BY :-BINEETA MITRA (5th semester) 3rd year
“Honour killing” is an age old social evil whose frequency has escalated in the recent past. Khap Panchayats, which are a system of social administration in rural areas since ancient times, are being blamed for these long series of killings. While these Panchayats (assembly) had some role in setting the community disputes, these exclusively male bodies, dominated by village eliteS have been asserting the values of past, gone by era and stand in the way of the values of Indian Constitution, the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
An honor killing or honour killing (also called a customary killing) is the murder of a (female) family or clan member by one or more fellow (mostly male) family members, where the murderers (and potentially the wider community) believe the victim to have brought dishonour upon the family, clan, or community. This perceived dishonor is normally the result of (a) utilizing dress codes unacceptable to the family (b) wanting out of an arranged marriage or choosing to marry by own choice, (c) engaging in certain sexual acts or (d) engaging in relations with the same sex. These killings result from the perception that defense of honor justifies killing a person whose behavior dishonors their clan or family. These crimes are prevalent in orthodox, regional and socially backward groups in many countries across the world, mainly of muslim origin.
In Pakistan honor killings are known locally as karo-kari. Amnesty International’s report noted “the failure of the authorities to prevent these killings by investigating and punishing the perpetrators.”Recent cases include that of three teenage girls who were buried alive after refusing arranged marriages. Another case was that of Taslim Khatoon Solangi, 17, of Hajna Shah village in Khairpur district, which became widely reported after the graphic account of her father, 57-year-old Gul Sher Solangi, who allegedly tortured and murdered his eight months’ pregnant daughter on March 7 on the orders of her father-in-law, who accused her of carrying a child conceived out of wedlock. Statistically, honor killings enjoy high level of support in Pakistani society, despite widespread condemnation from human rights groups. In 2002 alone, over 382 people, about 245 women and 137 men, became victims of honor killings in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Over the course of six years, over 4,000 women have fallen victim to this practice in Pakistan from 1999–2004. More recently (in 2005), the average annual number of honor killings for the whole nation ran up to more than 10,000 per year. “Frequently, women murdered in “honour” killings are recorded as having committed suicide or died in accidents.
Every year in the UK, a dozen women are victims of honor killings, occurring almost exclusively to date within Asian and Middle Eastern families, and often cases are unresolved due to the unwillingness of family, relatives and communities to testify. A 2006 BBC poll for the network in the UK found that 1 in 10 of the 500 young Asians polled said that they could condone the murder of someone who dishonored their family. In the UK, in December 2005, Nazir Afzal, Director, West London, of Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service, stated that the United Kingdom has seen “at least a dozen honour killings” between 2004 and 2005.
Jordan, considered one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East still witnesses instances of honor killings. In Jordan there is minimal gender discrimination and women are permitted to vote, but men receive reduced sentences for killing their wives or female family members if they have brought dishonor to their family. Families often have sons who are considered minors, under the age of 18, to commit the honor killings. A loophole in the juvenile law allows minors to serve time in a juvenile detention center and they are released with a clean criminal record at the age of 18. Rana Husseini, a leading journalist on the topic of honor killings, states that “under the existing law, people found guilty of committing honor killings often receive sentences as light as six months in prison”. There has been much outcry in Jordan for the amendments of Article 340 and 98. In 1999, King Abdullah created a council to review the gender inequalities in the country. The Council returned with a recommendation to repeal Article 340.
An article in the Spring 2009 edition of Middle East Quarterly argues that the United States is far behind Europe in acknowledging that honor killings are a special form of domestic violence, requiring special training and special programs to protect the young women and girls most likely to be the victim of such. The article suggests that the fear of being labeled “culturally insensitive” prevents US government officials and the media from both identifying and accurately reporting these incidents as “honor killings” when they occur. Failing to accurately describe the problem makes it more difficult to develop public policies to address it.
SCENARY IN INDIA
People are sometimes murdered in Northern India (mainly in the Indian state of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Bihar for marrying without their family’s acceptance, in some cases for marrying outside their caste (Jat or Rajput) or religion. Among Rajputs, marriages with other caste male/female instigates killings of the married couple and family. This is unique form honor killing related to the militant culture of ethnic Rajputs, who, despite the forces of modernization and the pressures of decolonization, subscribe to medieval views concerning the “preservation” of perceived “purity” of their lineage.
In Punjab also there are many honor killing incidents. In Haryana, for example, a couple of such incidents still occur every year Bhagalpur in the northern Indian state of Bihar has also been notorious for honor killings. Recent cases include a 16-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 neighbours arrived, only to find her still smoldering. She was admitted to a local hospital, where she later succumbed to her injuries. In another case in May 2008, Jayvirsingh Bhadodiya shot his daughter Vandana Bhadodiya and struck her in the head with an axe. In june 2010 some incidents were reported even from Delhi.
In a landmark judgment, in March 2010, Karnal district court ordered the execution of the five perpetrators in an honour killing case, while giving a life sentence to the khap (local caste-based council) head who ordered the killings of Manoj Banwala (23) and Babli (19), two members of the same clan who eloped and married in June 2007. Despite being given police protection on court orders, they were kidnapped; their mutilated bodies were found a week later from an irrigation canal.Honor killings are rare to non-existent in South India, and the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. There have been no honor killings in West Bengal in over 100 years, thanks to the influence and activism of reformists like Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Vidyasagar and Raja Ram Mohan Roy .
In Haryana, JUNE 2010, a couple in their 20s were found dead in the woman’s home in Bhiwani District. The bodies bore injury marks, indicating the victims were beaten mercilessly. The police have arrested six member of the woman’s family, including her parents, on the charge of murder. The family apparently disapproved of the relationship because the man was from a different caste.
In Delhi, JUNE 2010, A 19-year-old girl and her boyfriend were tortured for hours before being killed by electrocution in Delhi. The girl’s father and uncle have been arrested and have allegedly confessed they killed the couple because the boy, a taxi driver, was not a suitable match for the girl.
VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHT
Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce — even from an abusive husband — or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that “dishonors” her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.
As the “Honour Killings” include torture, mutilation, rape, forced marriage, imprisonment within the home and even murder and these crimes are intended to protect the family honour by preventing and punishing woman for allegedly violating community norms of behaviour, particularly sexual behaviour and thus violating the HUMAN RIGHT.
RECENT SCENARIO IN INDIA
In the recent times the cases has been on the increase and in current scenario when the State has remained mute spectators there is a lot of fear spread among the young generation and couples who are married and some of them intending to get married that they may face the wrath of such feudal forces. Many a times the pressures are so intense that the couples resort to suicide. In the recent months cases have come to light where couples are being killed, publicly humiliated and declared as brothers and sisters. Couples have faced social ostracisation from the society. Many have been killed in cold murder after torture.
1. New Law on Honour Killings as already announced by the Government to be enacted.
2. States to take all necessary precautionary measures to curve Honour Killings and take proactive steps to prevent such killings.
3. The Central and the State Government need to come out with a paper on what steps they have taken to implement the Supreme Court Directions in 2006 in Lata Singh Vs State of Uttar Pradesh.
4. Come out with various help lines numbers and special cell where such couples can approach the administration for protection.
5. Constitute fast track courts for cases of Honour Killings.
6. AMENDMENT OF the Special Marriage Act and reduce the period of registration of Marriage from one month to one week.
PROPOSED ENACTMENT OF NEW LAW
The proposed ordinance is expected soon so that spate of recent cases could come under the ordinance. A top government official said law minister M Veerappa Moily and home minister P Chidambaram have been working in tandem to strengthen Section 302 of the IPC, which deals with punishment for murder. Attorney general Goolam E Vahanvati has suggested a speedy amendment in the law.In his opinion, Vahanvati has said bodies like khap (caste) panchayats can be brought under the ambit of the crime as they are accused in many instances of ordering killings in the name of protecting the “honour” of the community. The law minister wants a new section in the IPC to define such crimes. The ordinance would also amend the Evidence Act to put the onus of proof on the accused. The Supreme Court had recommended amending the Evidence Act so that caste-provoked killings can be dealt with sternly. Among the suggested changes is holding caste panchayats guilty of any “honour” crime, and holding all members of such bodies as deemed guilty, whether or not they favoured the killing.
The new law would also cover torture, social boycott of the couple and discrimination. Such killings would be defined as “where men and women are killed by their kin or members of their caste for defying traditions”. It would be a separate crime under the IPC and those found guilty could be punished with death or life imprisonment. An ordinance has to be approved by parliament within six months of its promulgation, or it lapses.
Union law minister Veerappa Moily said the government was planning to bring a bill in Parliament next session to provide for deterrent punishment for honour killings. The bill adds five clauses to Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, making honour killings a “distinct offence”. Such killings now bring charges of murder (Section 302), criminal conspiracy (Section 120 A& B) and killing with common intent (Section 34 and 36). Honour killing cases would be tried by fast track courts to provide speedy justice to the victims.
It remains to be seen as to how effectively the legislature and the judiciary are able to resolve this conflicting issue between traditional beliefs and transition to modernity.