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Honor killing in India

Context:

  • Two adults are free to marry and “no third party” has a right to harass or cause harm to them, said Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, speaking against honour killings in India.

Case:

  • The court was hearing a petition filed by Shakti Vahini, an NGO, to make honour killing a specific crime.

Court’s verdict:

  • “When two people get into wedlock, no one should interfere. Neither parents, society, khap or panchayat… no one at all,” said Justice Misra, leading a three-judge Bench that upheld the fundamental right of two people who wish to marry and live peacefully.
  • He argued that the objection of khaps to marriages between people from the same gotra was upheld in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. The section said “ sapinda should be removed by five degrees from the father’s side and by three degrees from the mother’s side.

What is Honour killing?

  • Honour killing is defined as the killing of a relative, especially a girl or woman, who is perceived to have brought dishonour on the family.
  • India registered 251 honour killings in 2015, recording a big spike in murders carried out by people professing to be acting in defence of their family’s reputation.
  • It involves the murder of a woman or girl by male family members.
  • Honour killings have been reported in northern regions of India, mainly in the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh as a result of people marrying without their family’s acceptance, and sometimes for marrying outside their caste or religion.
  • Honour killings are also widespread in South India and the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Reasons for honour killing:

  • The apex court pointed out that three per cent of honour killings were linked to gotra. The remaining 97% were due to religion and other reasons.
  • Continued rigidity of the caste system: Hence in the fear of losing the caste status, which they gain many benefits, makes them commit this heinous crime.
  • Same gotra or outside marriages: The mentality of the people till now such that they will not be ready to accept the marriages which have taken place in the same gotra or outside. The society still negatives the right of choice in marriage.
  • Lack of formal governance:The root of the cause for the increase of it is because the formal governance has not been able to reach the rural areas.
  • 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-constitutionalized panchayat.
  • Difference in Sex ratio: The increase in the difference in sex ratio is reason to it. Honour killing are happening in the area where the sex ratio is low and girls are being bought for marriages.
  • Illiteracy and unawareness about the rights: Large section of the society unknown about the  rights which are made to protect them in our constitution incapacity due to lack in education. The honour crime violates Article 14, 15 (1) & (3) 19, 21 and 39 (f) of the Constitution of India.
  • Danger of losing Prestige and Status in society: A person’s ascribed status is more important than the achieved status.
  • 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.

Implications:

The incident of honour killing has increased in India in recent times. Such a heinous crime has ethical implications:

  • Violations of human rights.
  • Infringes right to live with dignity as per article 21 of the Constitution of India.
  • Shows lack of attributes of empathy, love, compassion, tolerance etc among fellow human beings.
  • Creates crisis of credibility in the government machinery to control such killings
  • Undermines integrity of institutions such as police, judiciary etc
  • Infringes right to choose and creates stress, fear, trauma among the lover
  • Hampers notion of national integration, solidarity, cooperation etc among various communities and creates suspicion in the minds of people.
  • May hamper peace and tranquility.
  • Shows lack of rational thinking capability, emotional intelligence etc
  • Honour killing affects the whole society at large where one or more persons consider themselves above law.
  • The ethical values of a society such as tolerance, respect for diversity, self determination etc. are degraded when such gruesome acts are either committed or ratified.

Legal aspects:

Prevention of Crimes in the Name of ‘Honour’ and Tradition Bill, 2010

  • In a recent judgement, Supreme Court has pronounced that it is illegal for parents or Khap Panchayats to interfere in marriage decision of adult couple.
  • The recent judgement resounds the 2010 directive of Supreme Court to central government to take steps against honour killing.
  • Prevention of Crimes in the Name of ‘Honour’ and Tradition Bill, 2010 was the response of the government.

Key features of the Bill:

  • Bars the assembly of any community or village panchayat, such as khap, for the purpose of disapproving the marriage of the couple.
  • Protects the couple against the ostracism and socio-economic insecurity
  • Penalises the persons involved, including family member, for intend to cause grievous harm or persecution of the couple.
  • Burden of proof on innocence lies with the accused.

Significance of the Bill:

  • Re-affirms the person’s Fundamental Right over their bodily expression, personal relations, choice of marriage partner and freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under article 19 and 21.
  • Restore the authority and legitimacy of “State” in matters of penal provisions, and law and order, which is being usurped by khap panchayats.
  • Empowers state to take necessary action against “love jihad” campaigns.
  • Promotes inter-caste marriages – this will help in loosening the hold of caste system over India society.
  • The bill certainly enables women to become more equal participant in socio-economic development of country.
  • It restricts Confiscation of property and boycotting of family by village.
  • Bringing Members of Community Panchayat under jurisdiction and punishable would curb harassment and Illegal actions against couple.
  • Speech and Expression to Couple and enforce rule of law.

Law commission report on Honour Killing:

  • In August, 2012, the Law Commission of India, 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

Way ahead:

  • Media play a more crucial role in expressing their views in the front of whole of society,without any fear, even there is a right of freedom to express is also given in our Constitution.
  • It is necessary to improve sex ratio in the areas where females low in number and still practicing the female foeticide like Haryana, UP, and Punjab.
  • Literacy is used as arm that has a potential to curb this menace.
  • The laws should be clear and issues related to the validity of the Khap Panchayat should be clear to people.
  • There should be a provision of one or two women sitting in the Khap Panchayats so that equality right also follows.
  • It is imperative for the state to focus on such programmes and projects which help in gender equity.

Conclusion:

A woman can never be considered as property of man or family in a civilized society and has free will to choose her life the way she wants to live. Human dignity and autonomy are absolute values and shall never be violated at any cost. It is context it is expected from the government  to focus on such programmes and projects which help in gender equity.

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