions of CEDAW and various human rights provisions to eliminate violence against women, individuals continue to be the victims of murders in name of honour.
IV. Supreme Court on honour killing
In the case of State of U.P. v. Krishna Master and others, the Supreme Court has awarded life sentence to three persons in an honour killing case, in which six members of a family were gunned down. The apex court, however, refrained from awarding death penalty to Master Krishna, Ram Sewak Kishori as the incident was two decades old and slammed the High Court for and acquitting them by rejecting the testimonies of a child and another witness.
In the case of Lata Singh v. State of U.P. and Others, the two-Judge Bench expressed concern over the several instances of harassment, threats and violence against young men and women who marry outside their caste and held that “such acts or threats or harassment are wholly illegal and those who commit them must be severally punished”.
Observing that “inter-caste marriages are in fact in the national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system”, the Bench held that “once a person becomes a major he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage.”
Accordingly, the Bench directed the administration/police authorities throughout the country to see to it “that if any boy or girl who is a major undergoes inter-caste or interreligious marriage with a woman or man who is a major, the couple are not harassed by anyone nor subjected to threats or acts of violence, and anyone who gives such threats or harasses or commits acts of violence either himself or at his instigation, is taken to task by instituting criminal proceedings by the police against such persons and further stern action is taken against such persons as provided by law.”
V. How can honour killings be stopped?
People have very little regard for personal freedom of other adults Indians. Adult children have very little freedom to make a decision for their own lives. Most young adults are coerced into decisions made by their parents.
We need to learn about individual freedom of Indian citizens, and we need to learn to be less obsessed with the notion that we are the best country, the best people, the best religion, the best culture, and of course the best caste. That is the reason that people disparage other castes, other religions and customs and when their young adults choose to marry in an unconventional way, they get extremely furious and sometimes go to the extent of killing their own girl or boy or both.
Our parents have to be taught, it is their own choice to bring children to this world but once they do they have the duty to raise them. Raising a kid is a humongous job but still just because they raised them they don’t own them like property, Once kids reach the adulthood they are individuals and they have the right to marry who they want, choose the profession they want, live in the city they want. An honour killing or constant criticism or even emotional blackmail is criminal behaviour although it is considered very normal in India.
The other biggest problem is mistrust between people and Police, especially women think many times before resorting to seeking help from the Police. This is generally seen that perpetrators of honour killing already take care of the police by bribing them. To stop any crime not only honour killing we need to overhaul our law enforcement department, our Police.
To stop honour killing we have to have a very victim-friendly police force, with which people feel at ease to go to and discuss their problem but mostly police force also has the same prejudices. Where the girl goes to seek help if she is marrying out of caste, the police officer she meets with also believes in the same prejudice and not very keen to help her.
Our police should be more honest and almost prejudice-free to act fast to stop this menace. Police should be aware that any religion, tradition or custom which infringes the personal freedom of Indian citizens has to be challenged. Victims of honour killing are both boys and girls but mostly girls are killed by their parent’s brother and relatives.
VI. Conclusion and suggestions
The families need to understand that there is no honour in killing one’s own child and that killing is not the only solution. If some person in the family is not happy with the marriage of young men/women, the maximum they can and they should do is to cut off the social relationship with them. Life is a creation of God, birth and deaths should be decided by him. It is always good to live life to the maximum, full of joy and happiness because the next moment of life is not predictable. So, it is better to follow the policy of Live and Let Live.
Here are some suggestions in order to tame the crime of honour killings in India. They are as follows:
- First of all, there should be a uniform definition of honour killing so that there is no room left for ambiguity as to what constitutes that crime.
- Several helpline numbers and special cells all over the affected areas of honour killings should be established with special police task and action group force to nab the culprits and extend proper protection to the couples or victims.
- It will be worthwhile to empower Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and to change the orientation of the Panchayati Raj leadership to take up social development and eradication of social evils as matters of top priority.
- Besides, a mass awareness campaign launched by the civil society on a mission may help in the rural areas for making the people realize that this anachronistic institution which existed when there was no constitution, no criminal law, no rule of law, no modern judicial system, no representative government, no democratically elected panchayats have lost relevance or rationale for continuation in the changed social, economic and political milieu. The Universities, NGOs and the media can also play a vital role in this regard.
- The central government should step in and ensure that the powerful and retrogressive Khap panchayats are dealt with firmly.
- Active collaborative participation of civil society and international bodies relating to women empowerment, to enhance dialogue and to conduct community hegemonic discourse.
By – Vikky Kumar
 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article- 3,( 1948).
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