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Insights into Editorial: Protecting marriages across castes

Insights into Editorial: Protecting marriages across castes


Eight years after the National Commission for Women (NCW) proposed a special law to punish honour killings incited by khap panchayats, the Supreme Court has said that adults are free to marry persons of their own choice and hurting couples, or summoning them before clan members, groups, or a khap, is “absolutely illegal”.

India registered 251 honour killings in 2015, recording a big spike in murders carried out by people professing to be acting in defence of their family’s reputation.

What is Honour Killing?

An honour killing or a shame killing is the homicide of a member of a family, due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonour upon the family, or has violated the principles of a community or a religion, usually for reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their family, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate.

  • Honour killing involves, most often, the murder of a woman or girl by male family members.
  • In patriarchal societies, the activities of girls and women are closely monitored.
  • The significant feature is the connection of honour killings to the control of individual’s behaviour, in particular in regard to sexuality/marriage, by the family as a collective.
  • Another characteristic of honour killings is that the perpetrators often do not face negative stigma within their communities, because their behaviour is seen as justified.
  • Honour killings have been reported in northern regions of India, mainly in the Indian states of PunjabRajasthanHaryanaand Uttar Pradesh, as a result of people marrying without their family’s acceptance, and sometimes for marrying outside their caste or religion.
  • Honour killings are also widespread in South Indiaand the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.( Recently, young Dalit engineering student was brutally murdered in full public view in Tirupur district, Tamil Nadu)

In 1990 the National Commission for Women set up a statutory body in order to address the issues of honour killings among some ethnic groups in North India.

This body reviewed constitutionallegal and other provisions as well as challenges women face. The NCW’s activism has contributed significantly towards the reduction of honour killings in rural areas of North India.

Reasons to Honour Killing

A crime in the name of ‘honour’ is one of a range of violent or abusive acts. This includes emotional, physical and sexual abuse and other coercive acts.

  1. Stratification: Sociologist believes that the honour killing continues to take place is because of the continued rigidity of the caste system. Hence in the fear of losing the caste status, which they gain many benefits, makes them commit this heinous crime.
  2. Mentality: The mentality of the people till now such that they will not be ready to accept the marriages which have taken place in the same gotra or outside. The society still negatives the right of choice in marriage. And especially for the women it is illegal to right to choice of marriage even imagine it.
  3. Lack in Governance: The root of the cause for the increase of it is because the formal governance has not been able to reach the rural areas.
  4. Khap Panchayat: The absence of the formal institutions as panchayat Smiti or a constitution gathering leads to the brutal governance of the illegal and extra-constitutionalized panchayat.

Khap Panchayats were primarily called upon by the affluent and upper caste people who desired to consolidate their power and position. They have become highly male-dominated.

Khaps exercise their authority in various ways: they demand payment from couples, impose social or economic sanctions on them, order that they or their families be boycotted, divest the couple of any land or property that belongs to them, and harass, intimidate, or murder them.

  1. Sex ratio: The increase in the difference in sex ratio is reason to it. Honour killing are happening in the area where the sex ratio is low and girls are being bought for marriages. One important ex­planation may lie in the gender imbalance in the society signified by the very low sex ratios which are being further exacerbated by the fewer number of girls being born in the region.
  2. Illiteracy : Unknown about the  rights which are made to protect them in our constitution incapacity due to lack in education. The honour crime violates Article 14, 15 (1) & (3) 19, 21 and 39 (f) of the Constitution of India.
  3. Politician future: Reason to protect Khap Panchayat by politician is mostly for their own future votes because majority in those areas are ironically basis for their livelihoods.
  4. Inter, intra-caste marriage: Love in itself is considered as a social crime. Here reputation and ideals of once as draconian who will not allow that marriages.
  5. Status : A person’s ascribed status is more important than the achieved status.
  6. Prestige of every caste: it is not limited to the higher caste but in a section even among oppressed communities like Dalit’s and tribal too are indulging in “honour” crimes in a bid to prove that they are no less “honour bound” than the upper caste.

Long road to legal protection

In August 2010, the legal cell of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), in consultation with many women’s organisations and individuals, drafted a comprehensive law entitled “The Prevention of Crimes in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill” and gave it to the government.

  • The Bill defines honour crimes in relation to a violation of the rights of the couple.
  • It reads, “All persons including young persons and women have the right to control their own lives, a right to liberty and freedom of expression, and a right of association, movement and bodily integrity.
  • Every man and woman has a right to choose her/his own partner in marriage or otherwise and any action listed below to prevent the exercise of this right shall amount to an offence under the provisions of this Bill.
  • The Bill lists the various types of crime, in addition to murder; it suggests preventive measures, it provides for punishment of varying degrees, it includes khap panchayats or other bodies acting in the name of caste or community, it ensures accountability of the police and administration.
  • The Bill was supported by the National Commission of Women, which gave a similarly named Bill to the government.

Law commission report on Honour Killing

Two years later, in August 2012, the Law Commission of India, to which a reference had also been made by the government, brought out its own version of the Bill in its Report no 242.

  • Although it stated that its draft was closer to the one submitted by the National Commission of Women, in fact it was extremely narrow and conservative in its approach.
  • Entitled “Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill, 2011”, the Bill dealt primarily with the “unlawful assemblies” called by caste panchayats to prevent a self-choice 

Supreme Court on Honour Killing

Eight years after the National Commission for Women (NCW) proposed a special law to punish honour killings incited by khap panchayats, the Supreme Court has said that adults are free to marry persons of their own choice and hurting couples, or summoning them before clan members, groups, or a khap, is “absolutely illegal”.

Holding honour killings as a slur on the nation, and terming it a barbaric, feudal practice that ought to be stamped out, the Supreme Court directed courts to view such cases as in “rarest of rare” category for awarding death penalty to the convicts.

Way Forward

There has to be an end to a blatant violation of the basic rights of the people sanctified by the law of the land.

  • Role of media in raising burning issues is very brilliant and effective too. One can easily express their views in the front of whole of society, without any fear, even there is a right of freedom to express is also given in our Constitution.
  • The mostly areas, as Haryana, Punjab, so on, are the place where female low in number and still practicing the female foeticide. It is very necessary to improve the sex-ratio; gender issue across Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, it has been increasingly felt that focus on gender issues are needed there.
  • Education is used as arm that has a potential to curb all this social issues.
  • The concept of women movement and women’s rights has to reach over these regions. It is imperative for the state to focus on such programmes and projects which help in gender equity. There are the voices of the dissent in the communities where honour killing has been reported. These voices have to be get strength. The agencies like the women and child department, social welfare department and the State Women’s Commission should work on these issues proactively.
  • The laws should be clear as detailed in the recent report: 242 law commission of India, issues related to the validity of The Khap Panchayat should be clear to people.
  • Women problems can only be sort out when it will be discuss with another women. If Khap Panchayat people would like to continue to the their panchayat communities then according to the equality rights, there should be a provision of one or two women sitting in the Khap Panchayats so that equality right also follow.