Honour Killing - Social and Legal narratives - Seeker's Thoughts

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Honour Killing - Social and Legal narratives

Honor killing the stigma of the patriarchal society

Honor killing is most often the murder of a woman or girl by any male member of the family when she falls in love with a man of another religion, caste, or community. 

The killer justifies actions by claiming that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family name or the prestige.
In a conservative society, girls and women have been suppressed for hundreds of years. They have been closely monitored and controlled in every aspect of life. The maintenance of a woman’s dignity, virginity, and sexual purity are the responsibility of the male guardian of the family. The definition of 'good women' is often related to the woman who marries with anyone her family chooses and maintains her virginity in the social narrative. 

Victims of honor killings usually is alleged to have engaged in “sexually immoral” actions, ranging from openly interacting or having affairs with men without marriage or against family even if the couple is married. (even if they are victims of rape or sexual assault). 

However, a woman can be targeted for murder for a variety of other reasons, including refusing to enter an arranged marriage or seeking a divorce or separation- even from an abusive husband

Acts include female behaviors that are roaming around alone or with friends, choosing a life partner of her choice and way of dressing, and also being homosexual. As a result, according to the family that they lose all the respect in the community and among relatives. So, the only way the shame can be removed is through killing.

 The culture in which honor killing takes place is usually considered “collective culture”, where the family is more important than the individual.

The mere suspicion that a woman has acted in a manner that damages her family’s name may trigger an attack; these assumptions are generally based on men’s feelings and perceptions rather than on objective truth. Ironically, female relatives often defend the killings and occasionally help set them up.
Such crimes are widely suspected to be underreported the United Nations Population Fund estimates that as many as 5,000 women are killed annually for reasons of honor. These crimes take place throughout the world and are not limited to one specific religion or faith. 

However, they have rather significantly and consistently occurred in various parts of the Middle East and South Asia, with nearly half of all honor killings occurring in India and Pakistan.


History of honor killing

The origin of honor killings and the control of women is evident throughout history in the cultures and traditions of many regions.

 The Romans gave complete control to the men of the family over both their children and wives at the discretion of the men in their families. 

Ancient Roman law also justified honor killings by stating that women who were found guilty of adultery could be killed by their husbands. During the Qing dynasty in China, fathers and husbands had the right to kill daughters who were deemed to have dishonored the family.

What are the causes of honor killing?
Honor killing is a result of strongly against views towards women and their rights. And the position of the women in society is not less than a slave in a male chauvinist society. In these traditional male-dominated societies women are dependent first on their father and then their husband, and they are expected to obey. Women are viewed as property and not as individuals. If they refused to obey their male family member they face extreme violence as punishment.

Culture of prestige
The concept of family prestige is extremely important in several religious communities. The most frequently quoted figure published by the United Nation in 2000 is an estimate of 5,000 killings worldwide each year.

 The family is viewed as the main source of honor and the community highly values the relationship between honor and the family. Acts by the family members which may be considered inappropriate are bringing shame to the family in the eyes of the community.

Forced suicide: Around the Globe
A forced suicide may be a substitute for an honor killing. In this case, the family members do not directly kill the victim themselves but force him or her to commit suicide, to avoid punishment. Such suicide is reported to be common in south-eastern turkey. It was reported that in 2001, 565 women lost their lives in honor-related crimes.
Forced marriage
In the case of an unmarried woman or girl associating herself with a man, losing virginity, or being raped, the family may attempt to restore its ‘honour’ with a ‘shotgun wedding’. 

The groom will usually be the man who has ‘dishonoured’ the women or girl, but if this not possible the family may try to arrange a marriage with another man, often a man who is part of the extended family of the one who has committed the acts with the woman or girl. 

This being an alternative to an honor killing, the woman or girl has no choice but to accept the marriage. The family of the man is expected to cooperate and provide a room for the woman.

What are the laws in India to prevent honor killing?

Section 299-304: penalizes any person guilty of murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The punishment for murder is a life sentence or death and a fine. The punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder is life imprisonment or imprisonment for up to 10 years fine

Section 307 – penalizes an attempt to commit culpable homicide by imprisonment for up to 3 years or with a fine or both. If it causes hurt, the Peron shall be imprisoned for up to 7 years or fined or both.

Section 308 – penalizes an attempt to commit culpable homicide by imprisonment for up to 3 years or with a fine or both. It causes hurt, and the person shall be imprisoned for up to 7 years or fined or both.

Section 120A and B – penalizes any person who is a party to a criminal conspiracy.

Section 107-116 – penalize persons for abetment of offenses including murder and culpable and homicide.

Section 34 and 35 – penalizes criminal acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention.

Section 300 – introduces “fifthly” cause to section 300 of IPC which at present defines “murder” under four categories. The additional definition would make khap-dictated honor killings a distinct offense and make all those who participate in the decision liable to be tried for the main charge, that is murder, and liable maximum penalty, death.

                                            Arguments against the  law
The existing penalty for the offense of murder is enough if they are implemented strictly and effectively.
A new set of laws would not deter honor killing because of the basic issue of social sanction for acts committed to curtailing same gotra marriage, inter-caste marriage, and inter-religion marriage.
There is a need for creating awareness among traditional communities through education. Holding khap panchayats collectively accountable can be detrimental to members who do not support such killing. Also, it could be misused for showing a strong unreasoning desire for revenge agendas.

Arguments favoring the new law
Making the crime of honor killing a separate offense would help bring more clarity for law enforcement agencies. One of the proposals is to amend the Indian Evidence Act to put the burden of proof on the accused. Thus, the khap panchayat or the family members would be responsible for proving their innocence.
There would be joint liability under the proposed new law. The khap panchayat (or any group ordering honor killings and the person who carries out the killing would be jointly liable for punishment. Presently there is no definition of Honour killing/ crime or clarity.

The new law provides a mandate for a special police cell in each district to provide protection to couples.
The new law comes with institutional machinery and the required coordination of all stakeholders. It will also mandate the different state government and the centre to work on sensitization of the law enforcement agency. The new law mandate social initiative and awareness to curb such violence through social means.

India needs strict laws to protect couples
India needs proper strict laws and legislation to put an end to the so-called ‘honor killing a blot on a democratic society. Couples who had eloped often landed in trouble as parents unwilling to reconcile with their wards. Such couples should be provided legal protection as they were subjected to a social-economic boycott.

Honor killing is a stigma. Women and men lost their lives in the name of society and cultural norms. Killing someone for honor is the most inhumane activity done by humans. There are several filthy activities that can be seen so frequently in media throughout the country. There are many cases of women being branded witches, paraded naked, and tortured in public which are extremely heinous offenses of honor. This is the reason women face rape, sexual assault, and physical violence incidents have occurred, and these are endless crimes which women have been facing for hundreds of years. There should be special laws included for women. 


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