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Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Written by: Jemy Mathew


India, the land of diversity, is home for people speaking different languages, belonging to different religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrian, Judaism, etc., and follow different traditions, customs and beliefs living accordingly.

Honour is said to be valuable for the families and society which have to be upheld no matter what. Whoever tries to go against the caste, religion or so-called honour is said to violate the norms of society. Even though they are just wanting the freedom to choose their life and make their decisions, society always judges them and intervene in between the counter activities either by the family or society in the name of honour and religion is honour killing.


Honour killing is considered as an ancient practice in which men kill women in the name of degrading the honour of the family for various reasons such as unapproved relationships, refusal to get into an arranged marriage, asking for a divorce or custody of children after divorce, forced or suspected sexual activity outside the marriage even if they are the victims of rape. Honour killing even though was mostly against women, now, has been extended to men.

Women are always said to maintain the prestige of the family and live according to the rules of the family and Society. They are subjected to violence, being mistreated, and is deprived of their right to life and personal liberty which has been granted to all the citizen of India by article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The freedom to express her choice is suppressed and questioned by a society which results in such killings violating the fundamental rights of the individual. But still, there is no specific law or provisions to protect the victims of such killing nor to punish the perpetrators after doing such a terrific crime. The most horrifying fact is that the crime against the victim is not done by any stranger but her own family who should understand and support her.


In India, people follow different beliefs. Having diverse culture is a major characteristic of India. Honour killing, being a brutal crime, is mainly due to the patriarchal mentality, caste system, illiteracy or lack of education, prevalence of Khap panchayat, and nonexistence of specific and stringent laws and provisions in India. The caste system is considered a curse on the nation. Some traditions, customs, beliefs and norms of religions are the major cause of the occurrence of crimes as they are against the basic rights provided to the citizens. Inter-caste and intra-caste marriages are prohibited in Indian society. Women are always controlled and monitored by men. They are considered tools to hold the "honour". Everything a woman does is judged by society and affects the honour of the family. Women's choices, decision, rights are always suppressed by Indian society. Khap panchayat, generally a group of old-aged people, found majority in villages discusses the issues, takes a decision and punishes people who go against the norms of the society. They take the law into their hands including violence. Illiteracy makes people blind. Many are unaware of their rights and unconstitutional customs prevailing in many parts of India such as sati, child marriage, honour killing, etc.


Constitution of India 1949

Honour Killing denies and violates the fundamental rights of an individual which is provided to every individual citizen of India by the Constitution of India. Such rights are: -

Everyone is equal and has the right to be equally protected by law. Right to equality, article 14 is being violated by such atrocities against women, and it proves that equality is still far to achieve. Article 15 Prohibits discrimination based on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth and prevent having restrictions on the individual. Article 17 has abolished untouchability and its practices. Offences violating this right will be stringently punished. Article 19 provides the freedom to speech and expression, to move freely and to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India. Article 21 provides the right to life and personal liberty to everyone including women. But in Indian society, women are told to listen to their family and maintain the home properly. Their decisions and opinions are being neglected. Article 39(a) directs the state to secure the right to adequate means to livelihood to every citizen, men and women equally.[1]

Punishment under the Indian Penal Code

There is no specific law to punish for honour killing. But is punishable under other existing laws. Section 299 to section 304 deals and punishes a person committing murder or culpable homicide. Section 307 punishes for an attempt to murder whereas section 308 punishes for an attempt to culpable homicide. Section 120A and 120B deals with penalizing persons involved in a criminal conspiracy. Section 107 to section 116 provides punishment for abetting in crimes including murder. Section 34 and section 35 gives punishment for crimes done by several people with a common intention.[2]

Other provisions are also included in acts such as the Indian Majority Act 1859,[3]Special Marriage Act 1954,[4]Protection of Human Right Act 2006,[5]Domestic Violence Act 2005[6] which are also violated by such killings.


In Shakti Vahini v. Union of India and Others,[7] on 27th March 2018, it was held that any actions of Khap panchayat or any other assembly to restrict or prevent the marriage of any individual is illegal and is strictly prohibited. Everyone is provided with the right to life and liberty and nobody can deny this right. Khap panchayats should not take the law into their hands and decide on the issues. They have no authority to punish as it has not been conferred upon them under the law. The court directed to make a report on a plan to curb honour killing.

In B Dilipkumar v. The Secretary to government, [8] It was opinioned that honour killings should be included in the rarest of rare cases deserving the death penalty. It is a barbaric and brutal crime due to barbarism, feudal mentality and caste system. Young men and women who willfully enter into an inter-caste marriage should not be threatened with violence or act violently towards them.


"This genocide must be tackled by a revision of all laws. Killing is killing and placing the word ‘honour’ in front of it should never be justification enough for allowing its escalation."

—Aysha Taryam, The Opposite of Indifference: A Collection of Commentaries

There is no honour in these killings. They are just vicious crimes destroying the lives of young individuals. Everyone has the right to freedom, life, liberty and equality. No one should deny them. Such killings should be stopped. Stringent laws should be enforced to provide the youth from these horrendous murders. Humanity should rule above all. Without humanity, we are just slaves, being chained by the so-called cultural and religious traditions and honour.

[1] Constitution of India, 1949 [2] The Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860) [3] The Majority Act, 1875(Act 9 of 1875) [4] The Special Marriage Act, 1954(Act 43 of 1954) [5] The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993(Act 10 of 194) [6] Domestic Violence Act, 2005(Act 43 of 2005) [7]AIR 2018 SC 1601 [8]WP.No.26991 of 2014 and MP.No.1 of 2014

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