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Honor killing in India

Recently, there has been a spate of honor killings in the country and this has led the government to decide what laws should be put in place to stop this heinous crime. More than 1,000 young people in India have been done to death every year owing to 'Honor Killings' linked to forced marriages and the country needs to introduce stringent legislation to deal firmly with these heinous crimes. Supreme Court has said the government must explain what it is doing to prevent "honor killings". Taking note of the rise in "honor crimes", the Supreme Court demanded responses from the federal government and state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Honor killing is the murder of any family member or social group member by other people due to the belief of perpetrators who feel that the murdered persons actions have brought dishonor upon the family or group. The loose term "honor killing" applies to killing of both males and females in cultures that practice it. Human Right's definition for Honor Killing is:

Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or (allegedly) 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

The most watched scenes of honor killing in our country are reflecting that this is a death that is awarded to a man or woman of the family for marrying against the parent's wishes, having extramarital and premarital relationships, marrying within the same gotra (Brahmins use gotra for deciding marriages) or outside one's caste or marrying a cousin from a different caste. In fact we have had a tradition of honor killing. This tradition was first viewed in its most horrible form during the Partition of the country in between the years 1947 and 1950 when many women were forcefully killed so that family honor could be preserved. During the Partition, there were a lot of forced marriages which were causing women from India to marry men from Pakistan and vice-versa. And then there was a search to hunt down these women who were forced to marry a person from another country and another religion and when they returned 'home' they were killed so that the family honor could be preserved and they were not declared social outcastes from their region. At that time, the influence of religion and social control was much greater and hence there were at least a couple of honor killings a day, if not more. The partition years can be seen to be the beginning of the tradition of honor killing on a large scale. It's worth mentioning here that Honor Killing is not specifically related to India only. This is a practice that continues to be prevailing in North and South America, Africa, Turkey and many other countries. But the thing that has to be kept in mind is that the number of incidents relating to this crime is very low and there is a very strict punishment for committing this crime in other countries. The misconception about honor killing is that this is a practice that is limited to the rural areas. The truth is that it is spread over such a large geographical area that we cannot isolate honor killings to rural areas only, though one has to admit that majority of the killings take place in the rural areas.

But it has also been seen recently that even the metropolitan cities like Delhi and Tamil Nadu are not safe from this crime because 5 honor killings were reported from Delhi and in Tamil Nadu; a daughter and son in law were killed due to marriage into the same gotra. Sociologists believe that the reason why honor killings continue to take place is because of the continued rigidity of the caste system. Hence the fear of losing their caste status through which they gain many benefits makes them commit this heinous crime. The other reason why honor killings are taking place is because the mentality of people has not changed and they just cannot accept that marriages can take place in the same gotra or outside one's caste. The root of the cause for the increase in the number of honor killings is because the formal governance has not been able to reach the rural areas and as a result. Thus, this practice continues though it should have been removed by now.

We need to do something to prevent such a thing from happening. Firstly, the mentality of the people has to change. And when we say that the mentality has to change, we mean to say that parents should accept their children's wishes regarding marriage as it is they who have to lead a life with their life partners and if they are not satisfied with their life partner then they will lead a horrible married life which might even end in suicide. Secondly, we need to have stricter laws to tackle these kinds of killings as this is a crime which cannot be pardoned because. Humans do not have the right to write down death sentences of innocent fellow humans.

Shipra Pandey