Any society must have Freedom, Liberty & Rights for every individual. In the absence of these, the society takes shape of tyranny. Though custom and usages have been the basis of the human evolution and are inseparable; yet at times these customs also become an obstacle. Honor Crimes are inspired when a person tends to marry to the partner of their own choice, commission of adultery, seeking of divorce or by eloping. Ignorance towards such crime is tangible even in this modernized society. Such acts of violence or threats or harassment are wholly illegal and must be severely punished.
Honor Killing or Killing Honor? “As far as I know, she did not lose her heart to anyone because she did not want the society called custodians of culture to win.” These words clearly depict how our society has been fastened to the ritualistic mindset that it can shatter the principles of a grundnorm for culture. With the fast-paced urban lifestyles, we have ignored the blot that has been continuing since ages in the name of custom.
Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by family members for bringing down the honor of family by refusal to arrange marriage, by eloping, by seeking a divorce or by committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that “dishonors” her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life. In other words, honor killing is somewhat misleading term for a ritualistic murder precipitated by aggressors who perceived loss of honor.
It leads to utter shock and surprise that even in the modern society, such crime is prevalent and is practiced as a matter of necessity to preserve the honor of family. As per the United Nations Population Fund, nearly 5000 women are killed annually for reasons of honor. The majority of these cases are reported in various parts of Middle East and South Asia and mainly from India and Pakistan.
Position in Different Nations:
In March 2016, parliament of Pakistan passed a bill to penalize honor crimes and was unanimously passed but that too didn’t come up to the expectations. Lack of administration on grass root level has been a persistent hindrance in the way of the bill. Such crimes often go either unreported or are passed off since families show them as a case of suicideor natural deaths. Police officials also bow down to the religious or local leaders. This is the reason why there has been no credible record for the number of cases of honor killings.
Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria and Libya are some countries who have penalized the offence of honor killing. UAE, Germany, Afghanistan have also seen a considerable growth of this offence in recent times.
Even India has also not enacted any specific law in this regard. Despite having various laws for crime against women, we still do not recognize an honor crime. For these cases, Indian courts rely upon the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Under the IPC- Murder (S.302), Conspiracy (S. 120-B) and Common Intention (S. 34) are majorly referred. These provisions are taken up as a contributor to the offence of honor killing. Some of the time it is very difficult to even identify the accused because the victim is subjected to a mob lynching.
In India, states like- Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Rajasthan have rampant cases of honor killing. The exact data is not available since most of the cases are left unreported but as per the Times of India report, more than 300 cases have been reported. In Indian context, honor killing is seen because of religious restrictions. For example, Sapinda (third generation) and Gotra (lineage) concepts as per which two people of same gotra or lineage are considered siblings and their marriage is prohibited. This concept has been severely criticized by the science yet has been continuing for a longer period of time. Hence when a marriage of same gotra is heard, it creates indignation and anger in the mind of the family and the society.
In 2010, home minister P Chidambaram tried to drag the attention of parliament towards this issue, but no significant steps were taken. The major reason behind this failure is that leaders don’t want to lose votes of dominant class. Having no separate legislation in this regard is the biggest stone in the way of eradication of honor crimes. In the absence of such legislations, Khap Panchayat and other such authorities continue to discharge its functions which are not justified by law.
Cases on Honor Killings in India:
In India the issue of gotra was addressed way back in the case of ‘Madhavrao v. Raghavendrarao’ where it was held that the marriage in question between a husband and wife belonging to the same gotra was valid. The court also referred to the eminent author PV Kane:
“The mass of material on ‘gotra’ and ‘pravara’ in the sutras, the puranas and digests is so vast and full of contradictions that it is almost an impossible task to reduce it to order and coherence.”
In the case of Shakti Vahini the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India had given various guidelines to prevent honor killing. They are:
- There will be fast-track courts for fighting against honor killing cases.
- The disposal of the cases can be expected within 6 months.
- Immediate FIR against Khap Panchayat if they order any diktat against any couple.
- There will be a provision of safe houses for the couples by the government, along with security, if needed.
- DM/SP will supervise the safe houses.
- The safe houses will cater young bachelor-bachelorette couples along with married couples whose relationship is being opposed by Khap.
In the absence of any specific provision, non-compliance to such guidelines is a matter of fact. Even the courts, in some cases, find it difficult to charge the culprit due to the non-availability of evidences and witnesses.
Honor killing is an issue of mentality and social outlook of the individuals. In the 21st Century era if we are not providing freedom to a boy or a girl to choose their partner, it’s worthless to call ourselves modern aged society. Where the honor comes into the way of happiness and freedom, the same must be thrown away into the dumpster of paralyzed rituals. On one hand we have incorporated the principles of rights, freedom and liberty and on the other had we have dark cultures prevailing. If we, as an individual, are not going to stand against such evil practices, society will continue to decay. We live in a democratic setup and any sort of unjustified restriction on the liberty should be vanished right away.
It’s an evil for humanity, for freedom, for protection and moreover for the society…
 Definition by Human Rights Watch
AIR 1946 Bom 377
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 231 OF 2010