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(DIS)HONOUR KILLING

By : Aadya Soneja



INTRODUCTION


Honour killing is the homicide of a male or female or both by family members of both the parties on the pretext of going against their wishes of same caste relationship or marriage. The prime justification by the so-called murderers for their respective heinous actions is the blemishing of family lineage or honour.


Religion, caste, and other forms of hierarchical social stratification are frequently linked to honour killings.


The alleged loss of honour is primarily the outcome of the following reasons, either present or suspected :

a) Desire to stop the occurrence of an arranged marriage or wanting to marry a person of his/her own choice,

b) Being in a relationship or having associations with social groups outside the family.

c) Having extramarital, premarital, or post-marital sex (in the event of divorce or widower ship)

d) using dress codes unacceptable to the family/community

e) being a victim of a sexual offence

f) attempting to obtain a divorce


The family members consider any allegation dishonouring of family reputation enough to intervene and take the law into their own hands, although the evidence is not present or alleged action is only suspected.


Such killings or attempted killings are motivated by the belief that the defence of honour justifies killing someone whose actions dishonour their clan or family. The phrase "honour killing" is a misleading term because there is nothing honourable about it.


Every year, many young people in India are murdered as a result of 'Honor Killings.', based on a rudimentary fact to treat women as lifeless objects, and not human beings The basis of this stigma is association of women as representative of family prestige. However, 'Honor killings' or 'honour crimes' are not unique to our country. It is a scourge that afflicts many other societies as well. It is even more prevalent in Islamic countries like Pakistan, Jordan, Iran etc.


HONOR KILLING IN INDIA


Honour killings are widespread in India due to societal differences. Conservatives consider interfaith or inter-caste relationships or marriages to be dishonourable, thus they use violence to prevent in-group members from marrying someone who is beneath their station.


Honour killing is prevalent in India, particularly in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan. It is also common in South India, as well as Maharashtra and Gujarat in western India. The crime of honour killing is becoming increasingly well known as a result of complicated socio-cultural issues.


In the case, Lata Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh [1] said “This is a free and democratic country and once a person becomes a major he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes.”


In a similar case, the Supreme Court also stated that neither the Hindu Marriage Act nor any other legislation prohibits inter-caste marriage. In India, Marriages between couples from the same Gotra (family name) have frequently resulted in violence from family members or community members.


They enforce their diktats and self-proclaim themselves as community guardians. They have instilled in themselves the belief that their mission is sacred and that their actions of punishing the helpless victims by the way of killing them.


The case Shakti Vahini v. Union of India [2] brought to the court the issue of honour killing and the role of khap panchayat in it. In this case, the NGO Shakti Vahini filed a Writ Petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, requesting that the State and Central governments adopt preventive measures to end honour killings and present a National and State Plan of Action to do so.


The court in this case held that it is certainly 'illegal' to prohibit two consenting individuals from marrying, and there are remedial and punitive procedures in place. The verdict prevented Khap Panchayats from being demi-Gods of law themselves.


HONOUR KILLING AROUND THE WORLD

Honour killing has been practised since the time of the ancient Romans. Honour killing has been commonplace since then in many regions of the world. Apart from India, the worldwide phenomenon is visible in both developing and developed countries. Honour killings have occurred in the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, and Egypt, among other countries[3]. Overall, most cases around the world can be seen in countries like Pakistan and Jordan.


Back in the year 2000, the United Nations Population Fund concluded that around 5000 cases of honour killing have been reported worldwide [4] out of which 1000 cases were reported in a single country i.e. Pakistan.


LAWS RELATED TO HONOR KILLING IN INDIA


Article 14 (Equality before the law) Article 15(1) (Restriction of discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth), Article 15(3) (creating special provisions for children and women), Article 19 (Protection of freedom of speech), Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) are some of the constitutional rights being violated by the act of honour killing.


Article 39(f) which protects children and young people against moral and material abandonment [5] is also being violated here.


However, in India, there is no specific law that addresses the heinous act of honour killings.


Honour killings are termed as both homicide and murder, which are severe offences in India.


The former comes under Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, while the latter is dealt with under


The law commission of India in its report ‘Prevention of interference with the Freedom of matrimonial alliances (in the name of honour and tradition)’ has also stated that there is no need to include a separate provision in Section 300 of IPC for honour killings. The existing provisions in the IPC are sufficient to deal with situations that lead to overt acts of killing or causing bodily harm to a targeted person who is alleged to have harmed the caste or community's honour.


Also, there have been some Amendments in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1954 clearing out the legitimacy of inter-caste marriage.


SUGGESTIONS

  • Educating the people especially in rural areas to raise awareness among them against such a crime.

  • The eradication of falsehoods in people's thoughts is a major part of the answer to this problem. They need to be informed about the Supreme Court of India's rulings on what types of marriages are considered invalid.

  • Khap Panchayats should be removed from all power so that it is no longer able to influence naive people and incite them to conduct such heinous deeds.

  • The severity of the sentence for such horrible crimes should serve as a warning to anyone attempting such crimes.

  • Support lines and special cells can be formed throughout along with a special police task and action group force to detain the wrongdoers and provide enough safety to the couples or victims.

  • An integrated effort by social workers, organizations, NGOs, politicians and the country as a whole can help to fight against such malpractice and reduce it to a large extent.


CONCLUSION


  • Honour Killing and serious malpractice are eating away a part of the society like a termite in action.

  • It is very dangerous mainly because of the social, cultural and also religious stigma attached to it.

  • A major problem lies in the so-called double standards of the society which may criticize and discouraged in the open but are somewhat supported by many behind the secret confines of their homes and safe houses.

  • Along similar lines the gender equality and girl child issues, this so-called social evil has secret supporters when it comes to self and this existence of dual personalities poses a magnanimous problem in its resolution and eradication.

  • The roots of this social vice originate from the caste system itself, and the casualties have been astronomical and not fully reported.

  • This double-edged sword is equally ruthless to both sides, irrespective of gender and family, as it consumes both without any mercy, logic or reasoning.

  • In the name of reputation and so-called honour, the bloodbath overlooks all aspects of fondness, love, mercy and humanity.

  • Its high-time that both the active and passive participants of this heinous crime are made to face the consequences. Strict steps must ensure prevention and not cure after the damage has been done.

  • A major paradigm shift is essential in the mindset of people via awareness, law abidance and social strictness.

  • The women of our society need to play a pivotal and active role, moving on from mere silent spectators to being vocal and aggressive about saving the lives of their loved ones.

  • Strict interventions and prompt actions by the administrative and judicial bodies must be ensured to put an end to and culminate this evil practice.


FOOTNOTES

  1. AIR 2006 SC 2522

  2. WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 231 OF 2010

  3. Sarah Alsabti, “Honor Killing and the Indigenous Peoples: Cultural Right or Human Right Violation”, 45 Denver Journal of International Law & Policy (2017).

  4. Ibid.

  5. Article 39, The Constitution of India


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