HONOUR KILLING : A HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION
Authored By - Dr Anupam Manhas
& Dr Rakesh Kumar,
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. In many areas of the world one can find societies where insult, shame and humiliation are dominant notions or ideas and common actual experiences. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.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.
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. 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.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.
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.
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.
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. 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.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.
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.
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. 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
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.
As per 242 Law Commission of India’s Report, 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. 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.
Smt. Chandrapati vs State Of Haryana And Others  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  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. The freedom of a woman cannot be violated because of self assumed honor. 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.These killings come under rarest of rare.
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. 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. 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.
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