white black legal international law journal ISSN: 2581-8503

Peer-Reviewed Journal | Indexed at Manupatra, HeinOnline, Google Scholar & ROAD




Authored By - Dr Anupam Manhas

& Dr Rakesh Kumar,

Assistant Professor,

Career Point University Hamirpur H.P.



Honour killing is the most brutal practice in the society where the community never  pauses to kill the challenger if a slightest attempt is made to disrupt the social order.[1]  In many areas of the world one can find societies where insult, shame and  humiliation are dominant notions or ideas and common actual experiences.[2] A  concern  is  on  the  rise  amid  the  liberal  minded  people,  social,  democratic  and  international and national institutions, regarding the increasing incidents of brutal killings of blameless youths in the name of family or clan honour in India. Actually,  the use of the word honour for such a dishonorable act is deplorable in itself.[3] The  people who take honour and pride in those killings should be ashamed and not proud  of their doings .Honour killing can be defined as the murder or a forced suicide of  an  individual  by  a  family  or  clan  member  upon  some  doubt   or   suspicion   or  inference that an individual has negotiated his or her honour or virtue and thus marked or tarnished the family’s honour. In the communities or societies, where honour killings incline to occur, the separate regularly uses the concept  of honour and shame in    order to evaluate his own conduct and that of his  fellows also.[4]



The term honour killing broadly envisages a situation where women are killed or  sacrificed in order to restore the so called masculine prestige. Not only sexual but  any other unacceptable behavior that poses a threat to the patriarchal set up or do not suit male ego can lead to honour killing. Honour as a concept has diverse meanings and is practiced differently among various groups of people.[5]


In classical Latin, the word “honour, honors, honouris” is linked with the notions of  prestige, respect, esteem, dignity and connected with the existence of public  self-respects and offices and with rewards, ornaments and apparels which bring to  the fore their holder above the  rest of the society or community.[6]


It is also called Namoos in Persian and Turkish and it is measured to be that term which can  be defined and elaborated in various socio-economic and cultural settings as per the  different traits and whose sources and meanings differ from culture to culture.[7]The  term  honour  or  honor  is  derived  from  the  latin  word  ‘honos’  which  is  an intangible  or  abstract  concept  of  a  professed  quality  of  praiseworthiness, respectability and moreover the ostensible standing of an  individual in large socialbodies.[8]


Honour killing is a murder carried out to  clean  the  stained  family  honour,   respect,  chastity  or   to  clean   the  tarnished honour, or the honour in question.[9] Amnesty International 2001  describes honour killing of a woman by a male relative  not  as  an  individual  act  of  violence,  but  as  a  crime  which  is  collective, planned, sociologically anticipated, and socially sanctioned by the family and community   concerned.  It  also  claims  that  the  regime  of  honour  is  unforgiving; women are not given an opportunity to defend themselves. Their family members have no other socially acceptable substitute than to remove the stain on their honour by attacking them.[10]The usage of terms like ‘honour killings’ or ‘honour crimes’ partially stems from  the fact that such terms glorify the crimes and tend to make the m  more tolerable than  other  forms  of  violence  against  women.


Reasons for Honour Killing

The reported pretexts on which the killings of individuals specifically females, range from infidelity, extra marital affairs, fornication, premarital affairs and in some cases rape, revolt or declaration by female in the family to marry against the will of family or society or involving in homosexual relationship etc. Occasionally men also become the victims of honour killings at the hands of the relatives of the female with whom they  may  have  illegitimate unacceptable relationship.[11]


There can be other factors like economic interests or economic gains on the basis of which females are killed on the pretext of bringing dishonour to the family but again the matter is connected to the honour of the male.[12]


Though there can be a number of reasons or grounds behind honour killing but the most common reason is the inter-caste, inter-religion or same gotra marriages, if the same are solemnized against the wishes of the family or community specially in the region of Haryana.[13]


The killer  in such cases becomes the  ghairatmand  (possessing honour) and earns full moral or legal support from his kinsmen. A man is judged by his family and his neighbors through his ability to protect his honour and is  taunted as being beghairat (without honour) in case he fails to kill the woman who has damaged the honour of the family.[14] In some cases, the demand of divorce by a woman can also lead to honour killing as it is also taken to be disobedience of not only social conventions but also dishonorable act towards husband.[15]In many cultures, the victims of rape also face severe violence including honour killings from relatives as it is considered that such women bring dishonour or disgrace to their families.[16]


A Gender Based Violence against Women

Women are exposed to all kinds of discrimination along with physical and mental violence and atrocities, right  from the  family to society at large. The outrages or violence’s includes female feticides, domestic violence, sexual harassment,  dowry deaths, rape, incest, trafficking and honour killing. Prevalent cultural patterns have resulted in violence occurring throughout a woman’s life.[17]


Among all the violent crimes, killing women in the name of honour is one of the most alarming  forms of violence. In the purported modern society women are being killed in the  name of female honour.[18] Female honour once ‘lost’ through any ‘dishonoring’ act, can never be recovered. It is not only the woman but also the other members of her family who face burden to take  violent action  in  order to  reinstate their  p osition  in  society.  The   traditional structures call for violence to restore the honour of male and family through coercion or killing. It is often observed that an ‘honour’ killing may be a formal and collective community decision. This decisio n is intended by the males who not only plan the murder but also decide the person who will carry it out. Any become extremely trivial. The unforgiving members of the family may call upon an extended network  of  relatives,  friends  and  other  associates  to  support  them  and  kill  the offender[19]


Historical Perspective

In ancient Indian history it has been documented that the invasions bore grievous consequences for the women. The concept of honour killing took a deep rooted seat to  uphold  the  purity  and  chastity  of  the  clan.  It  was  common  to  find  women committing  suicidal  acts  rather  than  being  captured  by  the  enemy.  In  Medieval period, the women from Rajasthan royalty set themselves ablaze if their men folk were  defeated  in  the  enemies.  They  wanted to  remain  chaste  and  uphold  honour rather than becoming the slave of the enemies. This practice was known as  Johor. Numerous examples can be quoted where the male members of the family put their female family member to death in order to escape enemy. Female infanticide can also be seen as a trajectory of honour killing.


The tradition of honour killing was seen at a massive level during the partition of the country. In between the years 1947 and 1950 many women were killed so that the family honour could be maintained. During the partition there were many cases of forcedmarriages where the women of the land had to marry the citizen of the partitioned land. And then there ensued the practice of hunting where the married women who had been forced to marry a person from another country were traced and on returning home were killed to preserve the family honour. Under the influence of religion and social control which was greatly defended during partition the occurrences of the crime were frequent. The partition years can be seen as the initiation of honour killing on a large scale.[20]


As per 242  Law Commission of India’s Report[21], incidents of honour killings are mostly reported from the North India i.e. States of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, U.P. Bihar, Delhi and Tamil Nadu.  From the newspaper, journal and magazine  reports, and  reports  from  various  other  sources,  the  honour  killing  crimes  occur  on  the ground of  when couple marrying without their  family’s approval and for marrying outside their caste or religion. Marriages between the couple belonging to same gotra have  also  frequently  led  to  fierce  reaction  from  the  family  members  or  the community members.


Situtaion In India

According to the National Crime Bureau 2020 statistics, there were a total of 25 cases (States + Union Territories) of honour killings in India. Between 2017 and 2018, it was reported that only one such killing happened, where the motive of the murder was an honour.However, in 2019, an NGO report stated that 195 cases of honour killings were reported alone from Tamil Nadu. It means several cases go unreported.[22] In 2022 the cases of Sayed Ashrin Sultana or Pallavi and  Nagaraju, Saranya and Mohan  and Sonu Singh and Rahul Meena shook the consious of a civilized society.


Honor Killing and Human Rights Violations

Since  the  1948  UN  Declaration  of  Human  Rights,  there  have  arisen  numerous platforms  discussing  human  rights  conventions  and  legal  structures. Honour  killings  can  disputable  violate  diversity  of  rights,  including  the  freedom from torture and  brutal  treatment, the right to  individual   freedom   and security of person, the right to privacy, and the right to health.

  1. Human Dignity: Every human life is valuable and beautiful and thus every kind of state must ensure human dignity to all its citizens. he canonical framework of human dignity was established  in  1948  as  the  foundational  concept  of  the  Universal  Declaration  of Human Rights (UDHR).[23] Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Right  also states that the right to dignity is inherent in every human being and there is prohibition on all forms of exploitation and  degradation.


  1. Right to Life: Right to live means something more than mere animal existence  and includes the right to live consistently with human dignity and decency.[24] It would include all that give meaning to a man’s life. It would include all those aspects of life which would go to make a man’s life meaningful, complete and worth living.[25] The right to life includes not only physical existence but also the quality of life. Honour killings no doubts defy the right to life. Provisions or laws safeguarding the right to life may be  initiate  in varied  international human rights instruments.[26] Honour killing is a direct violation of the most elementary and essential fundamental human right i.e. the  Right to life. All the men and women are bestowed with certain inherent and inalienable rights as they take birth.  It can be said that the birth provides the most valuable right to life.


  1. Right to Marry: Marriage  and  family  are  the  most  fundamental  and  universal  social  institutions. Family is the fundamental unit of the  society  and  marriage  is  the  foundation  of  it.[27]Both institutions have palimpsest and complex involvements of human relationship. Right to marry a person of his or her own choice and to have families are everyone’s basic  fundamental  human  rights  that  have  been  given  sanctity  through  various significant international documents. Article  16  (1)  of  the  Universal  Declaration  of  Human  Rights(UDHR),  1948 provides that full age of  men and women  have the right to marry and to form  a family irrespective of race, religion or nationality. And marriage is to be  entered into only with the free consent of the parties.[28] The UN resolution No. 843 (IX) dated 17th December 1948, declared that certain ancient laws, customs and practices related to marriage and family affairs were not consistent with the principles of the Charter of the UN and UDHR,  1948.[29]In Zablocki v. Redhail,[30]  the court recognized  the  right  to  marry  as  a  fundamental  right.


  1. Right to Privacy: The  quest  for  privacy  as  well  as  the  restrictions  is  two  parallel  but unavoidable processes. Article  12 of  the  Universal  Declaration  of  Human Rights proclaims  that  “No person shall be subjected  to arbitrary interference with his  privacy,  family,  home  or  “Attacks upon his  honour  and  reputation.” Article 17 of the  International Covenant  on Civil and Political  Rights in  1966 recognizes privacy  as a valuable  human right.The European Convention on Human  Rights  also  recognizes  in the  Article 8(1)  right  to  respect  for  family life  and  home  of  every  individual . Right to privacy is a fundamental right  protected by Indian constitution.[31] It deals with persns and not places.[32]


Judicial Approach

Smt. Chandrapati vs State Of Haryana And Others [33] was the result of murder of Manoj and Babli who married despite belonging to different castes. They were presented before the Khap Panchayat which ordered their killing to protect the honor of their families. The perpetrators of crime were held guilty and were sentenced to life imprisonment. Concerned over the rising instances of honor killing the court in Shakti Vahini vs Union of India [34] the Apex court issued the following guidelines. It said that two consenting adults do not require consent of anyone else to get married from anyone else and this right has been giovemn to them by the constitution. The actions initiated by Khap panchayat or the family members to compel the adult consenting individuals change their decision is  violative under Article 21 of Indian constitution and is thus illegal.The state is under a duty to protect the freedom of choice of marriage.[35] The freedom of a woman cannot be violated because of self assumed honor.[36] In Kartar Singh vs the State of Punjab- the court held that “Honor killing hinders an individual’s liberty, freedom of choice, and one’s own perception of choice.” The court taking a serious note of the barbaric practices like honor killings has held that every perpetrator of  "honor" killings should know that the gallows await him.[37]These killings come under rarest of rare.[38]





An honour of a person is the most important aspect  of his or her life.  It  assists to create not only  what  it  means  to be  a  woman  but  also what  it  means  to be  a man and  hence  the  concept of  honour  is  important  to  clarify  the  social  meanings of  gender.[39] Honour killing is a assassination of take away to distinguishable of the depraved family honour or exactitude or to purify the calumniate honour, or the honour or deference in interpellation.[40] Honour killing has existed in all societies and in all periods of time almost in every kind of societies. Honour killing is done for a variety of reasons like, adultery, inter-caste marriage or  marrying  outside  caste  or  sub-caste  or  same  gotra,  inter-religious  marriage, refusal to arranged marriage for choosing life partner, asking for divorce, rape or suspicion behaviours. The Constitution of India duly acknowledges the choice of people in selecting their respective  partners.  The  need  of  the  hour  is  to  create  a  sense  of  constitutional sensitivity  among  the  people. Through the observations made  by Apex Court, it can be concluded  that upholding the freedom of choice is the responsibility of the state as well of its citizens.



[1] Anil Tehran, “Brutality of Honor Killings is on the Rise: A Blot on Indian Society Culture and the  need for a New Legislation”, 1.5 Nyayadeep Journal Page-78-91  at act 78(2010).

[2] Unni Wikam, In Honor of Fadime, Murder and Shame 3 (The University of Chicago Press, London, 2008)

[3] M.S. Jaglan, “Delaying Enactment of Law on ‘Honour’ Killing”, XLVIII Mainstream 27-28 at 27 (2010).

[4] Diana Vitoshka, “The Modern face of Honour Killings, Factors, Legal Issues and Policy  Recommendations”, Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, available  at: http://e scholarship.org, (Visited on

June-2, 2020).

[5] Unni  Wikam,  In  Honor  of  Fadime,  Murder  and  Shame14  (The  University of  Chicago  Press,

London,  2008)

[6] Recep  Dogan “Is Honor Killing a  Muslim Phenomenon? Textual  Interpretations and Cultural Representations”,  Journal  of  Muslim  Minority  Affairs  423-440  at  424

[7] Tahira S. Khan, Beyond Honour, A Historical materialist Explanation of honour Related Violence 42(Oxford University Press, USA, 2006).

[8] Navratan Fateh, Honour killing in Canadian context 4 (LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, U.K , 2014

[9] Clementine Van Eck, Purified by Blood: Honour Killings amongst Turks in theNetherlands, 8 (Amsterdam University Press, The Netherlands,2003).

[10] Azad Kumar, Honour Killings; Global Perspective 11 (Saad Publications, Delhi,2014).

[11] Safdar Ali  Shirazi, “Honour Killing in Pakistan”, in B.R.K. Sinha, Human Development Equity and Gender Justice 126-137 at 126-127 (New Century Publications, New Delhi, 2012).

[12] Ibid

[13] Nasir Aslam Zahid, “Honour Killing : Violence in South Asia, Honour Killing in Pakistan” , in  A Report Of The Proceedings Of The Cross Border Seminar On Honour Killing :A Violence  Against Women in South Asia 43-55 at 45 (MASUM Publications, Pune, 2008).

[14] Ibid

[15] Arun Pal, Honour Killing: Culture ,Dilemma and Ritual 56 (Arise Publishers, New Delhi, 2012)

[16] Anand Kirti, Prateek Kumar, et.al, “ The Face of Honour Based Crimes : Global Concerns and Solutions”, 6 IJCJS 343-357 at 344 (2011).

[17] Unni Wikam, In Honor of Fadime, Murder and Shame 3 (The University of ChicagoPress, London, 2008)

[18] Subodh K. Singh, “Honour Killing in India  –A social Malaise”, Cr.L.J 289-296 at 289(2012)

[19] Ravi Kant, “Honour Killings and the Need of New Legislation” available at:

http://indialawyers.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/honour-killings-and-the-need-for-new- legislation (Visited

on June 20, 2020

[20] “Analysis on Honour Killing”, Lawz  Bureau 10-13(August 2010).

[21] The  Law  Commission  of  India,  242ndReport  on  Prevention  of  Interference with  the  Freedom  of Matrimonial  Alliances  (In  the  Name  of  Honour  and Tradition):  A  Suggested  Legal  Framework.

[22] https://www.herzindagi.com/society-culture/aayushi-chaudhary-honour-killing-case-highlights-the-horrors-of-castiest-patriarchy-article-214593 visited on 31.12.2022

[23]Article 1 of UDHR, affirms “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

[24] Sunil v Delhi Administration (1) AIR 1978 SC 1675

[25] Maneka Gandi v Union of India  AIR 1978 SC 597

[26] The United States Declaration of Independence 1776 declares: “All men are endowed with certain inalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 provides that: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. Article 6.1 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 provides that: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected  by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”. Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights, 1969 provides: “Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and in general from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”. Article 2 of Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, 2000 provides that: “Everyone has the right to life”.African Charter on Human and Peoples' Right23,Article 4 provides that Human beings are inviolable.

[27] C. N. Rao, Sociology of Indian Society, 101 ( S. Chand and Chand Company, New Delhi, 2004).

[28] Article 17  of the American Convention on Human Rights, Article 23(1)  and (2)of International  Covenant  on  Civil  and  Political  Rights,  1966; Article 10(1) of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 ; Article 18 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Right ;Article 8 (1) European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR)1950 ,1953recognise the same rights.

[29] S. R. Bhansali, Law Relating To Human Rights 1014 (Universal Law Publications, New Delhi,2013)

[30] 434 U.S. 374 (1978)

[31] Collector of Customs v Calcutta Motor and Cycle Co. AIR 1958 Cal. (687)

[32] Govend v State of M.P. (1975) 2 SCC 148

[33] Crl. Misc. No. M-42311 of 2007 (O&M)

[34] WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 231 OF 2010, (2018) 7 SCC 192

[35] Re: India Woman says Gang-raped on Orders of Village Court published in Business & Financial News dated 23-1-2014, (2014) 4 SCC 78

[36] Vikas Yadav v State of Uttar Pradesh & others, (2016) 9 SCC 541

[37] Lata Singh v State of U.P. & Anr., (2006) 5 SCC 475

[38]  Bhagwan Dass v State (NCT of Delhi), (2011) 6 SCC 396

[39] Purna Sen, “Crimes of Honour ,Value and Meaning”, in Lynn Welchman and Sara Hossain ( eds),

Honour Crimes; Paradigms and Violence against Women,42-63 at 48( Zubaan Publishers, New Delhi,


[40] Clementine Van Eck, Purified by Blood: Honour Killings amongst Turks in the Netherlands, 8

(Amsterdam University Press, The Netherlands,2003)


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