“There is no honour in killing other’s life”
The fundamental right – ‘right to life’ enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution bestowed every citizen, a life of one’s own choice. The annals of media reports murder of love couples for self-chosen relationships, every now and then. The social tyranny of killing humans for defying the social conventions (which the law doesn’t empower) is a prevalent social and human rights issue, left unaddressed under the aegis of law.
The Oxford Dictionary of Law Enforcement (2007) defines honour killing as “the purposeful pre-planned murder, generally of a woman, by or at the command of members of her family stimulated by a perception that she has brought shame on the family”. The crime is as old as the caste and patriarchy systems in India. The word “Honour” has its liaison with the psychological code of Indian society. Our society and culture, in almost all the parts of the country, perceives a woman in the family to carry the so-called “Honour”, which presents a burdensome reality. The killing of young daughters and girls for reasons such as:
- Refusal to arranged marriages,
- Odd Dressing sense,
- Pre-marital or post marital sexual relationship,
- Victim of rape,
- Disrespectful to the religion,
- Homosexual relationships and
- Demand for divorce,
have lead to the birth of this term “honour killings”. Here, language is tantamount to honour crime, as in; the term is used from the killer’s point of view and not constructing a clicking perception of victimization of victim for whom it is an offensive term. Ergo the substitution of the term will somehow reduce the risk of this abysmal insight.
“HONOUR KILLINGS”- Explained
The Criminology of the “Honour crimes” is said to have three essential ingredients. In India, for the “act of honour killing”, patriarchy, caste, class, culture and gender, etc. are amongst the originating and motivating factors to the crime. The criminals of such a barbaric act are, ordinarily, the family members, hired village-goons and community members who target females, whether innocent or guilty, their love-partners, , family of the love-partner, homosexual boys who defy the laid orthodox social norms.
Sociologically, It has become men’s prerogative to dominate women’s life. The never-ending upper and lower class and caste trend has plagued the social mindsets; inter-caste marriages are still a taboo for many. In Lata Singh vs. State of U.P., the Supreme Court had said: “…..… inter-caste marriages are in fact in the national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system.” In almost every incident, a Dalit is victimized for choosing a relationship with the member of an upper caste/class. The mushrooming of Khap Panchayats and hegemony of such other self-elected male-headed group creates an unpalatable social environment. These groups endorse the killing of young lovers in the name of family’s honour. The Supreme Court, once, summoned 67 representatives of Khap Panchayats to explain their role in “honour killings”. They remained obdurate and defended the act of “honour killings” by advocating that it is the fault of the families who fail to stop their daughters, sisters and wives who mar their reputation by mingling with men and therefore, are ostracised.
Psychologically, the female is the so-called “honour” of the family and if she dishonours the family, killing her will be taken as “redemption” for the loss of reputation, status and respect. The male psychology confers no right on the females to make independent choices for themselves, thus defining stereotypic code of conducts for them and setting a bar to their natural freedom. The reasons like status anxiety, less value to female life, sexual repression/ hostility towards sex (which is a natural and healthy extinct) develops such “insane” type of human behaviour. The economic reasons have also found to act as stimulus to this grave crime.
Geographically, The U.N. General Assembly has noted that crimes committed in the name of honour occur “in all regions of the world.” The phenomenon is occurring all over India but the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Western Uttar Pradesh are the regions where these incidents are more frequently reported. In India, the traditional studies have reported it to be a rural phenomenon but it has percolated to the urban middle-class communities as well.
STATISTICS RELATING TO HONOUR KILLINGS IN INDIA
The United Nations statistics observed that one in 5 cases of honour killing internationally every year comes from India. Out of the 5000 cases reported globally, 1000 are from India. Rather, the national and international NGOs’ claim the figures to be 4 times more, i.e. 20,000 globally every year. For India, which has still not drafted any legislation to declare the “honour killings” as a separate offence, it lacks statistical records at national and state levels. The NCRB doesn’t regard “honour killings” as a separate category of offence, but a trend can still be drawn from the information given in the figure (violent crimes against body).
During the period of 2010-2014, the crime rate against body has arisen from 9.6% to 13.9%. The crimes classified with respect to their motives depicts (see figure: motives for violent crimes against body) that 13% and 12% of the crimes against body have been accounted for having relation to “love affairs/sexual causes” and “illicit relationships,” respectively.
According to NCRB region-wise figures, Tamil Nadu and Bihar accounted for 41% (18 out of 44 cases) and 32.4% (22 out of 68 cases) of murders due to caste related issues and class conflict, respectively. 25% (7 out of 28 cases) of murders due to honour killing were reported from Madhya Pradesh. 23.0% (300 out of 1,307 cases) of murders due to love affairs were reported from Uttar Pradesh. (NCRB, “Crimes in India” 2010-2014)
THE GOVERNMENT’S BACK AND FORTH PLANNING
Politically, so far there is no separate legislation to deal with gruesome acts of honour crime. In 2004, U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution recognising “that crimes against women committed in the name of honour are a human rights issue and that States have an obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish the perpetrators of such crimes and to provide protection to the victims, and that the failure to do so constitutes a human rights violation”. During the Former PM Vajpayee reign, the Indian representative at the UN’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee, while mooting the Special Rapporteur’s report on violence against women, acerbically denied prevalence of honour killings in India. After arduous efforts made during another5 years, the issue successfully reached Parliament for discussion. Later, in 2009, Rajya Sabha members put forth the demand to have a separate law. The UPA government’s Home Minister P. Chidambaram, in response to the proposal, condemned to have a separate law, considering it to be an appendage of Homicide crime under IPC. Nevertheless, in 2010, following an inchmeal approach, the law ministry forwarded a set of recommendations called “The Indian Penal Code and Certain Other Laws Amendment Bill 2010” regarding the honour-related murders, but it didn’t deem fit to consider other forms of torture suffered by love couples.
AIDWA and NCW Comprehensive Drafts
Further, addressing the vacuity in the above said document, a well-articulated draft was presented by the legal cell of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) headed by Kirti Singh, entitled “The Prevention of Crimes in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill” to the government in consultation with many women organisations and individuals. The National Commission of Women, then headed by Girija Vyas also supported the comprehensive proposal, and a similarly entitled draft was also submitted.
Proposal for amendment
Thereafter, The Central Government in May 2011, proposed an amendment in the Section 300 of IPC to include “honour killings” in the definition of Murder. But the 242nd report of Law Commission entitled “Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill, 2011” rejected the proposal and came with a narrow scope by addressing the formation of unlawful assemblies against self-choice marriage couples and heralding the Khap panchayats as unlawful. Later, the intransigent BJP Government stalled over the slow progress of law with an opinion of having no-law at all. The Central Government is cooling its heals until any response is received with respect to the Law Commission’s recommendations by the States.
These human right violations are a threat to our progressive country which will lower our standard at global level. The Government should immediately enact a special law to prevent this crime.. What is the joy of celebrating higher GDPs if society lacks good ethics and protect its so-called “honour” not by intellect but by illogical murders?
“There is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal-minded persons who deserve harsh punishment,” -The Supreme Court of India