Every other day in newspapers or in T.V. or in social media we come across the news of honor killing.
An honour killing or a shame killing is the homicide of a member of a family, due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonour upon the family, or has violated the principles of a community or a religion, usually for reasons such as refusing to enter in an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their family, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate.
- Honour killing involves, most often, the murder of a woman or girl by male family members.
- In patriarchal societies, the activities of girls and women are closely monitored.
- The significant feature is the connection of honour killings to the control of individual’s behaviour, in particular in regard to sexuality/marriage, by the family as a collective.
- Another characteristic of honour killings is that the perpetrators often do not face negative stigma within their communities, because their behaviour is seen as justified.
- Honour killings are also widespread in South India and the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.( Recently, young Dalit engineering student was brutally murdered in full public view in Tirupur district, Tamil Nadu)
In 1990 the National Commission for Women set up a statutory body in order to address the issues of honour killings among some ethnic groups in North India.
This body reviewed constitutional, legal and other provisions as well as challenges women face. The NCW’s activism has contributed significantly towards the reduction of honour killings in rural areas of North India.
Reasons of Honour Killing
A crime in the name of ‘honour’ is one of a range of violent or abusive acts. This includes emotional, physical and sexual abuse and other coercive acts.
- Stratification: Sociologist believes that the honour killing continues to take place because of the continued rigidity of the caste system. Hence in the fear of losing the caste status, by which they gain many benefits, makes them commit this heinous crime.
- Mentality: The mentality of the people is that they are not ready to accept marriages in the same gotra or outside. The society is still against the right of choice in marriage especially for the women .
- Khap Panchayat: The absence of the formal institutions as panchayat Smiti or a constitution gathering leads to the brutal governance of the illegal and extra-constitutionalised panchayat.
Khaps exercise their authority in various ways:
- By demanding payment from couples.
- Impose social or economic sanctions on them
- Order that they or their families be boycotted
- Divest the couple of any land or property that belongs to them
- Harass, intimidate, or murder them.
- Sex ratio: Honour killing are happening in the area where the sex ratio is low and girls are being bought for marriages.
- Illiteracy : Unknown about the rights which are made to protect them provided by our constitution due to lack of education. The honour crime violates Article 14, 15 (1) & (3) 19, 21 and 39 (f) of the Constitution of India.
- Politician’s future: Reason to protect Khap Panchayat by politicians is mostly for their own future votes because majority in those areas are ironically basis for their livelihoods.
- Inter, intra-caste marriage: Love in itself is considered as a social crime.
- Status : A person’s ascribed status is more important than the achieved status.
- Prestige of every caste: it is not limited to the higher caste but in a section even among oppressed communities like Dalit and tribal too are indulging in “honour” crimes in a bid to prove that they are no less “honour bound” than the upper caste.
Long road to legal protection
In August 2010, the legal cell of the All India Democratic Women’s Association , in consultation with many women’s organisations and individuals, drafted a comprehensive law entitled “The Prevention of Crimes in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill” and gave it to the government.
- The Bill defines honour crimes in relation to a violation of the rights of the couple.
- “All persons including young persons have the right to control their own lives, a right to liberty and freedom of expression, and a right of association, movement and bodily integrity.”
- Every man and woman has a right to choose her/his own partner in marriage or otherwise and any action listed below to prevent the exercise of this right shall amount to an offence under the provisions of this Bill.
- The Bill lists the various types of crime, in addition to murder; it suggests preventive measures, it provides for punishment of varying degrees, it includes khap panchayats or other bodies acting in the name of caste or community, it ensures accountability of the police and administration.
- The Bill was supported by the National Commission of Women, which gave a similarly named Bill to the government.
Law commission report on Honour Killing
Two years later, in August 2012, the Law Commission of India, to which a reference had also been made by the government, brought out its own version of the Bill in its Report no 242.
- Although it stated that its draft was closer to the one submitted by the National Commission of Women, in fact it was extremely narrow and conservative in its approach.
- Entitled “Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill, 2011”, the Bill dealt primarily with the “unlawful assemblies” called by caste panchayats to prevent a self-choice
The NCW said:
- The Prevention of Crimes in the Name of ‘Honour’ and Tradition Bill, 2010 was an outcome of the “spate of murders and dishonourable crimes in the name of ‘honour’”.
- “A crime in the name of ‘honour’ is one of a range of violent or abusive acts which includes emotional, physical and sexual abuse and other coercive acts.”
- “In each of such cases, the family of the girl who has chosen to exercise her choice to marry is implicated”.
- These acts, show a violation of fundamental rights, including the right to life and liberty.
Supreme Court on Honour Killing
Eight years after the National Commission for Women proposed a special law to punish honour killings incited by khap panchayats, the Supreme Court has said that adults are free to marry persons of their own choice and hurting couples, or summoning them before clan members, groups, or a khap, is “absolutely illegal”.
Holding honour killings as a slur on the nation, and terming it a barbaric, feudal practice that ought to be stamped out, the Supreme Court directed courts to view such cases as in “rarest of rare” category for awarding death penalty to the convicts.
Those instrumental in committing these killings are families of the couple. Either they kill the couple themselves or in association with other persons from the same caste or khap or community-based panchayats.
Offence under the Indian Penal Code:
- The NCW recommended that anyone who kills or hurts an adult couple who chose to marry of their own free will should be punished for murder .
- The government agreed to the Supreme Court’s suggestion to frame guidelines recognising honour killing as a separate offence.
There has to be an end to violation of the basic rights of the people sanctified by the law of the land.
- Role of media in raising burning issues is very brilliant and effective too. It easily expresses its views in the front of whole of society, without any fear, even there is a right of freedom to express which is given in our Constitution.
- Education helps to curb all this social issues.
- The laws should be clear as detailed in the recent report: 242 law commission of India, issues related to the validity of The Khap Panchayat should be clear to people.
- Women problems can only be sorted out when it is discussed with another women. If Khap Panchayat people would like to continue to their panchayat communities then according to the equality rights, there should be a provision of one or two women sitting in the Khap Panchayats so that equality right also follows.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud reserved its verdict on an eight-year-old PIL filed by NGO ‘Shakti Vahini’ protesting against the violence unleashed against couples who marry across faith and caste or within the gotra. CJI Misra reiterated the bench’s time-tested stand and said:
“If two adults get married by consent, whatever be their caste, religion or gotra, no one can interfere in such a marriage, neither the relatives nor panchayats. We will give a detailed judgement on this issue.”
Appearing for the Centre, additional solicitor general Pinky Anand told the court that the Centre is firmly against any violence or threat to couples who marry out of their choice. She said the anger of relatives, community or panchayat against such couples is a law and order issue, which has to be dealt sternly by police.
The Panchayats had expressed concerns regarding the suggestions filed by Amicus Curiae Raju Ramachandran,
“‘Honour killing’ is too respectable a term for these hate crimes. However, only 3 % of these murders happen on account of gotra. As many as 20 Panchayats have passed resolutions prohibiting honour killings. So the use of the term ‘unlawful assembly’ in connection there to amounts to defamation”.
In response, Senior Counsel Raju Ramachandran had submitted,
“The term Khap Panchayat has been used in the 242nd Law Commission report . The court may use any neutral nomenclature, like, Marriage Prohibition Assembly”.
Written by- Pallavi Nayyar
Amity Law School, Noida