The Menace of Honour Killing is Continued in India - Current Affair for UPSC, IAS, Civil Services and State PCS Examinations

Current Affair for UPSC, IAS, Civil Services and State PCS Examinations

The Menace of Honour Killing is Continued in India - Current Affair for UPSC, IAS, Civil Services and State PCS Examinations

Why in News?

Recently, in a suspected case of honour killing, a woman was allegedly killed by her parents at Kautha village in Ahemdnagar district of Maharastra for marrying against their wishes.


Every year around the world an accelerating number of women or person associated with that women are reportedly killed in the name of honour. Relatives, usually male, commit acts of violence against wives, sisters, daughters and mothers to reclaim their 'family honour' from real or suspected actions that are perceived to have compromised it.

So-called honour killings are based on the deeply rooted belief that women are objects and commodities, not human beings, entitled to dignity and rights not equal to those of men. Women are considered the property of male relatives and are seen to embody the honour of the men to whom they “belong”. Women's bodies are considered the repositories of family honour. The concepts of male status and family status are of particular importance in communities where honour killings occur and where women are viewed as responsible for upholding a family’s honour. If a woman or girl is accused or suspected of engaging in behavior that could taint male and/or family status, she may face brutal retaliation from her relatives that often results in violent death. Even though such accusations are not based on factual or tangible evidence, any allegation of dishonour against a woman often suffices for family members to take matters into their own hands.

Although honour killings are widely reported in regions throughout the Middle East and South Asia United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Extra Judicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions have reported that these crimes against women occur in countries as varied as Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda and the United Kingdom. There have also been incidents of honour killings reported in the United States and Canada. In India, as per the latest available published information with National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 28 cases in 2014, 251 cases in 2015 and 77 cases in 2016 were reported with motive as honour killing which includes cases registered under murder (section 302 IPC) & culpable homicide not amounting to murder (section 304 IPC) in the country.

Justifications for Honour Killings

So-called honour crimes occur in societies in which there is interplay between discriminatory tribal traditions of justice and statutory law. In some countries this is exacerbated by inclusion of Sharia, or Islamic law, or Zina (sex outside of marriage) as a crime within statutory law. Similarly in India honour killings happen in cases of inter- religion or inter -caste marriage. Due to women's enforced seclusion, submission to men and second-class citizenship, women seldom know their rights under national or international law, and rarely have a chance to defend themselves in a court of law.

Communal Apect of Honour Killings

In India honour killings are part of a community mentality. Large sections of society share traditional conceptions of family honour and approve of honour killings to preserve that honour. Even mothers whose daughters have been killed in the name of honour often condone such violent acts. Such complicity by other women in the family and the community strengthens the concept of women as property without personal worth. In addition, communal acceptance of honour killings furthers the claim that violence in the name of honour is a private issue (by khap panchayats) and one to be avoided by law enforcement. Community acceptance of these killings stifles accurate reporting of the number of violent crimes against women in the name of honour. As a result, the true extent of the prevalence of honour killings is still not fully known. ‘Khap’ panchayats are caste or community groups, present largely in rural areas of North India, which at times act as quasi-judicial bodies and pronounce harsh punishments based on age-old customs. Several cases of women and men falling victim to ' khap' diktats have been reported over the years, particularly in states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Various Legal and Constitutional Provisions

The Constitution of India has ample provisions allowing an individual to exercise his/her choice independent of caste, religion or gender and protection from honour related crimes including honour killings. Following are those Constitutional provisions that substantiate this:

Honour Killings are cases of homicide and murder which are grave crimes under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 299 and 301 ,which deals with culpable homicide not amounting to murder while Section 300, deals with murder. Honour killing amounts to homicide and murder because the acts are done with the intention of murdering the victims as they have purportedly brought dishonour upon the family. The perpetrators can be punished as per Section 302 of the IPC. The khap panchayats or family members can also be booked under Section 302 of IPC for instigating suicide those who transgress the so called norms of the community. Such killings also violates Articles 14, 15 (1) & (3), 17, 18, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees to every person the right to equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws. Every person, whatever is his or her status or situation is subject to the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts. This right to equality is thus asserted as one of the fundamental features of the Indian Constitution. Honour Killings are thus hideously against this very Constitutional right provided for the protection of Indian citizens. Honour killings are mainly directed towards women and thus give rise to gender violence. It is also violation of Article 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution. Such brutal murders, under the garb of saving the honour of the family, are clearly against the Constitutional provisions enshrined in Article 21. Khap panchayats violate a person’s fundamental right to life as they kill or instigate murder, in the name of honour. Every person has a right to live. The capital punishment is possible only when granted by law.

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was enacted by the Parliament of India, in order to avert atrocities against Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in society. The intention of the Act was to help the social inclusion of Dalit’s into Indian society. It defines acts such as forcing an SC/ST to eat or drink any inedible or obnoxious substance, removing clothes, parading naked or with painted face or body, assaulting, dishonouring and outraging the modesty of an SC/ST woman, sexual exploitation of an SC/ST woman, forcing an SC/ST to leave his or her house or village as punishable. The Act is linked to honour killings because numerous incidents of honour killing are in relation to caste and religion.

The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 makes the provision for protection of individual rights of human beings and the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission, State Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Courts for better protection of human rights of individuals.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, provides for more effective protection of the rights of women which is guaranteed under the Constitution who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family.

International Provisions

India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979) and has also ratified the convention. The provisions of CEDAW can be used to argue that the tradition and practice of punishing individuals for ill-informed ideas of dishonouring the family, is essentially institutionalized discrimination against individuals and creates a legally binding obligation for India, as a State party to the convention, to take all measures to end all forms of the practice of honour killing and ensure that all discrimination against women in matters relating to marriage and family relations are eliminated, providing them with the equal right to enter into marriage and to freely choose a spouse and to enter into marriage with their free and full consent as enumerated in Article 16 of the Indian Constitution. This means ensuring that informal decision making bodies functioning on customary laws, such as khap panchayats, are refrained from enforcing their dictates and intrusive with the right of individuals to choose their spouse.

While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (UDHR 1948) affirms the principle of the inadmissibility of discrimination and inequity and proclaims that all individuals are born free and equal in dignity and rights and freedom set fourth therein, devoid of distinction of any kind including distinction based on sex. Recalling that prejudice and discrimination against women violates the principle of equality of rights and respect of human dignity, and also obstacle to the participation of women in the political, social economic and cultural life and hampers the growth and prosperity of society and the family. Article 1 and 2 of the declaration state that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in” the declaration irrespective of “sex”. Therefore as enumerated in the declaration Articles 3 and 5, women are entitled to enjoy the “right to life, liberty and security of person” and also the “right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman and or degrading treatment”. Crimes of honour violate Article 3 and 5 when the purpose of the perpetrator is to inflict severe mental and physical pain on the women.

Under the Article 12 of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR 1976) municipalities (countries) have to take all steps to ensure the “right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”, is ensured. Crimes of honour that involve sexual violence and mental violence or physical or mental torture or murder obstruct the right of women to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health. India, as a State party, is therefore legally obligated to ensure that individuals and victims of crimes of honour are able to avail this right.

While not legally binding on the State, the human rights standards enumerated in the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA 1995) recognizes that the “human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters relating to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence”. The Beijing Platform for Action on Women’s Human Rights calls upon States to “take urgent action to combat and eliminate violence against women, which is a human rights violation resulting from harmful traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and extremism”.

Two major United Nations documents call for the elimination of honour killing. The concept of elimination appears in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993 and in Working towards the Elimination of Crimes against Women Committed in the Name of Honour, 2003. But the elimination of any such incidents of honour killing requires a serious intervention in the status quo. Equal gender parity should be promoted. The whole system in itself is patriarchal and insensitive. In the words of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women: “Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to discrimination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”

Way Forward

There are many rights and laws brought against honour killing but still the practice of honour killing has become wide spreading incident. The accused knowing that there is rigorous punishment for such a crime still practices it with a mindset that honour of the family is more important than the victim. They are ready to face the consequences of punishment than facing the consequence of bringing dishonour to the family due to lack of deterrence. Education and awareness about the importance of life of every citizen in this world should be promoted. The laws related to these incidents should be circulated and advertised to create deterrence. The people in the rural and urban areas should be educated and the consequences of the heinous crimes should be known creating awareness to them.

General Studies Paper- I

  • Topic: Social empowerment, Communalism, Regionalism & Secularism.

General Studies Paper- II

  • Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.


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