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Stop Honor Killing – By Aqsa Naz

Aqsa Naz
Freelance Writer

Courtesy: Outlook

Honor Killing in India
بھارت میں غیرت و عزت کے نام پر قتل
भारत में ऑनर किलिंग

What is the meaning of the word honor? Honor means prestige, when used as an adjective honor means special respect, when used as a noun honor means righteousness, when used in the context of cultural and societal backdrop honor is the premier asset of every person. But when referring to honor killing, honor somehow becomes a stigma, it becomes insecurity, it seems to even serve as justification for ruthlessly ending the lives of one’s own family members without even looking away, or in certain situations, without feeling regret. The moot question is who decides, what is honor? Who gets to set these standards for honor? Why honor is always to be correlated with women?

Honor killing, or killing a family member for the sake of honor that is believed to be stained
by their behavior, is a social phenomenon that can be found in a diverse range of societies
across the world. Honor killings – which refer to the murders of people perceived as bringing “shame” to their communities – are regularly reported in India. Many of the victims are young people who defy their families to marry from other religions or castes, or sometimes within the same sub-caste.

Honor killings are a product of the societal mindset that gives rise to violence against women. The publicly articulated “justification” for assault, confinement, or imprisonment, as well as interference with a woman’s choice to marry, is attributed to social order, which is said to require the preservation of the concept of honor in male (family and/or conjugal) control over women, specifically over their sexual and behavioral conduct.

To put it simply, “Honor Killings are when one or more male family members murder a member of the family.” Occasionally, though, family women are also complicit in this crime.

According to statistics from the United Nations, one in five cases of honor killing internationally every year comes from India. Of the 5000 cases reported internationally, 1000 are from India. Non-governmental organizations put the number at four times this figure. They claim it is around 20,000 cases globally every year.
20-year-old killed by uncle for marrying man of different caste
Honor is a prized possession of every human existence. In the name of culture and traditions no one gets the free license to eliminate precious human life. It can neither be forfeited for the individual interest nor for the collective interest. It is always immoral and illegal to kill someone and a gross violation of human right. It is illegitimate to take the life of someone without rhyme or a reason. It is also unconstitutional and against the law. Constitution has guaranteed to its every citizen the right to life and dignity. Honor is intact with life. This right is assured in the constitution of India as fundamental right. It is the right of every person to be protected from any type of danger to his/her life. Every individual has the right to choice. Right to opinion is also an integral part of its guarantee. Thus right to marry, choosing a partner by free will also come within the purview of right to life. The societal and cultural
pressures can not infringe the right to reside with dignity in society. But for the sake of killing under the name of honor of the family is unlawful, the legislation has provided provisions to deal with these unwarranted practices. Killing someone will never ever replace or restore the so called lost honor rather this acts amounts to murder.
The shame of ‘honor killing’ thrives with a degree of social license and an eye on maintaining ‘prestige’ of family, caste and religion, but the innocent are killed bypassing established laws.
In terms of criminal orientation one can treat honor as precious and unique property possessed by each individual. It cannot be seen with bare eyes but its presence is so powerful that it encompasses the whole human behavior. When we weigh honor as property, the measuring scales can be in terms of female behavior, sexual and other aspects. In this instance, women are crucial to possessing such property, or more accurately, the concept of honor revolves around the essence and existence of women.
Thus primary reason for steadfastness of an ‘honor killing’ is conviction that the victim had brought shame to the family. There may be variations for this dishonor as it is subjective and for different families different consideration of honor will apply like for some conservative families unacceptable dress codes are prohibited and it is co-related with family prestige, for others love marriage is a taboo, one cannot decide the partner of his or her own choice, it should be strictly in compliance with parental order, non-acceptance to live-in relationships, pre-marital sex, finding out the status as lesbian, gay, third gender etc.

India has always been proud of its secularism and democracy both before and after gaining its independence. The morality of marriage hasn’t changed, though. Marriages are typically observed by families as a holy rite. Some incidents involve the horrifying and terrible waves of massacring that young, innocent women are subjected to when they choose their life partner based on their own desires and choices. Furthermore, by making this decision, the ladies expose themselves to the purportedly superior caste, religious sect, and traditional social guards. A murder committed in the name of honor instills suffering and rejects equality, two tenets of the Indian Constitution. Additionally, it illustrates how some aspects of our societal structure still uphold the values of patriarchy and feudalism.

While data is not enough to corroborate the actual numbers of honor killings that take place every year, but lets look at a few brutal killings in the recent past which are just a scratch on the surface. Although honor killing cases are more prevalent in a few North Indian states, like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, Jharkhand and Punjab, it is being increasingly reported in the South too, including Karnataka. As per the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of honor killings reported in India was 25 each in 2019 and 2020, and 33 in 2021. But these figures are based on those reported, and the number could be much higher than mentioned. Honor killings have been rampant in Karnataka, including Mandya, Kolar, Tumakuru and parts of North Karnataka. From October 2022 until now, at least seven horrendous cases have been reported in the state.

Indian-origin Muslim woman murdered in suspected honour killing in UK - Times of India

According to police officials who have investigated these crimes, in most cases the perpetrators do not exhibit any sense of guilt, instead, there is a degree of pride in committing honor killings. They feel they have done something credible to protect the honor and prestige of their caste, clan or religion – which could explain why such crimes receive support from other members of the group closely linked to the perpetrators.

Honour killings – clearly, the continuing shame of India despite the country’s major advances in several domains – are powered by the status and pride among individuals over the castes, sub-castes and religions they belong to. Utmost importance is given to the ‘purity’ of the family and that of ‘sense of belonging’ to a particular social segment has led to the most abhorrent outcome of patriarchy in the form of ‘honor killings’.

1. Punjab honor killing, May 2023

In May this year, 25-year-old Manpreet Kaur and her rumoured lover 30-year-old Gurdeep Singh were found dead in Thikriwala village of Punjab’s Barnala district. A police investigation revealed that Manpreet’s father and brother killed Singh when he came to visit Manpreet at her house on a certain night, according to a report by Indian Express. The couple was allegedly together for a long time and upon finding the same, Bhola Singh and his son Sukhbir Singh attacked the man with a sharp-edged weapon and killed him. They also strangulated Manpreet to death. While Singh’s body was recovered from a small sewer drain outside Bhola Singh’s house, Manpreet’s body was found on the charpoy inside the house’s balcony.

2. Tirupati honour killing, February 2023

In February, a father in Alamuru village in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, after he killed his daughter, beheaded her and disposed of her body parts in an alleged honour killing. 21-year-old Prasanna Reddy had fallen in love with a local of a different caste from her village. Disapproed by her family, Prasanna was married to a relative and sent off to stay in another village.  However, during one of her visits to her native village, Prasanna never returned to her in-laws raising suspicion among her family members. Further, the talk about her love affair angered her father, who thought that she was bringing shame on the family, according to a report by Times of India. Following a heated altercation one day, Prasanna’s father choked her to death and later beheaded her, and threw her body parts in the nearby forest. The crime took place on February 10 but came to light much later when the victim’s grandfather filed a missing complaint.

3. Karnataka honour killing, June 2023

A farmer from Karnataka’s Tumakuru was arrested for allegedly killing his 17-year-old daughter in a suspected case of honour killing on June 9. The victim, Nethravathy, was the only daughter of Parashuram among three children. Parashuram, belonging to a Schedule Tribe (ST) community, was a local leader having a hold in the community.

According to the police investigation, Nethravathy, who went to a public university, was in a relationship with a boy from the scheduled caste. Upon learning about her relationship, the family of the victim stopped her education and got her engaged to another man. However, Nethravathy soon ran away from her home and was found, and brought back on June 8. Furious, for bringing disrespect to the family, they tried to force-feed her pesticide to make it look like a case of suicide. When she resisted and refused to consume the pesticide, Parashuram with his son and brother strangulated Nethravathy to death, and later cremated the body in their field to hush up the murder, said the police.

4. Rohtak honour killing, February 2023

A 20-year-old woman was killed and cremated by her family in Rithal Narwal village of Rohtak in a recent case of honour killing. According to a report by India TV, Divya, who got married in February was facing differences with her in-laws and returned to her village to stay with her family. Before her marriage, Divya had fallen in love with a boy from her village and the relationship was not approved by her family. After Divya’s marriage, the boy along with some youths, assaulted the girl’s husband, due to which the marriage broke up.

On learning about this, Divya’s family killed her and cremated the body in a hurry to wipe out any evidence. Although they tried to pass the case as a suicide, police investigation recovered bones from the sight.

5. UP honour killing, May 2023

In May, in a suspected case of honour killing, a man dragged his niece out of her house and slit her throat for eloping and marrying a man of a different caste in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur. The incident happened at Bajnagar village under the Pisawan Police Circle. Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP), Sitapur, NP Singh said the 20-year-old woman had an affair with Roop Chandra Maurya, who was from the village and married. After the woman and Maurya managed to get married at a court last year in November and returned to stay in the village, the woman’s uncle, Shyamu Singh reached the house where the couple was living and dragged the woman out. He slit her throat with a sickle, the officer said. Shyamu Singh surrendered himself at the Pisavan police station along with the murder weapon, NP Singh said. Singh claimed that he killed her as she had eloped and married a man who was already married and was from a different caste, the ASP said, according to a report by PTI.

6. Murder of Aishwarya

The killing of Aishwarya occurred between January 2 to 3 of 2024. A Kallar Hindu, Aishwarya,19 years old, married Naveen, a Dalit on December 31, 2023 following an 18-month relationship. The couple met in school and worked at a knitting unit in Tiruppur. Following the wedding, the couple moved to Veerapandi, Theni. A missing persons report was filed by Aishwarya’s parents, Perumal and Roja, which led to the return of Aishwarya to her parents despite her being of the age of majority.On January 3, 2024, Naveen learned about the death and cremation of Aishwarya, filing a police report on January 7 under the suspicion Aishwarya was murdered by her parents. Perumal and Roja were later arrested for the torturing and hanging of their daughter who was later cremated and police officer Murugaiyan suspended for enforcing the return of Aishwarya to her parents. Several other members of Aishwarya’s family were detained in relation to the incident.

7. 19-Yr-Old Tamil Nadu Woman Burned Alive By Family Days After Marrying Dalit Boyfriend

A 19-year-old woman was allegedly murdered and secretly cremated by her family for marrying a Dalit man in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu.  In a horrifying incident, a 19-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly burned to death by her own family members, including her father, days after she married her Dalit boyfriend against the family’s wishes. The incident took place in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, police said. According to details, the deceased victim, Aishwarya was in love with Naveen– both 19 years of age, since childhood as both had been friends since their childhood days and later worked together in Tiruppur.

• Honor killings have been reported in northern regions of India, mainly in the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The main reason for these crimes is a result of people marrying without their family’s acceptance, especially when it is between members of two different castes or religion .

Indian Muslim woman raped,murdered in suspected honour killing

• The Indian state of Punjab also has a large number of honor killings. According to data compiled by the Punjab Police, 34 honor killings were reported in the state between 2008 and 2010: 10 in 2008, 20 in 2009, and four in 2010 Bhagalpur in the eastern Indian state of Bihar has also been notorious for honor killings Jagir Kaur a prominent Sikh leader and six others were charged with causing the miscarriage and death of Kaur’s daughter in 2000. Kaur was sentenced to 5 years for conspiracy but was acquitted on appeal in 2018 and the case awaits hearing at the Supreme Court Recent cases include a16-year-old girl, Imrana, from Bhojpur who was set on fire inside her house in a case of what the police called ‘moral vigilantism’. The victim had screamed for help for about 20 minutes before neighbors arrived, only to find her smoldering body. She was admitted to a local hospital, where she later died fromher injuries. In May 2008, Jayvirsingh Bhadodiya shot his daughter VandanaBhadodiya and struck her on the head with an axe. honor killings occur even in Delhi.

• Honor killings take place in Rajasthan, too. In June 2012, a man chopped off his 20-year-old daughter’s head with a sword in Rajasthan after learning that she was dating men. According to police officer, “Omkar Singh told the police that his daughter Manju had relations with several men. Hehad asked her to mend her ways several times in the past. However, she did not payheed. Out of pure rage, he chopped off her head with the sword”.

• June 2010, the increasing number of honor killings, the Supreme Court of India demanded responses about honor killing prevention from the federal government and the state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.

• In 2000, Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu (nicknamed Jassi), a Canadian Punjabi who married rickshaw driver Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu (nicknamed Mithu) against her family’s wishes, was brutally murderedin India following orders from her mother and uncle in Canada so that “the family honor was restored”. Her body was found in an irrigation canal. Mithu was kidnapped, beaten and left to die, but survived.

• In May this year, 25-year-old Manpreet Kaur and her rumored lover 30-year-old Gurdeep Singh were found dead in Thikriwala village of Punjab’s Barnala district. A police investigation revealed that Manpreet’s father and brother killed Singh when he came to visit Manpreet at her house on a certain night, according to a report by Indian Express. The couple was allegedly together for a long time and upon finding the same, Bhola Singh and his son Sukhbir Singh attacked the man with a sharp-edged weapon and killed him. They also strangulated Manpreet to death.

• On October 24, 2013, in another case from Haryana, a 15 year old Muslim girl from Muzzafarnagar was banished to her uncle’s house to prevent her from seeing the boy she was in love with. Her uncle allegedly murdered her and buried her in Panchkula District in Haryana.

Illustration by Danish Munir

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
The endowments of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provide for more effective protection of women’s rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. These women all seem to be victims of violence of any kind that occurs within the family, and for matters connected with or incidental to it.
Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006:
This Act ensures that everyone’s human rights are protected, as well as the establishment of commissions and courts to achieve such goals. Despite such regulations, honor killings continue to be common, resulting in grave violations of human rights. Thus if we look at the framework of available laws it seems apparently clear that there is no specific law that will deal with the aspect of Honor killings. Thousands of young lives are butchered mercilessly under the pretext of bringing disgrace for the families. The legal structures, the judgments of the Judiciary are still falling short to comprehend the menace of honor killing. Governments are being accused for their criminal carelessness in dealing with
these crimes. There is no legal definition of the crime, no legal acknowledgment of diverse components of the crime, no protection for self-choice couples, no preventative measures, no responsibility, and no penalty. Because most of these deaths are classified as either murder or culpable homicide, the vast majority of them go undetected. As a result, there are no accurate data on such homicides in India. In the government’s records, there is no organized data for these types of instances.

The Judiciary is one such institution in India which has earned a lot of respect through its magnanimous contribution. People of India have very high expectations and hopes from the temple of Justice. The more than 70-year journey has resulted in a long-lasting contribution to the governing system. The judiciary worked as a promoter of peace, fostering harmony, balance, and cooperation among the government’s many departments. The initial phase may be rigid, providing judgments only from legal point of view, by interpreting the laws and regulations but with the passage of time the judiciary expanded its horizon and delivered path breaking Judgments. The judges as the architect of justice crafted the pronouncements by adopting scientific, procedural, technical, methodological approach and
expanded the ambit of fundamental rights and protected and provided platform for all the laws. It gave numerous instructions for safeguarding the people of India’s human dignity and human rights through a number of rulings, specially focusing on the issues of women, children, bonded labors, plight of prisoners, socially and educationally backward people.

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