In India, women are not considered individuals with lives and choices of their own. Instead, they are seen as the torchbearers of family “honour”. They are curbed from talking to men, choosing their life partners, etc..
What happens when one of them defies this unwritten rule? They are socially ostracized, beaten up or, like in Sanskar’s case, killed.
Honour Killing is the homicide ( murder) of a member of a family by other members as it is believed that the victim has brought shame or dishonour upon the family or the community he/she belongs to.
The term ” Honour Killing” applies to both men and women in the cultures that practice it. The distinctive nature of honour killing is the collective nature of the crime that means many members of an extended family or community plan the act together and commit the crime.
According to the statistics, it is mainly prevalent in the state of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. It is important to note that honour killing is not specific to India only. It continues to be prevailing in other parts of the world too. Reports submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights ( UNCHR) show that honour killings have occurred in countries like Bangladesh, Great Britain, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Italy, Jorden, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey and Uganda.
Honour Killing is a recognized form of violence against women in international human rights law because it violates women’s right to life and security as well as every other article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). It also violates the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (1979).
In India, Honour killings are homicide and murder which are serious crimes under the Indian Penal Code. The preparators can be punished as per Section 302 of the IPC. The members, as well as the community, can also be prosecuted. It also violates Article 14, 15 (1) and (3), 19, 21 and 39 (f) of the constitution of India.
Existing Penalties under Indian Penal Code:
There are various reasons why people or family members decide to kill the daughter in the name of preserving their family honours. The most obvious reasons are:-
* refusing to enter an arranged marriage.
* being in a relationship that is disapproved by their family.
* the continued rigidity of the caste system.
The fear of losing their caste status through which they gain many benefits and earn a respect in society make them commit this heinous crime.
The other major reason is the mentality of the people has not changed and they cannot accept the marriages that take place in the same gotra or outside one’s caste.
“She, once the pride of the family; was killed for the “false pride” of her family.”
The Khap Panchayat also play a key role in an honour killing. These panchayats are self-driven setups that have gained wicked popularity for having paved a way for honour killing. Boycotting families from villages that chose to allow their children to get married by their choice and supporting the families in honour killing are some of the naive activities of these panchayats. All these inhumane activities are done in the name of brotherhood and honour of the community. Love marriages are considered a taboo in these areas.
The famous Manoj Bibli case in June 2007, for the first time, convicted the accused for honour killing case. This killing was ordered by the Khap Panchayat in Haryana on 30th March, 2010; for the first time in Haryana State history, a death penalty verdict was announced in this double murder case for the five accused.
In the State of Maharashtra vs Eknath Kisan Kumbharkar 2019, it was held that honour killings have become commonplace in many parts of the country, particularly in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Often young couples who fall in love have to seek shelter in the police lines or protection homes, to avoid the wrath of kangaroo courts.
“We have held in Lata Singh case that there is nothing “honourable” in honour killings, and they are nothing but barbaric and brutal murders by bigoted persons with feudal minds. In our opinion honour killings, for whatever reason, come within the category of the rarest of rare cases deserving death punishment. It is time to stamp out these barbaric, feudal practices which are a slur on our nation. This is necessary as a deterrent for such outrageous, uncivilized behaviour. All persons who are planning to perpetrate “honour” killings should know that the gallows await them”.
Recently, The Supreme Court delivered a scathing judgement against khap panchayats or communal assemblies that target inter-caste and inter-religious couples and put in place a slew of preventive, remedial and punitive guidelines to tackle the menace of so-called honour crimes.
In a 54-page judgement authored by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, the court said “the act of honour killing puts the rule of law in a catastrophic crisis” and said it was the duty of the government to protect the life and dignity of those harassed by the assemblies. No individual or group has the right to interfere in a consensual and legal relationship between two adults, the court asserted.
“It can be stated without any fear of contradiction that any kind of torture or torment or ill-treatment in the name of honour that tantamounts to atrophy of choice of an individual relating to love and marriage by any assembly, whatsoever nomenclature it assumes, is illegal and cannot be allowed a moment of existence.”
The eradication of honour killing requires a serious intervention in the status quo. Equal gender relations have not been yet achieved and violence still exists in the name of honour. Therefore, it is the state and the society responsibility to protect human rights of its citizens and avoid honour killings, to create possibilities and opportunities for the people concerned to break free and to find the protection, support and aid. It also suggested that the honour killing like social evil cannot be eliminated through Law alone, rather almost every substitution social, economic, cultural, political, will have to be sensitized against this crime, no doubt Law could be the only tool to fight this heinous practice. The violence will only be reduced when this patriarchal mindset is challenged.
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