Honour killing’ has been in the news recently. It involves the homicide of a member of a family by other members, due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonour upon the family. Analyse this problem in detail and indicate not only the social but also the emotional and attitudinal factors responsible for this problem? Also, distinctly bring out why: (a) The youth in such areas do not speak up against these practices. (b) The conviction rate in ‘honour killing’ cases is extremely low.  (c) Women, who have to face the brunt of this crime the most, do not speak against it collectively. Discuss some feasible steps, which could be effective in controlling this serious problem. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:

  • The answer must analyze various aspects of the problem of honour killing- social, emotional and attitudinal.
  • While explaining this problem, the second part of the question should be simultaneously dealt with. 
  • Finally, suggest some practical and relevant suggestions to overcome these problems. Supreme Court’s observations can also be cited here.

Answer:

Many experts believe that there are about 1000 honour killings a year in India. It is mainly women who are the victims of honour killing. Violation of the local cultural norms for marriage is the leading cause of honour killings. In the areas where honour killing is the most common, social ills such as casteism and patriarchy are deeply entrenched in people’s minds.

If we look upon honour killing from the sociological angle, when a woman marries a person of lower caste she goes into the husband’s caste, this brings the family’s status down in the eyes of society. Similar is the case with inter-religion marriages. Patriarchal tradition casts ‘male as the sole protector of the female’ so he must have total control of her. If this protection is violated, he loses honour because he failed to protect her or he failed to bring her up correctly.

Patriarchal upbringing moulds the brothers into thinking that he shoulders the responsibility for his unmarried sister and in turn, family’s “honour”. Thus, the young brother may become an accomplice in the honour killing.

At the same time, one can say that it is the young only who rebel against these orthodox values and become a victim in turn. A society in which this murder is seen as justice, rather than a crime, people do not report it to the police. Also, there may be a handful of people who may be liberal in these societies but the social repercussions prevent them from speaking up. Without a formal complaint, witnesses etc, the conviction rate in such cases is very low. Victims complain of police as being biased too.

The Law Commission of India disapproved the proposal of Government to amend Sec. 300 of IPC to include ‘honour killings’ within the definition of murder on the ground that the existing provisions are adequate to take care of the situations leading to such killings. The Law Commission has proposed fresh legislation that seeks to declare that the KhapPanchayat indulging in this crime be declared unlawful. However, this legislation is yet to see the light of the day.

Woman, in the context of honour killing, is either a victim or an accomplice or she is simply a bystander who is unable to speak up. The latter may be a result of her feeling helpless in the patriarchal society or she may be financially dependent on her husband/son.

Suggestions:

Law definitely can play an important role in curbing honour killings, but it alone can not stop such killings, since, it is a sociological issue, which is deeply rooted in social culture, traditions and mindset. The vulnerability of women to this type of violence will only be reduced when these patriarchal mindsets are challenged and effectively confronted.

Another great liberator may be the economic status of women. Education can also play an important role. An economically independent woman can be more powerful, and capable of taking her own decisions. This kind of change in our socio, economic conditions and stringent law can only be helpful in reducing the number of honour crimes.

Civil servants, including the police, should undergo sensitivity training, so as to forego any social bias that they may have.

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