Women are tortured or killed when an honor code is believed to have been broken and perceived shame is brought upon the family.
This article has been written by Dr. Navpreet Kaur in which she presented the issue of Honor Killing. She is a Chandigarh-based Researcher/Campaigner / Lawyer and Social Worker. She is closely working for women’s empowerment and the upliftment& social integration of acid attack survivors, underprivileged women, children, and various other weaker sections of society. The research papers written by Dr.Navpreet Kaur are published in various National and International journals and books. In addition, she has been invited as a speaker/Chairperson/Panelist/Judge by various National and International Colleges, Universities, and Departments.
In various societies, maintaining family honor is perceived as more important than individual freedom, individual achievements, and even at times considered as more important than someone’s life. Honor killing means killing a person by the people seeking to protect what they see as the dignity and honor of themselves or their family. The victims of such crimes are believed to have shamed their family or community or violated the principles of their religion.
Honour Killings are often linked to reasons such as insisting on or choosing a love marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their family, having sex before marriage, giving birth to a female child, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate by the so-called society, engaging in homosexual relations, etc.
In India, marriage is considered a sacrament with a solemn pledge and is treated as a means to establish relations between two families. Thus utmost care is taken to ensure maximum cultural compatibility between the two. According to the Hindu Marriage Act, every citizen has the right to choose their life partner after attaining the age of majority. But still, most adults don’t have the right to choose their partner as per their wish for the sake of honor. In some cultures with solid principles of family honor, even adults are not free to choose a partner for them but may instead be expected to enter into an arranged marriage. If someone goes against their parents’ wish and marries in the other caste or religion, it is considered a dishonor to the family, and this dishonor is sufficient to trigger an attack and kill their own kin. The majority of such incidences arise in the case of inter-caste or inter-religion marriages.
Patriarchy uses violence extensively to subjugate women
Women are tortured and murdered across the globe for the sake of family honor. Patriarchy uses violence extensively to subjugate women. Honor killings are a serious problem of violence against women, often resulting from strongly misogynistic views towards women. Women are tortured or killed when an honor code is believed to have been broken and perceived shame is brought upon the family. 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; in March 2021, a father murdered his 19-year-old daughter for eloping with her Dalit paramour in Dausa district, Rajasthan. Such incidents clearly show that women are not given the right to choose their own partners as in the patriarchal society, it is assumed that they don’t have a right to make decisions for themselves.
The birth of a baby girl is also the reason for honor killing
The birth of a girl child is seen as dishonor by patriarchal societies. Many women are routinely abused for giving birth to girls as people believe women are responsible for the gender of children. Moreover, because of son preference, women are harassed, beaten, and tortured by their in-law’s families. In a glaring example from India-Geeta Mahour, Neetu was horribly disfigured when Inderjeet Mahour drunkenly poured acid on his wife (Geeta) and two daughters (Neetu) as they slept. He also targeted his younger daughter Krishna, who died in the attack in Agra, Uttar Pradesh in India. The reason was “Honor”. He was upset that her wife hadn’t brought him a son.
Social stigma” attached to divorced women
Divorces are riddled with stigma in various societies, especially for women. A divorced woman is seen as impure and evil. In fact, the “social stigma” attached to divorced women is so strong that most parents would rather see their daughters dead than have them get a divorce. A woman attempting to obtain a divorce or separation even from an abusive husband can also be a trigger for honor killings.
Men are also brought as a victim of honor killing
This is because when the men violate the customs, the family members of the women or the male family members tend to join hands to kill him. These honor killings’ main motives are social pressure, fear, social taboo, and stigma.
It is estimated that approximately 1000 people (both females and males) are killed annually in India due to alleged honor killings due to its complex socio-cultural patterns. In June 2010, scrutinizing the increasing number of honor killings, the Supreme Court of India issued notices to the Central Government and six states, including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan, to take preventive measures against honor killings.
Khap Panchayats are responsible for honor killing
Khap panchayats, which exist as a union of villages, are also responsible for honor killings. The case of Shakti Vahini vs. Union of India is a landmark case when it comes to the matter of Honour killing in which the observed that any type of honor-based crime with an intention to suppress a person’s choice to love marriage is illegal. Doing so would be violative of his dignity, which is against the provisions of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Court held that when two adults get married out of their own will, they choose their relationship; they have been given this right under the Constitution. So, any infringement of the said right violates the Constitution.
There is no separate law to punish those found guilty of honor killing, and prosecutions are usually among various sections of the Indian Penal Code for homicide and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Several efforts have been made to create a separate law dealing with honor killings, but they have been unsuccessful so far. Apart from Sections 300, 302 murder and its punishment, Section 304, 307 attempts to commit murder Section 120A & 120 B Criminal conspiracy, Common Intention section 34 & 35 are also explored to assess the act of murder from killing.
Violence like honor killings is deeply rooted in our society. The need of the hour is to create a human environment through consistent efforts to spread awareness regarding humanity. Thus social mores need to be changed for the good of society. The need is to foster an ethical value system, and the thrust should be to make human beings good and responsible citizens with human feelings. Everyone needs to understand that humanity is more important than honor.
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